Katy Sharp-Watson mourns the likely loss of IdeasTap and rails against the lack of diversity in the arts.
To the disappointment and disbelief of many young creatives, arts charity IdeasTap will close the doors of its Bermondsey offices on 2 June. For the past seven years, IdeasTap has provided creative briefs, funding, training, events and jobs lists, all designed to help young people launch a career in the arts. Over 200,000 artists, actors, play writers, filmmakers, journalists, dancers and musicians have signed up for free.
The culture industries are notoriously tough to break into. Not only are the jobs highly competitive, they require a great deal of cultural capital that many people from low-income families simply do not have. As a result, these jobs tend to be filled by the privileged few who benefit from family financial support, i.e. they can undertake unpaid internships and survive without a salary for as long as it takes.
Aside from the financial aids that families can provide, those who have attended private schools and top universities have access to opportunities and a vast array of contacts that others would never normally experience. Being able to afford to live in London is often essential due to the concentration of the jobs in the capital.
All of this makes for a very closed industry that is based not on hard work or talent, but money and class. This lack of class diversity affects not only those from working-class backgrounds, but makes the whole cultural sector less interesting, less unique, less boundary-pushing and less exciting. No wonder we are left with the likes of James Blunt representing the current talent that the UK offers.
IdeasTap, more effectively than other UK charities, has gone some way to addressing this issue. Its closure is not only a great loss to those who need it, but it is symbolic of the establishment’s lack of interest in social mobility and its neglect of the arts sector in general. In 2010, the coalition government announced a spending cut of 3.5% to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and public funding has been rapidly decreasing since then. A large degree of arts funding is now reliant on kick-starter campaigns and National Lottery grants. IdeasTap has always been solely reliant on donations from its arts partners and public members, its purpose has been to fill a void created by the government which has been unable and unwilling to solve the issue of diversity in the creative sector. IdeasTap’s efforts to gain government support have been repeatedly declined, making their eventual closure almost inevitable.
Speaking to young people who have used IdeasTap, it is clear just how useful and beloved it is to its users. Twenty-one-year-old actor and writer Daisy Porter from Dorset said: ‘IdeasTap has given advice, funding and (most importantly) encouragement in order to help us break into the industry and has been a defining factor in creating the next generation of artists. Through IdeasTap I have been on enlightening workshops, strengthened my abilities as an actor and writer and I have also met a whole community of wonderful people.’
Twenty-two year old Drama student Bridie Donaghy from Brighton stressed the importance of IdeasTap in boosting her and her peers’ credentials: ‘I have job-hunted, read helpful articles and attended a headshot parlour all for free. I have seen other members inspired by the briefs they set and works of art that have been created because IdeasTap provided inspiration, funding and a deadline. Their events offer exciting opportunities to learn and network and they don’t neglect artists who live outside of London. IdeasTap is not only a fantastic resource for any artist but an online community that creates an exciting space shared by artists all over the country.’
Twenty-year-old Lisa Lawrence said: ‘I’ve always been a huge fan of IdeasTap, I love the way it brings people from different artistic disciplines together. It doesn’t discriminate based on experience and has provided the support that has been long-needed in the arts. I won a brief on IdeasTap a few weeks ago which gave me a writing opportunity which put my career and experience as a writer ahead by a year. I’ll be devastated to see it go.’
The connectivity between its members is one of IdeasTap’s greatest strengths. The open individual profile its members create, encourages networking and collaboration with other users in order to grow their contact books and increase their opportunities. The government’s failure to provide sufficient support for the arts will only be our loss, since the culture industry in this country makes up a huge section of the economy. A ‘Save IdeasTap’ campaign has sprung up out of the ashes of this charity, but depressingly it looks like the fire is about to go out.
To find out more about the campaign visit: www.saveideastap.com
Katy Sharp-Watson is Rising East’s Film and TV Editor @ksharpwatson