C.G Hansford reflects on the governments response to the endangered arts and culture sector and its professionals.
From the clothes you wear to the wallpaper on your walls to the games you play on your phone during breaks from your so-called proper job, the creative industry is not an optional extra but an integral part of our everyday lives.
The culture secretary Oliver Dowden this week distanced himself and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from an online campaign calling for ballerinas and other creative professionals to ‘rethink reskill reboot’. This scheme highlights the disregard felt by many across the UK for people who work in the creative sector. This includes cinemas, publishing houses, and theatres, many of which are facing permanent closure because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The reason why so many of our most brilliant minds emigrated to mainland Europe during the early part of the twentieth century is because countries such as France and Spain respect creativity in a way that the UK does not. When I lost my job last month, I applied for Universal Credit. Universal Credit, which incorporates Job Seeker’s Allowance, forces those who are out of work to agree to certain commitments.
Before the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible, claimants were required to check in at their local job centre every couple of weeks to prove they were looking for work. But what do you do when your background is in English Literature, but the only jobs on offer are in care homes or supermarkets?
I gave up engaging with politics at the time of the Brexit referendum. I was so sick of reading other people’s opinions on the matter that I realised they probably felt the same about mine. Plus, people older than you continually telling you your opinions are invalid eventually makes you think, ‘what is the point?’ Now, I only get involved in political discussions when I’ve had a drink. But occasionally an issue will arise that once again fans what Tony Benn called the ‘flame of injustice.’ Creativity is one of those issues.
It is no wonder the suicide rate among men my age is so high. When I was it was my turn to visit my school’s career advisor, I said, ‘I want to be a writer.’ Silence. She could have told me about the range of printing apprenticeships available to school leavers, rather than implying that these were the preserve of aspiring plumbers and the like. She could have recommended a writing course to help me hone my craft. She could have said, ‘the popularisation of the internet means there are plenty of new and exciting opportunities for aspiring copywriters.’ But she didn’t. Instead, she presented me with two options: teacher, or journalist.
When I say to my mum, ‘there are no jobs,’ I mean, ‘there are no jobs that would make me happy.’ It is not unreasonable to refuse to do a job because it makes you miserable. No matter whether you believe in an afterlife or not, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Death stops for us all eventually. Before you shuffle off this mortal coil, do what you want. You might as well.
And it isn’t easy. I bet I have more rejection emails than you’ve had hot dinners. ‘Thanks a lot, but it’s not for us.’ But it’s fine, I don’t mind. Each rejection email I receive is a reminder that I’m trying. And even if none of them got published, even if all I had to show for a lifetime of writing was an inbox folder full of rejections, I’d still be happier than if I had spent that time selling cigarettes or mortgages.
That’s not to say I think I’m better than you because I don’t want to do those things. But I don’t want to do those things, and you shouldn’t make me.
I have no money, no prospects, I live with my partner’s parents and two of their four brothers, I have no idea how I’m going to afford to pay my phone bill this month or buy my family Christmas presents. It was my birthday last month and I spent every penny I got on a flying lesson. Because of this, not despite it, I’m happy. I hope you are too.
C. G. Hansford is a freelance copywriter and editor from Dorset.