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Break in Case of Arts Emergency

Major Arts Institutions Come Together in Support as Giant 'Break in Case of Arts Emergency' Boxes Appear Across the UK to Highlight the Growing Arts Crisis for Young People and UK Culture. 


Class, ethnicity and disability are still major barriers to young people gaining entry to the creative industries, and the pandemic has heightened gaping inequalities in the creative pipeline. Given the last year, the term "Arts Emergency" has never been more true, nor more urgent:

  • Just 16% of people in the Creative industries are from a working-class background 
  • Only 4.8% of people working in music, the visual & performing arts are Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background and just 12% of those are from a working-class background
  • 40% of people working in media attended private school.
  • 2.7% of people working in museums, galleries and libraries are Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background.
  • 16% of people in film and TV come from working-class backgrounds, and only 9% of those in film, radio and TV are Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background
  • Only 5% of people in publishing are Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background

"We have a responsibility to call out the lack of representation within the cultural and creative industries and to help level the playing field for people in the UK." - Yomi Adegoke, Slay in Your Lane


Arts organisations, creative companies and universities around the UK have today joined forces as part of a campaign that calls on those working in culture to help open the doors for marginalised young people struggling to break into the Arts. 

A giant 'Break in Case of Arts Emergency' box featuring devastating statistics on the state of the UK creative workforce has been placed outside venues around the UK to raise awareness of the barriers that young people face in joining the Arts, and the disastrous impact losing a generation of young talent will have on UK culture. 

This unmissable campaign has been created by Arts Emergency, the award-winning mentoring charity and support Network. The box will also display examples of creative work from Arts Emergency's young people, Jannell Adufo, Maïs Bouteldja, Helen Hale, Gwent Odai and Sam Oddie, showcasing some of the incredible raw talents which are at risk of being excluded from the arts. The accompanying text calls for viewers to help 'break the glass' by joining the Network.

The box launches at 8am at the Museum of London, where the young people will unveil their work, before it tours several venues chosen to symbolise the UK arts industry across London. It will arrive at its new home in Liverpool at the World Museum in time for  National Museums Liverpool's official 2022 launch event.

Organisations lending their support to the campaign include The British Film Institute (BFI), Pan MacMillan publishers, ATC Management and ATC Live, the Eden Project, Framestore and Company 3, Get Up, Stand Up - The Bob Marley Musical, Avalon and The Agency, photographer Rankin, Whitworth Gallery Manchester, FACT Liverpool, Director Ian Pons Jewell, Vertigo Releasing, Powster, DawBell, Strawberries and Creem festival and advertising agency FCB Inferno. The activation is also being supported and shared by Linkedin.

These iconic creative organisations are showing their support by using their social media to call on their teams and followers to join the Arts Emergency Network as volunteers or donors to help to #breaktheglass with a simple call to action: asking users to tag those people who helped them make their breakthrough with the hashtag #mybreakthrough, and sign up to share their time or regularly donate to #breaktheglass and open the door to young Talent - just £10 a month can support a young person's place on the scheme from 16 to 25 years of age. 

The pandemic crisis
Pandemic-led office closures and budget cuts have drastically impacted the number of grad schemes and internships being made available by companies in and out of the creative industries. A report from the Sutton Trust in July 2020 found that 61% of employers surveyed have cancelled all or some of the internships they'd usually offer, while 48% think there will be fewer such opportunities in 2021. 

In terms of job losses for those already in the industry, over 80,000 jobs have been lost in the music, performing and visual arts alone. Opportunities are now even fewer and more far between. This will disproportionately affect marginalised voices who already face challenges accessing the creative industries.  This will only go on to catalyse further devastating and long-reaching impacts on the future of our creative workforce and UK culture, as a generations worth of talent, ideas and creativity will be lost.

Several of the organisations that have signed up to support are also opening their doors in practical ways to the young people Arts Emergency work with. These include committing to the charity's action sheet on supporting young people and good working practices, virtual open days to understand the various roles available in advertising plus three paid summer internships with FCB Inferno, artist workshops to showcase the music ecosystem and range of behind-the-scenes roles available from ATC Management and ATC Live, and four paid traineeships with Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical'Avalon and the Agency offer mentorship opportunities, three paid internships each year and actively recruit for full-time staff from the charity.

"Our future cultural landscape is in danger of being populated exclusively by the children of the wealthy and well-connected. I love Arts Emergency because it works to bridge this gap. To create the opportunities that have been taken away for the non-wealthy." - Julie Hesmondhalgh, actress: Coronation Street, Happy Valley, Broadchurch

Arts Emergency began life as a small mentoring project in Hackney set up by comedian Josie Long and activist Neil Griffiths to help young people affected by austerity and rising tuition fees. Arts Emergency has since grown into a charity with bases across the UK and a community of thousands of volunteers, supporting young people aged 16-25 in most need of the support of a mentor. This includes young people from working-class backgrounds, disabled people, carers and young parents, refugees and asylum seekers, those in care and care leavers, people with learning disabilities or special educational needs, and people from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

The charity relies on individual donations and those already in the arts and humanities opening their networks and knowledge up to young people.  Arts Emergency is now at a crucial turning point, and with increasing demand for its services, the organisation has set out a new vision to support 2,500 young people nationally by 2025. 

The odds of getting into a creative job are significantly lower if you are Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background, from a working-class background, female, disabled or living outside of London and the South EastIn fact, people from privileged backgrounds are four times more likely to land in a creative occupation, and the likelihood of someone from a working-class background finding work in a creative career has remained largely unchanged since 1980. 

In September, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Creative Diversity review showed that the creative economy is losing out by not representing the huge range of diverse talent that exists in the UK, particularly in senior decision-making roles and key creative professions. Arts Emergency exists to level the playing field and is calling on people who work in the creative industries to open the doors of their network for a new wave of cultural creators. The statistics shown in the campaign aren't just a problem for underrepresented talent trying to get into the arts. It's a problem for our culture as a whole.

"Let's counter the trend of the arts being the preserve of the white, middle and upper classes: more diversity = more imagination. I've been volunteering with Arts Emergency for several years and have had the pleasure of watching brilliant minds flourish. But young people need our help now more than ever, and Arts Emergency is expanding, requiring arts mentors across the UK." - Heather Phillipson, currently exhibiting at Tate Britain and Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth.

The campaign was created pro bono by creative agency FCB Inferno, the agency behind work such as Sport England's 'This Girl Can' and the Premier League's 'No Room for Racism'. The launch campaign includes press ads and a series of short social documentaries to support the launch, with creative industry names including poet Raymond Antrobus and artist Mark Leckey sharing how they broke into their profession, exploring their struggles along the way and encouraging audiences to help more young people find their way into the arts. The organisation's youth collective is also launching a podcast, Crash Culture, in which they interview people, including writer Kit de Waal and researcher/activist Rianna Walcott about social justice and the cultural industries.

Sumit Bothra, MD of ATC Management Europe said: ""Despite the powerful and positive impacts of digital culture, many young people still face very real barriers when it comes to breaking into the creative industries and developing a career. The mentoring network established by Arts Emergency is having a proven impact in dismantling these barriers and opening doors. As we emerge from the pandemic and rebuild our sector for the better, all of us at ATC feel this is an incredibly important initiative to support alongside our other social impact programs." 

Founder Neil Griffiths said: "No matter what you've achieved, someone at some time gave you a leg up, and Arts Emergency is thousands of people from across the cultural and creative industries doing just that for the next generation by donating money, time and contacts to help them get in and get on."

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