Category Archives: Music

Creatives reacting to the government telling them to ‘reskill’

Photo credit: Dazed Magazine

“People participate in arts by going to galleries, listening to music, watching movies but refuse to recognise the extent of the importance of the arts sector. They want to consume it; however, they don’t want to fund it because they believe it’s not really needed.” Says Amy, 21, a fine arts student from London. 

Earlier this month Rishi Sunak appeared on ITV New saying “I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis”, showing no regard to UK night life and arts. A government-backed advert was trending on social media, where it was encouraging creatives to ‘rethink and reskill’ and take a new career path in cybersecurity. The ad has since been removed after the arts world was shaken with backlash by many creatives and criticism by the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, who labelled it as ‘crass’ and distanced his department from the campaign. 

The CyberFirst campaign ad which promotes cyber security jobs for young people around the ages 11 to 17. The ad illustrates a ballet dancer named ‘Fatima’ with the text reading; “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet),” Followed with the slogan “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” However, it instead set off a series of backlash by creatives. Many who felt ‘angry’ and ‘frustrated’ with the governments’ stance on the arts industry. 

‘#Fatima’ was trending on twitter, with people defending the arts and suggesting the government should instead support the art industry and creatives to follow their talent and dreams. 

Night time economy adviser for greater Manchester also portrayed his criticism on twitter reading; “Today, the Chancellor has said musicians and others in the arts industry should look for another job. That includes your favourite DJ… If you like to go to nightclubs/events/festivals, just remember this when we are through it. They are killing off our scene.”

Kema, 26, a youth worker from oxford, “it just shows how detached they [the government] are if they can’t recognise the importance of arts. Not only as an industry but also for people’s mental health. I work with kids and teach them rap, and I can say to them ‘hey look you’re not doing well in school but we can put you on this rap programme, with an alternative education’ because the education system doesn’t fit and work for everyone. This is a way for the kids to express themselves, be heard and earn money.”

“It’s horrible, you work so hard towards something and it’s not like it’s a hobby where you just stop playing video games.” Says Harvey, 25, a musician from Brighton. “Working in the arts and putting on events is so much more than just a livelihood, this is what you want to do, you work hard for it and being told to rethink your whole life is absurd.”

“I spelt FUDGE with my GCSE’s, I got F in English, U in another exam, D in science, G in drama and E in PE, so my parents were well proud.” He said jokingly. “But my parents were proud when I was playing on stages at festivals in Croatia. I do something I love.” 

Dowden tweeted; “I want to save jobs in the arts which is why we are investing £1.57bn” This will include theatres, museums, orchestras and music venues to help reopen. However, the UK’s music industry is worth £5.2 billion a year and the nightlife bring £66 billion for the country.  The art industry contributes to the country’s economy more than automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined. 

Freelancers and independent creatives struggled to sustain themselves even before Covid-19, and post lockdown their livelihood has not been ‘taken seriously’ by the government. Freelancers and independent creatives feel like they’ve been ‘thrown under the bus’, where in some cases, had to move out due to being unable to pay for rent. 

Matt, 34, music producer from Brighton says, “With sports nothing has happened to it, people can’t go and watch football, but it’s still carrying on and they are still playing in the premiership but no one has asked them to retrain.”

“I’ve always worked and balanced myself as an artist, and it can become extremely demanding.”  

“Artists who do commissions have a fixed hourly rate and then there are people who beg them to do it for a lower price. It’s actually humiliating to artists, no one sees the time, effort and amount of work that actually goes into what we do. It shows ignorance towards the art sector.” Says Amy.

“Other people whose jobs are in jeopardy are not being told to rethink, they can treat it as an important job as anyone else’s job, show some respect. It is mainly focused on people who are in the arts.” Says Harvey.

The fear of race within the music industry, most importantly – Grime.

Photo credit: Chloe Sheppard

“I’ve had more hate from my own race rather than I did from black people,” says 22-year-old Connor Cuttress, a grime artist who goes by his stage name, C Two. The musician is a mere part of a now huge mainstream industry, and has been making music for over a decade, he talks about his struggles and what it is like being a white grime artist within the grime industry. He often reflects this struggle in his own lyrics, such as the song ‘Big for your Boots’ where the lyrics say, ‘C Two’s this, C Two’s that, C Two’s shit, he thinks he’s black.”

“The go to hate speech of white people is C two you’re white, so why are you making black music, why do you believe you’re black. Keeping in mind I actually grew up in a very African orientated community I believe I’m a cultured white man, but my point is I acknowledge grime is black music but that does not mean if you’re a different race and have talent you’re not allowed to make this music, grime is an open, free for all.” The young artist who’s based in Liverpool was raised in a very African populated area, thus having a lot of black friends growing up is what influenced his journey in grime, “it was the year 2008 and I remember we were in the music room in school with my friend and he showed a track on his phone, it was a grime tune and I liked it a lot, the lyrics touched me, when I asked him who it was he said it was him, and then I thought to myself, if he could do it why can’t I? My journey pretty much started there.”

Born in East London from a mixture of Garage, Dancehall and Drum & Bass music, and entire new genre was created. Grime. When talking about Grime, the idea of Black British culture is a somewhat relative definition. It was a new sound, and the lyrics was influenced purely on self-experience of the artist. Other music that is considered as ‘black music’ such as Hip Hop, Reggae, jazz and blues share similar or even the same elements of grime, so how can we not say that Grime does not belong to the category of ‘black music’. It started off with young boys growing up in tower blocks and rusty council estates. However, since then it certainly has evolved from London pirate radios to the mainstream pop culture of London, reaching a wider audience. But does this mean Caucasian grime artists cannot further their careers within the industry, or is there a stereotype going around as to they’re less likely to be as successful as a black artist. But the main issue is, we are well aware of this topic yet are scared to talk about it. However, as Dan Hancox argues in his book ‘Inner City Pressures the Story of Grime’, “Grime is black music, even if it’s not always made by black people.”

C Two is only a part time artist who is making the most out of his talent, “I am confident in my talent, and I am only doing what I’m good at and that it making beats, making music.” Labelling a music genre as black music certainly does not mean it is purely for black people and blacks only, this is where a lot of people get confused and misunderstand the term, it is simply referring to the fact that people should acknowledge the genres origins, and it does not prohibit anyone from enjoying it or even taking part in it. Children from a very young age are exposed to pop culture, and parents unaware of how it programs them through race and even gender to embed the idea of the role they should play within society. “There’s an idea in society where people assume just because grime is black music that it’s for black people, and I have had more racism from my own race than any other, I’ve had knives pulled at me for just making black music. I am white as snow there’s no denying that, I do look in the mirror, but I certainly do not fit in with them because of the type of music I produce and make.” Says C Two.

Talking about race, and talking about the issues within the music industry that involves race is not something we should avoid but quite the contrary, we should not be afraid of it as it is not racist to argue about race.