A generation of working class artists and thinkers changed the world and lead revolutions in popular culture and society throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, but for a number of years now the government has been dismantling traditional ways working class young people have made their way into academia, and the cultural and creative industries.
We’ve spent a few years working with academics from the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield to produce the paper ‘Panic: It’s an Arts Emergency.’ It analyses social class, taste and inequalities in the Creative Industries and is based on almost 300 hours of interviews with creative professionals collected following a national survey in 2015 as part of Create’s first Panic! project. It is the first time that sociologists have compared large-scale national datasets on social mobility alongside industry-specific information, offering new insights into the tastes, values and engagement of cultural workers.
TL:DR? People in the arts socialise in homogenous groups, mistake structural privilege for individual merit, and accept unpaid internships as an intrinsic part of getting on (incidentally, we also discovered those in leadership positions now probably didn’t have to do one themselves – imagine!)
Arts Emergency is how we’re helping the next generation of working class artists and thinkers overcome this structural disadvantaged and contribute to the culture in which they live. It’s exciting work.
When tuition fees tripled in 2010 and public funding for the arts was decimated, we wanted to do something meaningful for the low income kids most affected.
We pulled together around 50 friends – artists, thinkers, writers, performers, and activists. We pinned up a photo of the infamous Bullingdon Club. We listed the many advantages and favours those men had had on their way to the top. We pledged to build an open access alternative to that ‘old boy’ network that dominates arts, culture and politics in the early 21st century.
In 2013, after a pilot project in Hackney that saw 22 teenagers mentored and go on to study the arts at university, we registered officially as the charity Arts Emergency.
It begins as a one year mentoring project for 16 year olds, and it’s the absolute chance of a lifetime.
What’s revolutionary here is the fact our kids are supported along the way (and beyond) by what’s now a network of over 4000 arts professionals, including 100s of the biggest names in visual art, music, fashion, film, journalism and more. These are people who can and do open doors at ALL levels of the industry.
We can set up paid work experience, studio time, set visits, auditions, coaching, gallery space, free tickets, backstage passes, paid internships, academic help and so much more. They only need ask, and we can deliver it.
It’s our very practical way of giving low income kids everything we wished for at 16. It’s a first class ticket into the world of culture, learning, and creativity, that is underpinned by long term practical support right up to the age of 24. Unsurprisingly, three years in and with a rapidly rising profile, we find ourselves oversubscribed by teenagers wanting to apply.
Our work is funded entirely by members of the public. It’s a fact central to our mission and our identity and means that Arts Emergency is a genuinely public movement for arts and culture at a time when bigger establishment organisations are, well…he who pays the piper calls the tune and all that.
Some people give £1 a month, some people give £1000 a month. We only ask for whatever you can afford.
It costs us £1000 to support one young person from 16 to 24. That’s £125 a year for something amazing and long term. We are working with 120 young people in this year’s project and it will be 1000s more as word spreads behind the scenes and in the right places.
Asking only for regular monthly or yearly pledges is deliberate and revolutionary. It means we actually spend NO money directly on fundraising. Zero pounds. Instead we can put every penny and all of our attention towards supporting kids who need this amazing project in their lives.
Or if you wish to support us in a different way, please contact me directly at Neil@arts-emergency.org