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Funding the arts: How young people are doing it for themselves

Posted on 12 September 2012 Written by

With endless Twitter hashtags about cabinet reshuffles, Arts Council funding and the first £9,000-a-year university students entering their academic and artistic lives, you’re probably feeling really inspired, right? Oh sorry, I meant disheartened.

It’s easy to believe that as young producers, collaborators and artists, we have truly lost the battle with the arts industry: that we are at a cultural deficit far greater than we can even imagine to reverse in our lifetimes. However, in my opinion, when asked: “What is the biggest issue facing young people in the arts today?” Quite frankly, it’s the fact that people are talking about it. This “issue”.

Maybe there are no issues. Maybe there is nothing wrong. Maybe we’re forgetting that there will always be issues to overcome and those who recognise them are those that surpass them. I don’t know a single actor, artist or musician who goes on stage or sits in front of a canvas or a drum kit and due to the force of government legislation can’t utter their lines or pick up their brush or drumsticks. Young people are still creating so much art and due to the digitalised age they are broadcasting their creations across the world. Even more so to our credit, in response to our culture, we are developing artistic forms beyond those traditionally recognised.

The sad truth is that the Arts Council have cut £100 million pounds worth of funding, so whilst it’s wonderful that we are doing our best to create, fund and most importantly develop artistic work, so much less is readily availiable for us to utilise. But through this sadness? Well, we’ve been doing OK. Young people understand how to subsidise their projects better than  anyone. They raise money the old fashioned way – cake sales, car washes, shining shoes (OK, maybe not that old fashioned) – combine that with platforms for crowd funding and the vast opportunities on offer by organisations like IdeasTap and TalentHouse, and you have the beginnings of a project.

Don’t forget, these people will become the future investors and  fundraisers of the arts industry. Not all projects get off the ground or find the funding, but that’s how it should be and was, even in times of prosperity. Although art is for everyone, it is statistically impossible for every piece or show or song to be artistically brilliant – but those who deserve eventually get, through sheer determination and patience far greater than I have ever had. It’s all well and good to nod our heads and accept that ideal, but it should never be a case of eventually!

Dear Government: doing OK on our own is not a good enough excuse not to support us. How many young people do you know go through the fiddly, mind-numbing, jargon-ridden process of filling out ACE funding forms to produce a show? I don’t know any, and I know a lot of young people. In fact, no one is readily taught the process of even applying for funding; it’s as though discouraging applications will keep you from feeling guilty about denying many projects funding. The few young projects that manage to squeeze some funding out of the ACE through local authorities suffer now from regional cuts. You are creating fewer and fewer opportunities for young people when all we are doing is our best to create them for ourselves.

The media doesn’t really bother celebrating the successes of self-funded projects because it’s too busy telling us about the latest cut or closure. Particularly to those affecting Youth & Education arts programmes. Too often is it felt by parents, education officials and young people themselves that there is nothing to do, nothing available for young people. It’s just not true. Actually, since the recession there have been so many arts organisations that have gone above and beyond to create and develop opportunities for young people who can’t even afford a bus ticket, let alone a £9,000 a year university course. Big and small institutions, digital spaces and charities – so many opportunities that are there for the taking.

It’s not the responsibility of these arts institutions to tell young people to pull their finger out and demand them to take part – if they don’t make the effort, it’s their loss. However, it is your responsibility to make those opportunities clearly aware and available to every young person from every type of background, and be there with the right answers and tools when a curious young person wants to learn how to play piano, create a show, or run an event. Creating a social capital and network of young artists and producers is key to reviving the “issues” surrounding us.

I am boycotting the recession, I am boycotting the idea of an issue and instead making a different one: when the young artists, musicians and theatre makers of our generation finally grow and become the heart of the British cultural industry, how on earth am I going to decide what show to go to each night? A much more optimistic and aspirational issue facing the young artists of 2012.

Image by Howard Lake

Dana Segal

Dana Segal

Dana is the Youth Engagement Officer at The Roundhouse in London. She runs a small local theatre company called Organised Crime, and reviews theatre.

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  1. Funding the arts: how young people are doing it for themselves | danakohavasegal Says:

    [...] link to this article is here Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted in Personal [...]

  2. Theatre debates: Why they still matter | danakohavasegal Says:

    [...] These institutions provide facilities in which to practice the art, offer platforms and funding opportunities to show it, they offer inspiration and opportunity at a time where our government is letting us down. (I have addressed this issue in a piece on funding which can be found here) [...]

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