Arts Emergency

Rachel Finlay

Policy and Campaigns Volunteer

The joke (thanks to Avenue Q) is what do you do with a BA in English? Well, quite a lot actually. Friends that I studied with have gone to work in museums and galleries; writers’ organisations; journalism; and some are doing MAs in arts subjects like creative writing. I’m trying to get a job in the charity sector (which has a lot of people with English degrees).

I’ve always been a creative person and have written some terrible poetry and spent hours drawing and making things as a child. My parents bought me a camera when I was 7 and I tormented them by taking tons of photos and wanting them printed. Being creative and thinking creatively is what makes me happiest. I’ve always been determined to go to university and I was the first in my family to do so. My parents didn’t have the money to help me out and I was jealous of other people whose parents could afford to send them wherever they wanted to go. I was very quiet at school and just wanted to sit in the library and read a book, and at home my only real continuous act of rebellion was reading way past my bedtime. I was ill during six form and had to drop out of school altogether. The thought of going to university to do English (and maybe creative writing) was something that greatly helped me when I was recovering. My creative writing teacher came to visit me when I was ill and brought me books. I looked forward to those visits and they made such a difference to me. I wanted to do English Literature because when I was a child books were my friends and when I was going through a hard time there were there for me again. I’m also visually impaired and it makes me work a bit slower than other people. When I was in primary school I got send home with loads of class work that I didn’t get done because my eyes got tired. I think no one really expected me to do well in school, never mind go to university I thought I’d prove a point by going to read a huge number of books and then writing about them.

I want to volunteer for Arts Emergency because I’ve had setbacks and I’ve really had to struggle to get to do the degree that I wanted. It was all worth it. I made great friends, and gained so much confidence. I learned so much. I wouldn’t swap it for anything. And as much as I think science is great, we need the people to dream of what’s possible too. My favourite authors who influenced change are Denis Diderot, this French author, translator, mathematician and philosopher who translated (but mostly rewrote) an encyclopaedia into French which helped to change the attitudes and history of many people; and Percy Bysshe Shelley who wrote amazing poetry and who envisioned the political reform needed in Britain years before any of it became law in 1832. Art matters, and it changes people’s lives for the better. I don’t want to live in a world without writers or photographers; artists or musicians; poets or designers or journalists. Creative people are amazing and you should be encouraged to be one of them. I’d love to help with that.