Government scraps controversial campaign that suggested ballet dancers ‘rethink’ and ‘reskill’

13 October 2020, 09:46

Rethink Fatima ballet advert
Rethink Fatima ballet advert. Picture: CyberFirst / HM Government

By Kyle Macdonald

Should aspiring ballet dancers ‘rethink’? #Fatima backlash has prompted the government to remove a controversial cyber careers advert.

The UK government has removed an advert that was seen by many as dismissing and diminishing dreams of careers in the arts.

On Monday, the arts world rallied in support of a young ballet dancer, pictured in a government-backed advert. The campaign to encourage young people into the world of tech pictures a dancer, named as Fatima, with the words “rethink, reskill, reboot”.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden quickly distanced his department from the campaign image, calling it “crass” and saying he wanted to save at-risk jobs in the arts.

That afternoon, a spokesperson for the prime minister said: “This particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign. The government recognises the challenge to the cultural industry.”

CyberFirst, the government programme behind the ad, provides opportunities to help young people aged 11 to 17 explore the careers of tech and cyber security. However, many have seen the advert as a suggestion that young people should “rethink” careers in the arts and creative industries.

Read more: Chancellor Rishi Sunak appears to suggest struggling musicians should get a new job >

#Fatima trended on Twitter, with many leaping to the defence of the pictured youngster, suggesting she instead should be encouraged and supported to follow her talents and artistic dreams.

Other adverts included images of a coffee barista, a retailer and a worker in the manufacturing sector.

Dr. Jennifer Cassidy, politics lecturer at the University of Oxford, called the image “sickening” in a tweet. She defended following artistic passions, saying: “I spent 16 years training tirelessly to become a violinist. Practiced every day for hours from aged 4. Dedicated my life to it. Began my degree in it. But had to stop due to injury. I miss it every day.”

“Music matters. Dance Matters. So DANCE FATIMA. DANCE,” she wrote.

Actor Nathan Amzi tweeted: “Clearly poor marketing at the current time. Someone needs to read the room! #SaveTheArts.”

Many others have shared similar sentiments, with the #SaveTheArts message.

The UK arts sector continues to struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with cultural organisations and freelance artists deeply impacted.

The Treasury has extended a £1.57bn lifeline to orchestras, concert halls, theatres and museums, in the hope of ensuring their survival through the restrictions and disruption caused by the pandemic. The first round of grants was officially announced today, with the London Symphony Orchestra and Birmingham Royal Ballet among those benefitting.

However, many freelancers still say they are being left behind.