Get training. Get funding. Get experience. Punchy and to the point, not to mention more than a little bit appealing to the eye. That was my first impression of The Stage’s new website “Get into Theatre”. The site’s stated purpose? Well, I think those first three sentences have got it covered. “Get into Theatre” outlines its intentions quite clearly, to “provide you find all the information and opportunities you need to pursue a successful career in theatre”. A noble objective – at least, in the humble opinion of this soon-to-be unemployed English and Theatre joint honours student.
As if that weren’t enough of a treat for us creative (and unabashedly pretentious) types, Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams and film producer Dom Santry (no, I haven’t heard of him either) have joined forces to create an app designed to help “artists grow in their careers”. The app, known as Daisie, allows users to set up their own profile, connect with other creators in their own respective fields or collaborate on specific projects. The app-based community appears to be popular: within twenty-four hours of its launch, no less than thirty-five thousand creators had signed up for early access. Perhaps I should retract my earlier joke at Santry’s expense!
The creative industry is a diverse but fickle and competitive business
Sarcasm and summaries aside, I’m sure you are all on the edge of your seats to know what I think of all this, and the answer is that I support both. The Stage’s “Get into Theatre” website has a very simple (and therefore, marketable) layout. One simply clicks on a few links that provide career advice in the fields of playwriting or lighting design (to name a few). As well as this, the top of the website’s front page is decorated with numerous educational and professional opportunities for the budding creative to examine.
The creative industry is a diverse but fickle and competitive business, the only industry that I believe truly compares to it is that of sport. As far as I am concerned, anything that helps young and ambitious writers, actors, directors or designers find their feet in such an industry should be considered a blessing. Indeed, both “Get into Theatre” and the Daisie app both seem to be part of a contemporary trend of creative industries, both the theatrical and literary ones, to use the internet to reach out to as many potential creatives as much as possible. This isn’t the first we’ve seen of this, with Facebook groups such as the South London Writers or Literary Lightbox, and sites such as the London playwrights Blog, all being popular. All of these and much, much more reflect the desire of the literary and theatrical establishments to access the largest quantity of untapped talent possible.
How many of these sites are truly accessing the untapped artistic potential of this country?
A problem emerges, however – two problems, as a matter of fact. My first issue is that, try though they might, a great number of these online sites designed to provide opportunities to young creative people run the risk of being entrapped within their own artistic echo chambers. Let me put it like this: how many of you have heard of the South London Writers group, or Literary Lightbox, or The London Playwrights blog? No doubt, some of you might well have heard of one or two of these although, if I may be so bold, those of you that have are most probably the sort of individual already actively searching for creative opportunities. I like to consider myself a chap who has his finger somewhat on the pulse of the creative industries, yet I hadn’t heard of this Daisie app. I have to ask myself: how many of these sites are truly accessing the untapped artistic potential of this country? How many are simply being used as the building blocks in the portfolio building of those who are already pretty savvy with the online world of modern creative industries?
Speaking of access to untapped talent, let us briefly address the second and (in my opinion) more devastating inhibition to accessing this talent. Perhaps a case could be made to justify that first problem. The creative industries are industries, first and foremost, and no industry is complete without a hefty dose of competition. Perhaps it is only fair that individuals who put the most effort into searching for opportunities deserve to have their ambitions realised.
Yet, what are these sites going to do – what can they do – about the expense of pursuing a career in the creative arts? Even if a working class, ambitious and intelligent writer, actor or designer used Daisie or “Get into Theatre” to discover a vast array of collaborative and creative opportunities, how are they supposed to afford the monetary costs that come with some of these opportunities? It seems to me that there is still a long way to go if we are to truly make the creative industry accessible.