Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to untold job insecurity across virtually all sectors of employment. Some do not know where the money to pay their rent is going to come from, and many do not know what their next job is going to be. Arguably, the industries that have been worst hit are the arts, entertainment and night life; lockdown has meant that they had to cease performances, without any indication of when they may be able to reopen.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in an interview with ITV news that people of all walks of life are going to have to adapt to the new way of life. This was originally misquoted to say that specifically people in the arts should retrain, in a tweet by ITV News which has now been deleted. However, government actions following this interview reinforce the widely held belief that the Tory government sees the arts industry in such low regard that it does not believe it to be worthy of state funding. The government has released an advertising campaign of a ballerina getting her pointe shoes on, with the text ‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet)’ as a part of the ‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.’ campaign. This completely overlooks the insane amounts of skill, practice and dedication it takes to get to the level of Ballet where you can even put pointe shoes on, let alone become a professional. It diminishes the ambition of every young person who may dare to dream of dancing as the White Swan, or the Prince in Swan Lake. Not only that, but it discredits the blood, sweat and tears that every currently out-of-work professional Ballerina has shed in the name of their art form. Some people’s worst nightmare is a job ‘working in cyber’; being chained to a desk and staring at a screen.
This campaign merely supports the long-held Conservative belief that a career in STEM is somehow superior in every way to a career in the arts. They have cut funding in public schools by £7 billion since 2011, and the areas that have been hit the worst have always been so-called ‘non-essential’ subjects such as art, drama and music. What the government fails to recognise is that these subjects are so key to the development of school children. These are often the subjects that spark a passion for a future creative career, or the lessons that they look forward to because it is something they actually understand.
Whilst this is only the tip of the iceberg in the Conservative governments’ culture war against the arts, it is something that should not be allowed to continue. We all consume the arts industry in some way every single day, be it listening to music, watching our favourite TV shows or the art displayed in our homes. For a society to work it needs to be filled with all different types of people: people who choose to work in cyber, the arts, manual labour. There should be no hierarchy of professions, everyone’s choices should be respected, and the government should never tell people the path they have to choose in life.