On Thursday, the Camden arts venue, the Roundhouse, opens a new campus to help young people turn their creativity into a career. It’s a massive boon for the area, and for the kids, who will have a chance to develop their creative skills into something life-changing.
International artists including actor Daniel Kaluuya, musician Little Simz and comedy writer Jack Rooke all got a helping hand at the Roundhouse, and now more will have the opportunity. Roundhouse Works will allow the organisation to double the number of young people it helps to 15,000 a year.
This is great news, right? Undoubtedly. But it also highlights the stark reality of declining opportunities for young people elsewhere when it comes to the arts in this country
Over the past decade, the arts’ place on the school curriculum has been diluted and devalued. Ministers have scoffed at its importance alongside science, tech and maths. And that has had an impact. Access to the arts for state-school children has declined catastrophically. This needs to be reversed.
The creative industries are a huge part of the UK economy, bringing in billions every year. UK arts are respected globally but that respect can erode quickly.
The Roundhouse didn’t wait for the Government to address this timebomb — the fear is they would be waiting indefinitely — but established a centre that values the creativity of young people. They did it by talking to those young people who didn’t want another performance space but one that would help them develop their skills instead.
And while arts organisations should be developing the artists of the future, the Government cannot outsource all the responsibility for arts education to them. Many are already at their limits when it comes to funding.
Artists need time, space and guidance to develop. They also need places where they can build networks, especially if they didn’t go to schools and universities that already have them in place. Following the Coronation, the strength of British arts has been admired around the world once more, but where will we be come the next Coronation?
We need to invest in young people, and they need to see that society thinks it’s worth investing in them and their creativity, to keep that beacon shining brightly in the future.