Recent comments made by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have stirred controversy amongst the arts community. Despite recently pledging almost £3m from the Culture Recovery Fund to the Globe Theatre in London, many people still feel like the government is not taking enough measures to protect and preserve the arts and cultures industry. At the forefront of the controversy was an advertisement depicting a ballet dancer with the text: “Fatima's next job could be in cyber (she just doesn't know it yet). Rethink. Reskill. Reboot." After huge backlash on social media, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Oliver Dowden condemned the advertisement as “crass” and clarifying that it was not from the Government Department for DCMS. I spoke to local arts students to hear what they have to say on the matter.

Chloe Johnson, a 2nd-year Fashion student studying at Esher College, described the government’s recent actions as “insulting”. Chloe also pointed out the hypocrisy within the now-withdrawn “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot” campaign, identifying that without “graphic designers, photographers, fashion designers and more the campaign would not have been possible.” However, despite the government’s comments and attitudes, Chloe’s “personal opinions on the matter and creative goals have stayed the same” noting how she “almost feels more motivated to prove the comments wrong.” Chloe plans on completing a creative degree in the future, going on to pursue a career within the Fashion industry.

Abbie Burland, also a 2nd-year Fashion student studying at Esher College, described feeling “hopeless” and “neglected by the government” as she applies to university to continue her study of Fashion. Similarly to Chloe, Abbie criticised the “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” campaign by identifying the crucial role played by the arts in society, noting the prevalence of the arts across the “logos and posters for the campaign, the photography and the tailored suits Rishi Sunak wears himself.” When asked what the arts meant to her, Abbie responded that she believed “art creates freedom” and “provokes important political and social questions, which are things we need so strongly in our current world.”

Overall, despite feeling disheartened, it is clear that Arts students like Abbie and Chloe feel passionately enough about their craft and remain determined to continue with their studies.