Young artists will be the driving force behind the reopening of our arts scene

Our columnist Emily argues that targeted financial support for the arts is essential to sustain the next generation of performers.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 6:00 am
Arts venue like Leeds Playhouse will be back and stronger than ever.

The Government’s 2021 Budget announcement included £390 million to help arts venues, theatres and museums to reopen.

While this has been welcomed by cultural organisations – and will help the arts scene in West Yorkshire recover from the pandemic – it remains unclear how far this money will go to fully support those at the very beginning of their careers in the creative industries.

Allocating funding to cultural organisations and venues does, on the surface, seem like the obvious way to help the arts bounce back, as these organisations are crucial to keeping the industry alive.

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However, equally vital, yet seemingly overlooked, is the next generation of performers.

“It’s a daunting path to follow in the first place,” says Abigail Jolly, who graduated from the Arden School of Theatre in Manchester last year.

“A lot of people in my year and the year below seem to be turning away from the arts in favour of other careers.

“I do think that this is partly because of the hardship the industry has faced this year.”

Even for young actors and musicians who were in work before the pandemic hit, many were employed on a freelance basis, meaning they fell through the net of the furlough scheme.

The lack of financial support from the Government, coupled with Rishi Sunak’s call back in October for people to retrain to pursue alternative careers in the wake of increased unemployment, only adds to the uncertainty for those aspiring to work in the arts.

This lack of support particularly affects those from less privileged backgrounds; the potential instability of work in the arts was already a factor for many young people when deciding on this career path.

According to a 2019 report by Arts Council England, the arts contribute £10.8 billion a year to the UK economy.

As we approach the reopening of the arts and culture sector, we desperately need young people from all backgrounds to pursue careers in the creative industries.

We also rely on opportunities for children through community groups and arts education to inspire them to enter the sector.

This can only happen, however, if the money is directed towards supporting young talent in the industry.

Abigail says: “I am in no doubt, theatre will be back and stronger than ever.

“One thing the pandemic has shown us graduates is how much of a community there is, and we’ve had so much support from the rest of the industry.”

She has managed to continue with live concerts, dance classes and singing lessons from her bedroom, which is testament to her commitment and the adaptability of the Arts sector.

Young graduates and aspiring artists, if they are granted substantial financial support from the Government, will be the driving force behind the reopening of the cultural industries.