Posted by Richard Willet Posted on 13 October 2020

The government’s attitude to Fatima and the arts will put them on the wrong side of history – they just don’t know it yet

The latest tone-deaf salvo from our government to the creative sector is a CyberFirst campaign (belatedly removed after an outcry), one part of which depicts a ballet dancer called Fatima. The text reads: “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet)”, alongside the tagline “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.”

But they’ve got this all wrong. It’s not up to Fatima to retrain – although if she did, she’d do a better job at running a testing and tracing system than our government. No, it’s up to politicians to rethink their attitude to the arts, reskill in their policy-making and communications, and reboot their relationship with the creative sector. They’re on the wrong side of history here – they just don’t know it yet.

That bracketed phrase – “she just doesn’t know it yet” – comes across as a sinister threat. Enjoy dancing while you can, Fatima – it’s all going to be ripped away from you! It isn’t presented as an informed choice, so much as the plotting of an Orwellian state deciding its citizens’ futures without their knowledge or consent on the basis of an algorithm.

Particularly grim is the unthinking use of an image of a woman of colour, given the extra structural barriers many from the BAME community have to overcome. Is it really necessary to implicitly tell young dancers that someone who looks like Fatima isn’t valued?

Read More: The government’s attitude to Fatima and the arts will put them on the wrong side of history

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