GMS Diversity & Inclusion Newsletter – Arts Emergency Interview

Arts Emergency Interview

This month for our DEI newsletter interview we spoke to Arts Emergency, whose aim is to help young people get a fair start in the arts and humanities. Read on to hear more about how they are making a difference, as well as how you can get involved.

Please can you tell us a bit more about Arts Emergency and your aims?
Founded by activist Neil Griffiths and comedian Josie Long in 2013,
Arts Emergency is a social justice charity that helps young people without connections, flourish in further education and navigate their way into creative and cultural careers.

People of colour and those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are hugely underrepresented throughout the creative industries – an industry built on the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. Arts Emergency aims to level the playing field so every young person, no matter their background, has the chance to pursue a future they want despite the barriers and the radically unfair and elitist society in which we live. Arts Emergency is tackling this issue by cultivating a network of like-minded people (over 8000 people so far) that acts as an “alternative old boy network” for the next generation of artists, activists and thinkers. By connecting this network with the young people we work with, doors into industries are opened, confidence is boosted and knowledge is shared.

What kind of programmes do you have available at AE?
Arts Emergency supports young people from the age of 16 until they’re 26 by providing mentoring, coaching, the wish list, work experience programmes, and connecting them to a network of professionals working in creative industries. Through partnerships with venues it also offers free tickets to cultural events, a chance to talk to people working in a career that they’re interested in and exclusive paid work opportunities.

What would you say are the biggest barriers you see from young people trying to enter the arts / music?
The cuts to art subjects in the school curriculum means that learning an instrument is dependent on your postcode and family’s financial circumstances. A lot of the young people we speak to who are passionate about a career in music have said they’re learning how to do musical production using apps, but they’re unsure of whether their DIY know-how is enough to have them consider further education or applying for jobs in the music industry. There’s an expectation that young people will work for free so it’s always those whose circumstances make this impossible who miss out on opportunities. Also, the creative industry often recruit from within their existing networks, basing their decisions on word-of-mouth rather than opening up the process for everyone to get a fair shot.

How can we counter those barriers?
Aside from lobbying the government to end cuts to art subjects, effective ways to counter the barriers are; opening up doors to the industry to the least represented and most underprivileged young people, offering subsidised music workshops, lessons, instrument hire, paid work experience, internships and fairly paid entry level positions. 

How can our members in the music industry get involved with AE?
The first step for members of the music industry to get involved with Arts Emergency is to Join the Network! The Network really is the core of Arts Emergency. It’s a fantastic community of people who are passionate about arts and culture. They believe in a fairer future and share the view that the arts are richer when they represent diverse voices. Through a monthly newsletter Network members hear about what the organisation is getting up to, what programmes it’s recruiting for and what its young people need advice on. In autumn we’ll be recruiting for mentors so join the Network and be the first to hear when recruitment opens.

The second step would be to help grow the movement by telling your friends and your industry networks and by fundraising for the organisation. Next, you could consider if you can spare £5 a month and set-up a monthly donation – regular donations like this contribute massively to the effective running of our programmes. And lastly, sharing news about Arts Emergency on your social media will help spread the word even further!

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