It's not easy to survive as an artist. But if there's one thing harder than making ends meet in the creative professions it's getting a foot on the ladder in the first place. That process is about to get more difficult still, when IdeasTap, an arts charity supporting young, creative people at the start of their careers, ceases operations in June.
Founded in December 2008, IdeasTap provides funding, career opportunities and mentoring to a network of nearly 200,000 young people across the creative professions. The charity has given away more than £2.3 million to around 62,000 beneficiaries, helping filmmakers, visual artists, designers, theatremakers, writers, actors and a long list of other creative folk get their careers off the ground. Its 52 partners include the BFI, Magnum Photos, the National Theatre, Underbelly and Sky Academy, and the charity was awarded £250,000 by Arts Council England last year to run a free national training programme for 5,000 young people.
Yet on 2 June all that will stop because the money is about to run out. Set up with a finite pot of cash, IdeasTap was always going to require core funding from other sources if its work was to continue long term. Yet despite three years of hard graft fundraising, that support has not been forthcoming. Unless an organisation or individual can come up with sufficient cash to cover the charity's running costs for the next two to three years, IdeasTap will be closing its doors in just under three months' time.
The demise of IdeasTap would be a massive blow to the arts in this country. The UK boasts one of the most vibrant culture scenes in the world, but this will only continue to be the case if the best and brightest young talent is given the opportunity to pursue careers in creative fields. Diversity is important - our arts must reflect who are we as a society - yet it's harder than ever for those without a financial buffer or family connections to make their way in this business.
Sometimes getting started is just about connecting with people in your field. Sometimes it's about having the means to realise an ambitious project that will open doors. Sometimes it's about the confidence boost that comes with being paid for your work for the first time. By offering simple-to-apply-for funding, free workshops and mentoring, and an enormous online archive of articles offering practical advice, IdeasTap has worked to ensure that entry to the creative professions is open to all.
This online archive - known as IdeasMag - is how my relationship with the charity began. I was fairly early in my career - still juggling other work alongside journalism to pay the bills - when I started writing for the magazine in 2009. Those commissions were crucial in terms of building my portfolio and developing my craft as a writer. They were also an important source of income - unlike many of the publications providing opportunities to young writers, IdeasMag has always paid its contributors (the total spend for the last six years is upwards of £140,000).
My first IdeasMag article, a piece on the shortage of new musicals in the West End, has led to more than 50 stories covering topics from freelancing to photography, and from impersonators to illustration. I've since done some mentoring for the charity too, meeting young writers and sharing what I've learned about the big bad world of freelance journalism. This profession is becoming harder and harder to access, effectively closed to all but the most privileged. The loss of IdeasTap couldn't come at a worse time.
There are very few organisations offering young people opportunities in the arts on this scale. And even fewer of them make those opportunities so straightforward to access. We can't afford to lose this one.
Find out what you can do to safeguard the future of IdeasTap by visiting www.saveideastap.com