First published by Independent Voices, 10th March 2015
When IdeasTap shuts its doors on 2nd June, it will be a huge blow for the community of young people who rely on its services and a depressing indictment of how the arts are currently valued in Britain.
IdeasTap is an arts charity that helps young people break into the creative industries by providing them with funding, career opportunities and collaborators for arts projects. Launched in December 2008, IdeasTap has gained almost 200,000 members in the UK and has given away more than £2.3 million in funding to 62,000 beneficiaries. IdeasTap also offers a ‘spa’ where users can access a programme of seminars, workshops Q&A sessions, and CV clinics, allowing them to gain confidence and build a network of contacts.
Peter De Haan, the founder, director and principle funder of IdeasTap, calls for the government to wake up and realise the cultural and financial value that the arts add to our country in his powerful letter announcing the charity’s closure. De Haan and his colleagues founded IdeasTap during the financial crisis because they were concerned about the impact on school leavers. IdeasTap repeatedly appealed for government and corporate financial backing. These requests were denied, despite the obvious value of what the charity has achieved.
It’s sickening that an organisation that has helped thousands of young people realise their potential is shutting down due to lack of funds, while those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis were bailed out with taxpayer’s money and continue to get fat.
Arts in the UK have become increasingly marginalized, and further funding cuts are on the cards. The butchery of arts grants has done a great deal of damage to local arts venues, with the majority of cuts focused outside London, further widening the gap between the favoured capital and the rest of the UK – although Manchester is currently doing its best to prioritize arts and culture through the Devo Manc deal, reopening the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Central Library, and refusing to wither while London takes the biggest slice of the pie.
Tuition fees are now so high that choosing an arts degree doesn’t really make any financial sense, unless you’re planning to do a law conversion or go into teaching. The spat between Labour MP Chris Bryant and James Blunt drew attention to the uncomfortable truth that the creative industries are now so choked with privilege that diversity and radicalism are getting lost.
IdeasTap went some way to redressing this balance, providing young people from all backgrounds with the tools they needed to break into the creative industries so that the most talented could be recognised, not just those with the most family money behind them.
We have an impressive pool of potential and creative talent in Britain. It should be utilized to the full, not thrown to the wolves in the name of austerity. I feel disgusted that both corporations and our coalition government have chosen not to support IdeasTap in their hour of need. In doing so, they have failed the arts and they have failed young people. Way to go, guys.