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Kully Thiarai, Artistic Director, National Thetare Wales. Image Hydar Dewachi

Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries reveals cost of entry into the arts, as it celebrates the success of 40 graduates from low income backgrounds

11 October 2016

Since 2010, the Creative Bursaries programme has funded entry-level roles for 84 talented recent graduates from low-income backgrounds in 75 arts organisations across the UK.

‘I had been feeling completely overwhelmed with my situation at home and just couldn’t see how I could start out in the arts industry without some kind of financial support. It felt like someone had finally recognised that.’ Recipient

‘The programme provides a model of best practice for how to create greater access to jobs in the arts for a more diverse community.’ Host

The programme saw them recruited, on merit, into paid job roles with 40 leading arts organisations across the UK. These placements, of 6-12 months between April 2015 and September 2016, were all paid at the national living wage (as at April 2015) – thanks to £430,000 of support from Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and JP Getty Jr Charitable Trust. Bursary recipients were also introduced to a mentor and given bespoke professional training with dedicated funding from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, with guest speakers including Sir Peter Bazalgette and Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of Donmar Warehouse.

Of the 2016 cohort of bursary recipients, 58% (23) have now had their placements extended by their host organisations. Half (11) of these will remain in role for the longer term or permanently within their organisations, including Freya Gallagher-Jones who has been promoted to Operations Assistant at Writers Centre Norwich, and Nastasha Boyce whose role as Assistant Producer: Outreach at Cambridge Junction has been made permanent. Another five recipients (11%) have new permanent jobs in other organisations – at the Royal Academy of Arts, Chisenhale Gallery and Quays Culture, Salford amongst others. Nine (23%) are actively working as freelancers, and seven (17%) are looking for work with renewed confidence and skills.

To mark the occasion, the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries conducted a survey of 118 arts professionals working for the 40 host organisations around the country, looking into the cost of entry to their careers. Results suggested that, on average, graduates entering the arts worked a year in full or part-time voluntary roles before they were able to secure a paid job – working an average of £6,864 in unpaid hours. This was in addition to an average of £20,000 student debt acquired while studying at University.  When graduates did secure a job, just over 60% earned less than the national living wage of £15,000 per year pro-rata.

The pilot to this programme, the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme, which concluded in 2012, also provided entry level roles for talented young graduates who could not afford to work for free to get started in the arts. An evaluation conducted four months after the close of the programme yielded outstanding results, creating 44 new job roles with 43 of the best arts organisations across England. 90% of bursary recipients were employed in the arts at conclusion of the evaluation, compared to 39% of the control group. Of hosts, 90% confirmed they would target less affluent applicants again, 60% extended their placement’s contract and 33% made the new roles permanent, making job creation another major success of the Scheme.

Since 2010, the Creative Bursaries programme has funded entry-level roles for 84 talented recent graduates from low-income backgrounds in 75 arts organisations across the UK.  It has increased diversity in the arts by creating jobs for young people who could otherwise not afford to work for free to gain the essential experience they need to progress and succeed.  It has also provided a vital incentive for arts organisations to consider the importance of encouraging diverse applicants in their recruitment, ensuring they are truly finding the very best talent for their roles.

Kate Danielson, Director of the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries, comments:

‘The arts have long been seen as the preserve of the white middle classes, and this programme is opening up access for those with the potential but without the finances and support networks to find their way in. We are supporting the potential arts leaders of the future, and, by giving these young people the best possible start to their careers, contributing to a thriving and diverse arts sector.  As well as being a professional development programme for individuals, placements also support the needs of the host organisations, enabling vital additional capacity at key moments.’

Aaron Wright, a former recipient of a Creative Bursary at the Live Art Development Agency in 2010 is now Artistic Director of Fierce Festival in Birmingham. He said:

‘I would never have got to the position I’m in now if it weren’t for the Creative Bursaries. In enabling the possibility for aspiring graduates from low income backgrounds to work in world class organisations such as the Live Art Development Agency, Jerwood Charitable Foundation are simply levelling the playing field. If we really want to see significant change in the make-up of our arts workforce in our lifetimes, then we need more of these unapologetic interventions, in which Jerwood Charitable Foundation have led the way. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to fulfil my potential, and am certain that the future of good art is dependent on many more people being afforded the same chances too.’

Sascha Goslin, who was a bursary recipient with NoFit State Circus from 2015-2016 said:

‘If this job hadn’t come along I would have had to start applying for jobs outside of the arts. It’s an amazing opportunity for people who can’t afford to undertake unpaid internships, particularly as when I started I was over 25 without a lot of arts experience, which excluded me from almost all internships. I would have given up trying to forge an arts career without the programme.’

It has been confirmed that Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Garfield Weston Foundation have committed funds to enable a third edition, aiming to launch in 2017 with further funding and partnerships to be announced soon.

Download the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries press release.