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  • Moya Sweeney

And all this time, I thought 'bandwidth' was a musical term


Fatima, Sophia, Jahmal, Justin. A selection of advertised individuals who by Cyber First and HM Government’s standards, do not possess the skills needed to contribute to our technology fuelled economy. A virus in the system. A security breach of the firewall propped up by this notion that the Arts are an inadequate means of employment. Yeah, this again.

Image created by Sean Coleman, @colemandesign on Instagram

In the most 2020 fashion, comments from Chancellor Rishi Sunak set social media alight in early October, with the ITV News Politics account tweeting that Sunak suggested that “musicians and others in the arts should retrain and find other jobs”. However, the narrow view of social media was its own bitter downfall when the Chancellor released a transcript of the interview, essentially saving himself from a very angry mob of creatives appearing at his bedroom window chanting and singing like they were atop the barricade in Les Misérables. The transcript published on Twitter states that Covid-19 has impacted people “in all walks of life, everyone’s having to adapt”, and continues to commend virtual theatrical performances and online music lessons which have allowed the public to engage with the arts from their homes. So, we all shook hands (metaphorically, wash your

hands folks), called a truce and departed as equals.


But then, the curtain drew for Act II.


I won’t lie, I really thought this advertisement was a joke, a top-drawer meme. This couldn’t be something that came across the desk of the Culture Secretary and received two thumbs up. But it did. Photographs of a ballet dancer, retail worker and barista were branded with the slogan that their “next job could be in cyber”, and that famous trio of words “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.”


To make things even better, this selection of advertisements is part of a 2019 Government campaign to encourage more young people into cyber security. Although this was brought up against the backdrop of struggling artists in a pandemic, it most definitely highlights the long-standing and largely unspoken attitude that those who work in the arts sector are collateral damage in a digital age. Naturally, social media exploded with outrage, witty replies and cleverly edited versions. My favourite consisting of an upgraded slogan – “Fatima’s next job could be burning down the capitalist structures that consider her art expendable and dancing in the ashes”.


Of course, I am not undermining the millions of pounds going into saving jobs in the arts at this critical time. £1.57bn invested by Westminster, with £33m being received by the Northern Ireland Executive in July, going towards recovery funds such as the Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme. These are all incredible initiatives which are being described as a lifeline for many. But for me, no matter how much money you pump into our theatres, our dance studios or our museums, this pandemic has shown what the government really thinks about us. And it stings. Especially for arts students who are training and studying to become a functioning earner in this industry, they are currently wondering if they will have stages to perform on or sets to design when they graduate. They are the people who would rather feel the light of a spotlight radiate on their face, instead of the light of a computer screen. Who tap instead of type, create instead of code and record instead of retrain.

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