We Need the Arts, Now More than Ever

I've never been particularly academic. The only As I ever received in school were in creative subjects. English, Drama, Music... 

I grew up in a house where your passion should be pursued: so long as we passed all of the necessary exams to not limit our futures (cough, Maths cough), my parents were happy for my sister and I to choose whichever subjects we would enjoy.

Despite having written a diary since 2007, my first love of the arts came when I was bought my first 'piano'. A plastic keyboard presented to me on my eighth Christmas. I played by ear, a skill which steadily developed into my teens and has been re-ignited in my twenties, when I realised how much I loved and missed playing the piano.

The short story is, I was never going to be a scientist, or an accountant. I was never going to be working in a sector that prized brains over skill, or where creativity was put into a box. 

For as long as I can remember, I've thrived on passion. And I've lived with the idea that if you know what your passion is, you'll find a way to do it every day.

Except, in the middle of this year, for the first time since graduating from university, I was almost without work in my 'passion'. I'd had two writing jobs pulled from underneath me and I was scraping by, based on the fact I'd moved back in with my parents.

Technically, I was self-employed, but there was little in the way of help from the Government. I watched friends lose their dream jobs due to lack of funding, I watched the creative industry flounder as it continued to be ignored by the Government.

A government that managed to find £14 billion per month to fund furlough, also ignored an entire industry of people, based on the fact that we're deemed 'low-skilled'. We aren't teachers or doctors. The training we've undergone and the hours and hours of practice and setbacks to forge careers in the most competitive industry in the world, meant nothing.

The impact of the pandemic on the creative industry, is twice as hard as on the wider economy. Only today, it was announced that a worst-case Covid scenario could lead to a 95% drop in West End arts jobs.

And the Government that has tried so hard to get the economy running with 'Eat Out to Help Out' and forced children and adults alike to return to education in a bid to return to normal, has decided that this initiative ends at anything remotely cultural.

We're seen as dispensable, that the world will keep on turning without artists, but it will stop without those in 'valuable' professions.

Do you know what's valuable? 

The TV shows, podcasts, and films watched by people in ALL professions to unwind after a long, hard day.

Value is in the books written which forge an escape for children who are bullied, for adults who are struggling with their mental health.

Value is the music we cried to and laughed to and cheered to throughout our lives.

Value is the money spent by millions of tourists who visit London with the sole purpose of visiting galleries, the museums, the West End.

Value is in the clothes we wear, the way we decorate our home to express who we are, our personalities.

The 'creatives' that are being shunned by the Government, are the same creatives who light up the sky on New Years Eve, they're the same creatives who write the speeches of ministers, and design the posters behind every single graphic we've seen plague us through 2020. They're wordsmiths and musicians who have kept the spirits high during the worst year of many people's lives.

In a world so determined right now to put up walls and barriers, the arts are universal. They are a communication tool, a medium to express ideas and share information. 

For a country rich in arts and culture, there's no doubt the UK fails to recognize its worth. From telling working professionals to retrain to pushing talented children into 'worthwhile' jobs, the message we are sending to those who are not academic, is dangerous.

In the UK, the home of The Beatles, of Damien Hirst, of Harry Potter, of Banksy, of the ENTIRE West End... how have we come so far from recognising the value of the arts? 

It's heartbreaking, and it's a message that needs to be abandoned before it's too late.