IdeasTap provides training, mentoring, extensive job listings to help young people enter the arts and creative industries – all this will end if the government does not step in. FAYE LIPSON reports
NEWS that IdeasTap is closing due to a lack of funding comes as a deep blow — both to its 200,000 members and to the social and cultural architecture of Britain.
The arts charity, aimed at “young, creative people at the start of their careers,” gave hope of fulfilling and creative work to a generation that came of age in the midst of roiling financial crisis.
IdeasTap provides training, mentoring, extensive job listings and hard cash to help young people enter the arts and creative industries. Its help is speedy and tangible, and many will have personal stories of careers made with the assistance of this organisation. This is my own story.
In late 2012, I had just graduated from university, moved to London and accepted a job as a commercial copy–writer.
Like so many other young people, I was hungry for a career in journalism — “real” journalism — and I knew I could write.
With my workaday background of postal sorter father and carer mother, I knew I wasn’t exactly rolling in social capital. There would be no noted surname, Oxbridge college camaraderie, well-placed relatives or associates ready to lever me into position at a publication or press agency.
Likewise, completing the NCTJ qualification — increasingly a prerequisite to working in journalism — was out of the question. Like so many I had extortionate rent to pay (and still do) and was supporting an unemployed partner so I could afford neither the course fees nor time off for part-time studying.
My bitterness and frustration grew as I saw acquaintances who had gained this qualification leapfrogging ahead to work at major publications, while I continued to write marketing literature.
I knew what I wanted, but could see no way forward. I began casting around for work experience and opportunities. That’s when I found The Columnist — a biannual creative brief run by IdeasTap.
Journalistic hopefuls were encouraged to submit a sample column on any arts of cultural subject, plus ideas for further columns. The writer who best fit the brief was awarded a six-month paid contract as a weekly columnist on www.ideastap.com.
Creative briefs such as this, rather than competitions, are an integral part of the IdeasTap oeuvre. A competition with prize money is a mere pat on the head, whereas a six-month stint as a columnist can mark the start of a lifelong career.
While other organisations flail awkwardly at the “youth” and pay lip service to our talent, IdeasTap has quietly nurtured it with everything it needs — well-paid experience, relevant mentoring, free training and generous funding.
I didn’t become IdeasTap’s columnist in 2013, but I was shortlisted to the final 12 — a heartening achievement given that over 600 people entered.
It marked a watershed of newfound confidence. I may not have elite connections, a trust fund or a sense of entitlement instilled by an elite education — all things enjoyed by a disproportionately high number of journalists — but the judges (top journalists themselves) had seen talent and I had almost secured paid work. I forged ahead and within a few months gained work within the industry.
Looking back two years later as a full-time journalist, freelance writer and proud member of the NUJ, I can see just how integral IdeasTap was in my success.
Yet the funds invested in the charity by its founder Peter De Haan are running out, and in a despicable act of social vandalism the government has repeatedly refused IdeasTap the financial help which is even now so forthcoming to the arms industry and disgraced bankers.
After tripling tuition fees, cramming Parliament with wealthy elites, suppressing the housing supply for property speculators’ benefit and forcing so many of us into overpriced slum-quality rented dwellings, you might think the Conservatives have had their fill of crushing the young for others’ sins.
They love to bill themselves as a party of strivers, but the claim becomes laughable in light of their refusal to assist IdeasTap. Indeed, the disappearance of IdeasTap and other great social levellers such as affordable further and higher education, subsidised arts programmes, theatres and galleries will ensure that their own gilded youth will have an even easier time of it, while ordinary people’s children watch their social and financial horizons further diminish.
If this doesn’t make you feel sick, you’re not thinking. If, however, you want to help, please visit www.saveideastap.com, join the mailing list, sign the petition addressed to Culture Minister Sajid Javid and tweet your support using the hashtag #LoveIdeasTap.
The charity will close on June 2 — unless we can halt it.