Sacked Scottish musicians: We’ve been left penniless

Sacked Scottish musicians: We’ve been left penniless


norman lebrecht

February 06, 2023

A painful message from the 19 members of the Nevis Ensemble, which went bankrupt without paying its players. The musicians have opened a GoFundMe site:

We, the Former Fellows of the Nevis Ensemble, are heartbroken by the very sudden insolvency of the organisation. The performances, workshops and projects in settings including care homes, prisons, schools, recovery groups, and all manner of public spaces, undertaken during our short time as Fellows have been some of the most fulfilling musical experiences of our lives.

The bold vision of the Nevis Ensemble to provide “Music for Everyone Everywhere” inspired many of us to move to a new city, leave jobs, defer other studies and opportunities, and make large personal and financial sacrifices to join the ensemble. In return for our work, we were promised an annual bursary of £11,000 paid in instalments of £1,000 at the end of each month.

We want to draw attention to the fact that many of the musicians are struggling with sudden financial hardship. The organisation failed to pay the most recent bursary instalment, covering our work for the month of January. Fellows were given 24 hours’ notice of the insolvency, leaving many of us without our primary source of income. We have sought support from the Musicians Union and Independent Society of Musicians, and have been advised that our Fellowships are entirely unprotected by employment law. Nearly half the fellows are internationals and therefore do not qualify for public funds. Additionally, those musicians who have undertaken freelance work with the organisation will likely not be able to recoup payments due to the organisation’s financial state at the time of insolvency.

In our work, we have seen how communities can provide a safety net, a safe space, and a helping hand. This is a plea for help from our own communities. We have set up a GoFundMe with the aim of raising a temporary hardship fund to help us as we seek employment and try to get back on our feet. We know many of those in our community are musicians as well, and that not everyone will be able to support us financially. We would be grateful if you could share this with your networks so that we can reach as many people as possible.

The proceeds from this fundraiser will be split evenly amongst the 19 fellows. Any amounts raised beyond our goal of £19,000 will be donated to Platform community centre in Easterhouse, Glasgow.


  • Jens says:

    If someone needs to chase after £1,000 like this then they have much bigger problems in their life. It is downright negligent for some people to be involved in music.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    Musicians are the smartest, most capable people anywhere. Quit your cryin’, and just go learn a new skill.

  • Pewom says:

    CEO has lost full time job and salary.
    Where’s his gofundme?

  • Anon says:

    Yet the Manager had his salary! Always the same – the musicians are penniless and the “Suits” walk away with their usual sense of entitlement. Still the same entrenched way of thinking that being a musician is a hobby.

  • Pat says:

    I’m truly sorry for these musicians but what a dodgy outfit! Why was it receiving public funds and awards if it wasn’t following employment laws and using foreign labour that shouldn’t have been working here?

    • La plus belle voix says:

      What “foreign labour exactly”? Are you insinuating that musicians without a British passport were employed unlawfully? If this was not the case, then your remark is libellous.

      • Pat says:

        I was referring to ” half the fellows are internationals and do not qualify for public funds.”
        This whole issue is a disgrace… the outfit was in receipt of Scottish Government Funding but they used every loophole possible to ensure that the musicians where not protected by employment law.

        • E says:

          You have misunderstood how immigrants work in the UK. On a number of visa types in the UK, you aren’t allowed to claim benefits (public funds) but you’re still allowed to be employed and self-employed.

          Clearly the organisation wasn’t hiring “foreign labour that shouldn’t have been working here”, but instead foreign labour that was allowed to work but cannot sign on when their income has vanished.

          • Pat says:

            Thanks for explaining…. but sadly they weren’t “working” otherwise they would have been protected by employment law not just abandoned in a foreign country in this disgraceful manner. They were neither employed or self-employed they were being exploited.

      • Sal says:

        Nobody was ” employed ” isn’t that the point? Even the internationals….

      • Pat says:

        Nobody was ” employed ” and half the ensemble consisted of foreign labour. Everyone thought they were employed and only now realise that they were not. Their educational ” bursary” was paid at the end of each month after a month of giving professional performances in venues throughout Scotland. It is highly unusual for educational establishments not to follow through on promised bursaries for international students…. perhaps the Scottish Govt would like to assist in at least helping these unfortunate individuals get home?

  • Couperin says:

    That the people who comment on here pretend to support music and are shaming musicians for losing their job is anathema. You should all be utterly embarrassed at yourselves. How dare you.

    • David says:

      This is my first comment on this article, Couperin. I think only 2 or 3 of the commenter so far are shaming musicians for living their job. Most of the rest are supportive… It is the company that employed them who is to blame.

  • Arts admin says:

    The MU and ISM need to do urgent checks that this method of exploiting musicians/their members is not happening elsewhere. The musicians were providing professional services in venues such as care homes and schools throughout Scotland and funded by the Scottish government. They were not being educated on “fellowships” they were being abused by a management team on cosy full-time salaries.
    Very sad that they only now realise this.

    • David says:

      I entirely agree with you Arts admin.

    • SVM says:

      I wonder whether the “fellowship” model may be a tax-efficient vehicle for paying so-called “early-career musicians” by linking the payment to some form of training or education (e.g.: a bursary or scholarship awarded specifically for study on a university/conservatoire degree programme is usually exempt from taxation), or even a means of circumventing standard minimum wage requirements (e.g.: if the worker is characterised as a so-called “apprentice”).

  • Robert Holmén says:

    “-the very sudden insolvency of the organisation.”

    Attributed to various wits over the years…

    Q: How did you go bankrupt?
    A: Slowly at first, then all at once.

  • The little guy says:

    Where is the accountability? What is happening here?

  • Lully says:

    …. better to record a simple Scottish air… call it ” for Nevis” retain all rights and ask all supporters to download/ buy/ stream on repeat….