Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Young Million update: bad news, good news, questions





The bad news: today's generally grim unemployment figures show the number of unemployed or under-employed young people breaking through the 1 million mark.


The good news: I wrote in April about Common Purpose's Young Million programme. This has now run several programmes across the country including some in the North East, and is having a positive effect. These got quite a lot of media coverage last month, including this article by Hugh Pym, the BBC's Chief Economics Correspondent. (His brother William used to be on Arts Council England's NE Regional Council, trivia fans.) You can see a short video which focuses on one of the young people here, and more on the Young Million website. It's good to see, even if it does, today,  feel slightly like scratching at the surface. In Hartlepool, just up the road from here, 1 in 5 young people is unemployed. I'll say that out loud: 1 in 5.


The questions: What has this got to do with the arts? Well, if the central thing about the arts is we are a values-based sector, as John Tusa argues on the Guardian Culture Professionals site today (what a good innovation that site is, by the way) what is our response to this growing crisis? How do our values suggest we respond? 


It may be two things. Firstly, my gut is feeling a need for a creative and cultural response, with artists finding fresh ways to explore the subject. Let us not ignore it, or put responses into the cliche box automatically. But also a sectoral one with imaginative ways of turning the crisis into an opportunity. Are there 21st century ways to reinvent the placements in which many people began their working careers in the arts in the 80s and 90s, perhaps thereby also undercutting the damaging culture of internships? And also create other jobs in our arts businesses too?Could investment into 'participation' help?


Answers on a postcard, please.

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