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Major UK arts organizations including The British Film Institute (BFI), University of Arts London, Pan Macmillan and Rankin have joined forces as part of a campaign that calls on those working in culture to help open the doors for marginalized young people struggling to break into the industry. 

The creative for the campaign was produced by Arts Emergency, and features a giant ‘Break in Case of Arts Emergency’ box featuring sobering statistics on the state of the UK creative workforce. The box 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.

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 canceled 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. Opportunities are now even fewer and far between, and this will likely disproportionately affect marginalized voices who already face challenges accessing the creative industries. The organizations involved believe this will only have further long-term impacts on the future of the creative workforce and on UK culture.

What is the issue?

  • 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.

  • Just 16% of people in the creative industries are from a working-class background.

  • Only 4.8% of people working in music, visual and 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.

What does the campaign involve?

  • A giant ‘Break in Case of Arts Emergency’ box featuring 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.

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

  • Organizations lending their support to the campaign include The British Film Institute (BFI), University of the Arts London, Pan MacMillan publishers, Rankin and advertising agency FCB Inferno. The activation is also being supported and shared by Linkedin.

  • These organizations 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 16-25 years of age.