Kieran Yates: Pity the poor arts graduate

Perhaps politicians have forgotten what it means to be young and fearful of the future
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The Independent Online

A life in the arts is a difficult game. Despite the old adage that "creativity flourishes in times of recession" (cue punk being given as an example here), the reality is that graduates in the arts have always had it hard. Don't get me wrong – all graduates suffer in the quest for that initial placement, that first paid job, that first move into the canapé-serving networking event. But the key (listen closely) is direction.

For many arts graduates, quangos act as a career compass, steering people in the right direction. Not to say that these bodies wave a magic wand that ensures employment, but at the very least, they serve to show that the path you have chosen can be possible, with grants/support made available for those who choose an alternative route down the path of artist, director, designer and beyond.

Bodies such as the UK Film Council, the Design Council, The Theatres Trust and the Museums Libraries and Archives Council provide new graduates with an insight into how exactly to utilise the skills they may have learned on a conceptual degree, and how to see the career opportunities in their field. This is key to inspiring graduates to implement their creative skills.

When asked what degree I studied, at the answer "English Literature" I am often greeted with the pitying response, "Ah. Not great times for the arts..." Suffice to say, this does not fill me with the greatest of confidence with my decision. However, rather than being personal, it seems that after speaking with design, art, and drama graduates, this is a response they have all experienced. In the past one could be thankful for quangos like the UK Film Council to provide the hope that there is support in the difficult times. But now the UK Film Council is to be axed and quangos generally are in the Government's sights.

For those with a passion to pursue avenues where there is no set path to follow, no clear hoops to jump through, things can often be uncertain and scary. Take it from me. I graduated last year and my first year out in the world has been a desperate search for advice, and mentors to show me that what I aspire to is in fact a real possibility. The fact is that in a society where we are passive to mass culture being assimilated and sold back to us, bodies that champion the individual are a welcome change. So why are they subject to cuts and in some cases, abolition? Who will look after the young creatives?

Perhaps politicians have forgotten what it means to be young and fearful of the future, but saying goodbye to institutions like these perpetuates the difficult position graduates such as myself encounter when trying to get work placements, making social mobility ever more difficult for young disadvantaged or independent artists, who are looking for funding and grants.

Who can deny that young British directors have thrived thanks to the UKFC, schools have engaged in Design and Technology because of the Design Council, and the "elitist" world of theatre has been made more accessible to graduates by The Theatres Trust. Work experience has been a key staple of the MLA.

Though "quango" isn't exactly a staple in my or many of my friends' everyday vernacular, we are definitely aware of the bodies that fall under the umbrella term. Many of these organisations provide a platform that support young people, who are often told a future in the arts is one that will come at sacrifice and cost.

For anyone who has ever received a pitying look when talking about their arts degree, and beyond, these quangos are vital. Graduates need to be recognised as a priority demographic who will be most affected by budget cuts. It is imperative that when these cuts are made, future voices will be considered and politicians will recognise the effect on graduates and creative young people. Come on Cameron, I know it was a long time ago, but even you were young once.