Over on Twitter this week this government advert on a skills and training website started doing the rounds:
Musicians, and others who work in the arts, are, justifiably, feeling extremely anxious, undervalued and largely ignored by government at a time when the arts sector in general is in a perilous position due to the UK government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic (and yes, it is government response which has caused the current situation, not the virus: viruses don’t make policy.).
This insensitive, ill-thought advert, which actually originates from 2019, comes just a week after Chancellor Rishi Sunak inferred that working in the arts is not “viable” (for which read: “not a proper job”, thus ignoring the huge contribution the arts makes to the UK economy). He later attemped to clarify what he had actually said by offering some emollient words to theose who work in the arts – and Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary (who reminds me of Blinky Ben from tv political comedy The Thick of It) apologised for the “crass” advert. I note that this advert, together with others of the same style, have now all been pulled from the website in question.
Ever since I became more involved with the UK classical music scene, via this blog and my work with professional musicians, I have sensed an attitude that persists in the UK in particular that working in the arts is some kind of “hobby job”, rather than a “proper” profession. I think this comes, in part, from the perception that many of us who work in the arts love what we do, and thus we are not “serious” about our work.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The many musicians I know, as friends and colleagues, and others who work in the industry, are incredibly committed, serious and, above all, professional people; that we enjoy our work is a bonus, but it does not mean that our work is not viable, nor has value.
The trouble is, for those outside the profession and, it would seem, politicians, creative people like musicians or artists or writers don’t always display outward productivity – the fruits of their labours may not be immediately visible and as a result there is a societal attitude which suggests these people are “lazy”, “unproductive”, or “don’t contribute to society”.
So to counter the suggestion that we are not viable, that we need to “reskill”, here are just some of the very important skills which musicians possess:
Physically dextrous with fine and large motor skills
Highly developed memorisation skills
Able to take initiative
Thinking creatively/thinking on their feet
Used to working to very high standards
Able to cope with stress
Able to cope with failure/setbacks
Able to concentrate for long periods of time
Pattern recognition skills
And let’s not forget all the others in the creative industries:
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