THE BLOG

IdeasTap Closure: A Disaster for a Generation of Emerging Artists

11/03/2015 16:52 GMT | Updated 10/05/2015 10:59 BST

Arts charity IdeasTap has announced it's being forced to close due to lack of funding. The organisation's disappearance will leave a gaping hole in the UK's support network for young artists.

Doing anything at all - paid or unpaid - in the creative industries is hard enough.

You study an arts subject at school or at university. You love it. So you decide you'd like to see if you can get a job doing something a bit like it.

Then you enter into one of the most over-saturated, under-funded and unstable industries there are.

It can be demoralising. But you keep plugging away because it's what you enjoy doing most.

And whether that's writing, acting, directing, film-producing, photography, or art, IdeasTap is one of the few organisations providing tangible and accessible support, inspiration and opportunities for young people trying to pursue something they love. And surely that lays the foundation for the UK's arts scene to continue to flourish; to be colourful, original, risk-taking, diverse, exciting and world-leading.

Since its launch in 2008, IdeasTap has grown to almost 200,000 members. It's been the platform for major events such as The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices. It's partnered with organisations to fund exciting new shows for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And it's run countless free workshops with industry leaders such as BBC Writersroom, actors Kevin Spacey and Andrew Scott and myriad pioneering photographers, artists, journalists and directors.

Crucially, the site invites artists outside of London get in on the action.

Love or loathe the capital, it's where the majority of arts opportunities are, an inevitable offshoot of the imbalance of government spending on arts in the UK: £69 per person in London in 2012-13 compared with £4.60 per person elsewhere in England.

But best and most importantly, IdeasTap is free. Free for anyone to join. Free from the subscription fees many arts services have implemented to keep going.

I, and most people I know who have an active interest in the arts have benefited from IdeasTap.

It's no surprise the announcement that it will close on 2 June immediately sparked a campaign called Save IdeasTap, which gained support on its Facebook page from about 9,000 people in its first 24 hours.

And the news caused outcry on Twitter from the charity's supporters.

Among them, John Last tweeted: Totally saddened to see the demise of something which holds absolute importance and is an amazing resource. #GoodbyeIdeasTap #SAVEIdeasTap.

And Rob Leach wrote: "Can't believe @IdeasTap is closing. Got my first big theatre gig through you guys. #SaveIdeasTap".

If IdeasTap shuts its doors in June, it will be sorely missed.

But there are still reasons for young artists in the UK to be hopeful.

The country is a global leader in the arts, and even though breaking into - and then getting paid for - artistic output is extremely difficult; creative industries and audiences have an undying taste for the new. In theatre for example, subsidised UK venues produced 26% more new writing productions in 2014 compared with 2009.

And brilliant free resources such as BBC Writersroom curate opportunities and offer script-reading services to anyone in the UK, albeit only during two allotted slots per year.

But the loss of IdeasTap is symptomatic of a national arts scene that is in danger of becoming more and more homogenised.

We will lose an organisation that's unique in its inclusiveness and its scope of development opportunities, information and help for emerging artists.

For some it is a useful resource. For others it is a lifeline.

And without IdeasTap we will have more of the same. The same type of art from the same people; fewer platforms to develop the new; fewer opportunities to take risks and fewer chances for unheard and exciting voices to break through.

And that will be a crying shame for all of us.