Ballerina. Photo: Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0, license linked at bottom of article Ballerina. Photo: Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0, license linked at bottom of article

The government should be trying to save jobs instead of its crass attacks on those working in the arts and culture sector, argues Floyd Codlin

The latest pronouncements from the Tories, concerning culture have provided no reassurance, or respite. For them arts and culture are regarded as decadent indulgences that citizens can and should forgo, as activities that only arts “luvies” are concerned about. This is reflected in the comments of Rishi Sunak, the Conservative Chancellor, on retraining arts workers who are losing their jobs.

In line with the government’s latest Jobs Support Scheme, the government put out an ad on Monday showing a ballerina tying her shoes with the words “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet)” and a strap line, “Rethink. Reskill, Reboot”.

The ad generated outrage and subsequently the ad has been withdrawn. It comes on top of: (a) the current job loss tsunami in the sector, (b) the inference that a brown woman has no business in the arts (ballet in this case) (c) Sunak being quoted as saying in an ITV interview on October 6th (he’s now denied making the comments), that artists, musicians, etc. “should retrain and find other jobs” which went viral last week, and (d) given the continued lack of test and trace, the shifting of blame of the rise in infected cases to the public and the corruption of contracts going to their friends, this latest stunt shows the contempt this government has for working class people.

For comparison, other countries in Europe have seen fit to support those who work in the arts and culture sector. Since the pandemic began, France announced a €7bn fund for small businesses in the arts sector, Germany rolled out a €50 billion package aimed at freelancers and small businesses including the arts and culture industries and even Sweden put forward a €3.4bn cultural budget for 2020/21.

While the governments of these countries are haven’t acted out of a particular care for working class people and have in many instances still prioritised profits over people, they have recognised the essential role that arts and culture can play at a time of national crisis.

As some commenting online have pointed out, the Tories probably don’t have a disdain for the arts itself, or not nearly as much as they do for working class people. Withdrawing the ad doesn’t change the reality of the diluted version of the furlough that the government has adopted nor the deliberate decision to throw predominantly working class people in the arts and culture sector under the bus.

However, the swift u-turn on the ad by the Tories shows once again that we are able to force the government’s hand, and we need to get more angry and more organised to push the government into taking the measures that are actually needed.

Lord Darlington, could have been talking about the Tories when he said in Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan, regarding how they treat the culture sector that they know “the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Floyd Codlin, PCS Culture GEC (Honorary and in PC)

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