At this point in 2020, watching the news is almost like watching a B movie with the ridiculous and outlandish headlines we’ve come to accept as the norm. It feels like there is little left that could faze us. Yet, the re-emergence of a somewhat patronising advert informing ‘Fatima’ that her “next job could be in cyber” still managed to shock. Which begs the question, how can we ensure their survival if the government isn’t going to?
The advert itself has been taken somewhat out of context. The now infamous picture of Fatima the ballerina and the condescending text “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (she just doesn’t know it yet)” wasn’t intended as a call to action for people in the creative industry to retrain. Instead, it was part of a series of ill-informed adverts encouraging people from multiple sectors to retrain for a job in cyber. So not only is it a lack of respect for the arts, but other professions as well. Apparently, the government doesn’t think much of pilots or dancers, despite requiring more specific training and qualifications for both jobs than you do to become an MP.
Whilst the memes and commentary sparked by the advert were a fantastic example of the British creative industry and their brilliance, ‘Fatima’ is just one of many examples of the government’s blatant lack of respect for the arts. Boris may have called the adverts “crass”, but that means very little when the creative industries have received so little help during the pandemic. Whilst Rishi Sunak promised £1.57 billion to the creative industry back in July, only £333 million has currently been given out. To add insult to injury, recipients of the fund are expected to praise the government, Sunak and use the #hereforculture in order to receive the funding.
From a business point of view, which seems like the only point of view that the government wants to take, the “creative sector contributes more to the economy than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined.” To treat an industry that brings in a significant amount of GDP, attracts hoards of international tourists each year, and is one of your biggest exports, with such disdain, seems like an oversight. You would think supporting an important industry through a global pandemic that is already causing dire financial difficulties would be a priority, and yet the government’s answer to lack of job security is to simply retrain.
What the government seems to have forgotten, is that the arts are a key pillar of British culture. We proudly boast of being home to the greats: Shakespeare, Wilde, The Beatles. Our Theatres are world-renowned, our musicians have inspired generations of teenage angst and our galleries are lined with art from some of the greatest artist to have ever lived. We have every right to be proud of our creative industry, from its great historical roots to the trailblazing modern-day. Yet, we are never encouraged to actively participate.
At school, STEM subjects were always prized over achievements in English and Art, drama getting very little mention at all, and music only really mattering as an extra something to throw into your personal statement. Expressing an interest in the arts was followed by concerned teachers and their worry you’d live an unstable and unfulfilled life with little to no job prospects. Personally, it’s taken a very long time to stop believing that to be true.
Without the threat of the current pandemic, I’d never realised how vital the arts are to my sanity. It was art that pulled me through lockdown. Creature comforts of old films I loved as a child, music that scored my one daily walk and allowed me to pretend I was strolling Parisian streets, TV that dulled the anxiety that sat high on my chest. It was then my own art that allowed it to all make sense. Yet the government would have away with all that, and at a time when we desperately need the arts more than we ever have before.
The creative industry has already adapted to the challenges of the pandemic and made the arts accessible for us at home, all we need to do is consume it. The arts are more than just a key earner for Britain, they are vital parts of our communities and the way we express ourselves. It’s vital that we protect the arts during the pandemic, and as the government has shown little interest in doing so, as consumers we must actively support creators and artist.
Otherwise, the government isn’t going to leave us with any art to enjoy.
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