i'm not just an artist, i'ma fire engine.

Would you tell a firefighter to quit and get another job because there are no fires happening right now?

Before I came to the United Kingdom I stood by my teacher’s desk as she looked me in the eye and said – “Are you sure you want to do this? You could do so much more than that. You have so much potential.” What she was referring to was my dream to become an actor. To move to another country and study to pursue a career in the arts. To abandon everything that I had spent my life studying for to become a performer. And all it took was that question, the ‘are you sure’ to light a spark in my head that became a continuous loop of ‘are you sure’.

During my three years of studying to become a performer, those ‘are you sure’ became quieter and the spark dimmed out because it was overshadowed by goals, dreams and motivations – the possibility of becoming a real actor. Being surrounded by other artists in a creative environment made me become fully sure of who I wanted to be – an artist.

The arts are as important as any other career and it’s time we begin practicing this in our daily lives. It’s time we begin recognising how viable the arts are, and how important they are in our life.

Until lockdown hit. Until the arts were cancelled, the theatres were barred and the stage became my bedroom floor. For a lack of better words, that completely sucked. And as I woke up in my room everyday, reading the news and announcements from the government supporting this area, and that area, and another area. Every area except the arts, the spark that was dimmed in my head became a wildfire.

The government who was supposed to represent me told me to retrain. To find another job. The government who was supposed to be there for me asked “Are you sure you want to do this? You have so much potential?” I have vivid memories of that ad. On the same day that the arts were given a billion pound fund, they were also being buried in a billion pounds of dirt – deep underground, deemed as worthless and useless. Let me ask you this – what aspect of your life is not influenced by the arts?

An empty theatre with a projection of different colours above the main stage.
Photo by Annie Gavin on Unsplash

Have you ever stopped to look at a garden, a building, a car, a piece of clothing, someone’s makeup, someone’s hair? We breathe art the same way that we breathe air. Yet, artists are seen as second-class professionals, as if our careers are trivial and unworthy of being taken seriously. I remember a conversation that I had with a classmate a few years ago in which she told me her parents didn’t support her becoming an actor because it wasn’t “a real job”

That leaves me to ask – if there are no fires, do we shut down the fire department? No. The fire department stays open, because everyone recognises the need for someone to put out a fire when the issue arises. Just because the arts are locked down, that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be arts in the future – so why did we not get the same amount of support? Why was the art sector scavenging for scraps and staying awake after hours to write bid after bid to be able to survive lockdown? Why were our jobs non-essential when everything we do is art?

The arts are as important as any other career and it’s time we begin practicing this in our daily lives. It’s time we begin recognising how viable the arts are, and how important they are in our life. From an artist to a reader, to an admirer of art, to another writer, remember – the arts are a fire engine, and we’re just waiting for a fire to put out.

WRITTEN BY

Bruno Rebelo a Digital Marketer & the Employability and Skills Peer Mentor for Youth Network.

He is a graduate from the University of Bedfordshire with a background in film production, video editing and performing arts.