Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has distanced himself from what he called a “crass” government-backed campaign that encouraged people working in the arts to retrain by turning to a career in cybersecurity.
Dowden tweeted that the Cyber First campaign, which is backed by the government and promotes recycling in technology, was not from the Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), while reiterating that he wanted to “save jobs in the arts”.
The ad features a ballet dancer tying her shoes with the caption “Fatima’s next job could be in tech,” which critics said was in bad taste given that thousands of jobs are currently being lost in the city. the cultural sector. The campaign promises to equip people with “the essential cybernetic skills necessary to put you on a rewarding career path.”
Critics said the campaign represented “cultural philistinism and bad governance in one ad,” while others said it “pretty much sums up what it is. [government] think of the arts ”.
The row is particularly embarrassing for the government as it comes on the same day that DCMS released details of 1,300 organizations that will share £ 257million from its £ 1.57 billion arts support program.
On a day when DCMS was being celebrated by many artistic actors for providing funding described as a “lifeline,” Dowden had to make it clear that he did not agree with a campaign backed by his own government.
“This was a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cybersecurity. I want to save jobs in the arts, that’s why we are investing £ 1.57 billion, ”Dowden tweeted.
Author Caitlin Moran responded, “I’m not sure if the government is aware that it seems to have recently created a ‘Hopes & Dreams Crushing Department’, but for an already depressed and anxious country, I would say it’s a bit a ‘No now, guys’ time?
Shadow Minister of Mental Health Dr Rosena Allin-Khan tweeted: “Fatima, be you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough because you don’t conform to their preconceived social norms.
Previously, Chancellor Rishi Sunak had denied encouraging struggling arts industry workers to retrain. He insisted that he spoke in general about the need for some workers to “adapt” and suggested that there would be “new and new opportunities” for people who could not do their old jobs. .
According to Arts Council England, the arts and culture industry contributes more than £ 10 billion a year to the UK economy.
The government’s message to people working in the arts sector has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks. After the release of Sunak’s winter economy plan focused on “sustainable” jobs, many artists have expressed their anger at the government for appearing to suggest their roles are “luxury hobbies” that could be abandoned for. other work.
Figures such as Liam Gallagher, Lily Allen and Ian Rankin have all criticized the government, with the Scottish author saying the suggestion that jobs in the arts are unsustainable was ‘crazy’.
Singer and DJ Tim Burgess wrote in The Guardian that the Chancellor’s post suggested that thousands of hopeful musicians should abandon their budding careers.
“It was as if the Chancellor was rebranding the arts sector as some kind of luxurious, decadent pastime, and now it was time for everyone to get their hands dirty – maybe literally, because we are short of people to pick fruit, ”he wrote.