Every good party needs a cake, although I was disappointed to not see a cheese and pineapple hedgehog. But amongst the cake eating and pom pom making, the blood bag embroideries and the student exhibitions, Leeds Arts Party had something serious going on.
Last Saturday, Leeds College of Art hosted what on the surface might have been a party, but underneath was the beginnings of a resistance. The deep shock of 5 more years of Conservative misrule felt to some like a ‘prison sentence’ and it was clear that whatever stage the attendees were at in their career, no one was feeling particularly optimistic.
Many remembered the heartbreak of 2010, when within weeks public arts funding had received major cuts and redundancies abounded. Everyone was determined to be better prepared this time, if not monetarily, then at least with the ability to fight back.
Encouragingly, Leeds’ student population hadn’t been put off. I spoke with several at a talk organised by the students themselves (the whole of Leeds Arts Party was coordinated by the student body). It was clear that they were worried about their future employment prospects, but could still find the time to worry about the generation after them.
The students praised creative apprenticeships, but said controls needed to be in place to make sure they were creative enough, and that there was little point in them if you didn’t get a full contract at the end. Some apprenticeships are used as a way to get cheap labour, and the young artists didn’t want to fall victim to this.
A few of the attendees at the discussion had worked in schools, and were horrified at how uncreative the curriculum had become. I took the opportunity to explain about the work of the APPG on Art, Craft and Design, and how we continue to campaign for the arts to be properly recognised in schools at all age levels.
This was greeted warmly, the students had all identified a need for creativity to be woven throughout the curriculum, to improve pupils thought processes and problem solving. They also believed in the power of art in adult life, mentioning several arts therapy schemes.
Evidently, these up and coming artists haven’t lost their passion or their purpose. It is becoming integral to the culture sector to campaign for the right to make work, not just to make work and leave others to fight artists’ corners.
League of Culture continues to commit to shouting loudly on behalf of artists at every level of their career, whatever their art form. But we need artists to join in, one collective voice will always be stronger.
Written by Vicky Prior: Director, League of Culture.
Not intended to reflect the views of the League in its entirety.