Margaret Thatcher's legacy to Young Creatives

I was asked by CBC to comment on Margaret Thatcher’s impact on the arts and culture in the 80’s, in the week she died. I was a student then, one of the last to gain a degree when there were grants for higher education and no fees. Yes that’s free university education, can you believe?

So the impact was to be a lasting one, not only can students today expect to graduate with a debt somewhere north of £30,000, but this comes at a time when their job prospects are greatly diminished also.

Further though, is the resulting impact on the arts and culture. There has been no significant British Art Movement since the YBA’s, who benefitted from the grants for higher education and no fees. The YBA’s were a very mixed group of artists from all social and economic backgrounds. If there is another British art movement, will it comprise only those whose parents had connections or the financial ability to support an artist through higher education and beyond?

What I can say positively about the Thatcher years is that her government implemented the Enterprise Allowance scheme, which basically paid you slightly higher than the unemployment benefit, for a year, to get your company started. I did it and my company turned 20 in April 2013. Lots of others did it; Paul Whitehouse (The Fast Show), Alan McGee’s Creation Records (Oasis, Primal Scream et al), SuperDry, Viz Comics, Tracey Emin, and loads more of my contemporaries, creating millions of extra revenue from the Creative Industries for the GB economy.

Sadly the current government’s version of this scheme, the ‘New Enterprise Allowance’ only supports a Jobseekers Allowance or single parent Income Support claimant, paying out less than the unemployment benefit rate for sixth months while they develop their start-up. After the first three months, the allowance actually goes down to as little as £33 a week. There’s a loan of up to £1000, paid back over three years, but this is an incidental amount to the significant cost of a new business. This is a very fast turnaround time to expect someone to be earning an income from a start-up enterprise, before the ink is dried on their written plan. If you are in this position, trying to launch your start-up on this scheme, NOISE would be interested to hear your story to find out how we can help you more.

Denise Proctor, CEO

NOISE Festival charity