Anger over government branded adverts suggesting ballet dancers retrain in digital

Advertisements promoting the government's Cyber First scheme

Advertisements promoting the government's Cyber First scheme - Credit: QA

An advertisement - which includes government branding - has angered supporters of the arts after appearing to suggest that those working in the arts should consider retraining in digital skills.

The promotions for a government-backed Cyber First scheme uses a series of case studies to demonstrate that people could "reskill" themselves in a new sector to progress their careers.

In one particular case a young dancer is photographed tying up her ballet pumps alongside the caption: “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (she just doesn’t know it yet).”

With a HM government logo, it includes the strapline "Rethink. Reskill. Reboot".

The advert is part of a series of promotions hosted on the training website QA, which oversee training on new digital skills, which forms the basis of a "long-running" government campaign.

Fatima's advert in particular has created controversy after it was raised on social media days after the chancellor was accused of suggesting those in the arts to look at retraining.

Rishi Sunak denied he the claim, but following a series of questions on the arts, he told ITV News: "I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis. And that’s why we’ve put a lot of our extra resource into trying to create new opportunities for people".

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The advertisements have been circulated on Twitter, fuelling accusations the government is continually sidelining the arts, despite a recent £1.5 billion investment from the Treasury.

"Is this a parody thing or a real ad?" asked Anne-Marie O'Leary. Tell me it's not real!"

Ryan Kelly said: "We should be teaching kids pursue your passions and what makes you happy. This is appalling that they believe it's acceptable."

"This is insulting and outrageous on so many many levels. I don’t even have the words to express my daily outrage any more," commented Carole Scott.

Daniel Logan responded: "This has made me so angry, we are in the middle of a cultural purge, they don’t even hide it anymore."

Jo Simmons posted: "We need culture and art to enrich our lives. This is so insulting to all the super talented people who work in the creative arts."

Blogger Man vs Pink wrote: "I'd rather see Fatima and her fellow members of the arts communities supported through the pandemic so we can see them perform again when it's safe to do so."

Simon Dolan tweeted: "In one message, the government tells you all you need to know. Screw beauty, screw the arts, screw enjoyment, screw passion, go retrain to sit in front of a computer all day Really look at this and consider the message."

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden joined the chorus of opposition to the adverts. He wrote: "This is not something from DCMS and I agree it was crass. This was a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security I want to save jobs in the arts which is why we are investing £1.57bn."

Downing Street said the advertisement was part of a “long-running campaign” but its timing was “not acceptable”.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “This is part of a campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security.

“But this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.

“The government recognises the challenge to the cultural industry and today the Culture Secretary has announced £257 million of funding to help support 1,385 theatres, art venues, museums and cultural organisations across England.”

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