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Funding cuts to the UK’s arts will drive away British creatives

Many of the young people in our community are impacted by this year's record cuts, so we commissioned Young Community member Abrehet to reflect on how.

In the summer of 2021, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that funding cuts to arts courses in English universities would be given the go ahead, claiming that this extra money would be put towards STEM and medicine courses. Here lies the problem that creatives have had to battle with from the moment they picked the arts as a career. Sharing a space with STEM subjects and industries means constantly fighting to prove the worth of your craft or expertise.

Since the pandemic, the arts are in one of the worst positions that they have been in for years. Several theatres and shows have had to permanently close, outreach programs and funding organisations were cut down drastically, freelancers suffered with no pay checks coming in, and no furlough. It’s no surprise that this additional blow to the arts industry will do even more damage, damage that may not be reversible if things don’t change fast.

When you chose to be a creative, you sacrifice many things: security and an increased entry wage, as well as normal working hours, and holidays. It’s a sacrifice I’m sure most of us are happy with. I know for me, the arts and specifically the theatre has given me so much motivation, purpose and enjoyment. But if you pick this path, the least you deserve is support from the state. With these new cuts on top of pre-existing austerity, on top of the pandemic, the UK’s arts scene will inevitably shrink. The world is still waking up to what the arts offers a nation, and a country like the UK produces so much artistic work that to damage this industry is to damage the wealth of the nation and the culture of its society.

If the government does not do more to nurture the arts industry, they will lose so much of what makes the UK so wonderfully unique.

As a black, working-class woman, my entry into the arts was not smooth sailing, nor was it an easy decision. However, I was helped so much by the theatres around me – theatres that were funded, in part, by the Arts Council and which with that funding chose to promote the arts to marginalised communities, through free schemes, workshops and mentoring. I was lucky to have this foundation in theatre but going to the University of Leeds and studying Theatre and Performance gave me a stronger footing in the industry, gave me connections to professional spaces and theatre companies and gave me the skill set needed to excel in the UK’s stage industry.

It's a difficult time to be starting out. My future is currently hazy, and I expect the same can be said for many British creatives. I see myself moving abroad, another idea I’m sure appeals to others. Whilst this is probably a beneficial plan for me, if many others also do this it will have a detrimental impact on the UK and what work comes from the UK. If the government does not do more to nurture the arts industry, they will lose so much of what makes the UK so wonderfully unique.

Abrehet is the Arts and Culture Editor at Gen-Z Talks Magazine and you can find more of her work here.