The similarities between my industry, classical music, and my son’s, hospitality (he’s a chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in west London) are many. In both industries, a specialist training or apprenticeship is required to learn and hone the appropriate skills and expertise to support and further one’s career. The working hours are long, often unsociable, and the pay is low, for performers and chefs alike (only a very few, in both professions, reach the dizzy heights of international stardom and the remuneration that goes with it). Both professions are inextricably linked to the general public by providing services which people want and from which they gain enjoyment. And both contribute a not insignificant amount to the UK economy.
Live music and hospitality have been severely impacted by the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (and let’s be clear, it is government policy, not the virus itself which has caused such damage in both sectors). The government has, in my humble opinion, displayed an alarmingly puritanical attitude towards hospitality in particular, and live music to a lesser degree, in its imposition of restrictions to limit the spread of the virus (hospitality accounts for a tiny fraction (just 2%) of infections in the UK and both hospitality and classical music venues have made huge efforts to ensure they are “covid-secure” to keep customers/audiences safe). Both industries have been unfairly scapegoated by government, and the result is that many hospitality and music/arts venues has suffered severe financial losses. Both industries rely on paying customers – buying food, drinks and concert tickets – and when customers are non-existent or very limited due to social distancing, these industries suffer, some irretrievably.
In addition, both industries rely upon supply chains and “behind the scenes” workers: when a restaurant or concert venue closes, the knock-on effect is highly damaging to a wider group of people/jobs beyond those directly involved with the venue.
In recent months performers have protested outside parliament to draw attention to the plight of the performing arts, and in early October HospoDemo organised a similar protest to highlight the difficulties experienced in the hospitality sector this year. It was supported by a number of leading British chefs and chef-patrons, including Yotam Ottolenghi, Jason Atherton and Tom Aikens. The second HospoDemo is tomorrow, 7 December, and its aim is to protest the tougher tier-system restrictions, introduced in England on 2 December, which will cause many in hospitality to miss out on vital trade in the run up to Christmas, and will force many pubs, restaurants and hotels to close for good.
Because I have a personal, and, if you will, vested interest in the hospitality sector – and before 2020, my son believed that being a chef meant a job for life because “people will always need to be fed” – I am lending my support to HospoDemo. I can’t be at the protest in person, but I shall be doing my bit in an act of solidarity for an industry which has, like live music, been horribly impacted by coronavirus restrictions.
Read more information about HospoDemo and its aims here