Fatima, you be you

Posted on by Guy Cookson

“Fatima’s next job could be cyber,” the poster states. “She just doesn’t know it yet.”

Depicted is an artfully taken shot of a ballerina tying her pumps before a whitewashed brick wall.

“Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” the poster implores, above the HM Government logo.

The apparent purpose of this ad campaign?

To persuade those of us working in the arts and creative industries to retrain – and presumably to do something more useful instead, like, ahem, “cyber.”

Predictably the campaign, which was created last year, but resurfaced recently, was met with a potent mix of outrage and scorn.

Sean Coleman, a designer, even helpfully annotated the poster to highlight all the creative people whose talents were required to produce the ad campaign in the first place – including a photographer, make-up artist, hair stylist, fashion designer, graphic designer and copywriter.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister conceded that the poster was “not appropriate” and withdrew it.

And rightly so. The creative industries, which includes 1 in 8 of all businesses, and employs some 2 million people, collectively contributes £111.7 billion in gross value to the UK economy, according to the Creative Industries Federation.

This is greater than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined.

But this is not just about money. The creative industries produce works that inspire and create joy. Something we all need more of as the prospect of another lockdown looms.

People working in the arts and the broader creative industries need support, not disdain.

“Even if we think purely selfishly, rather than caring about those workers, we’re risking the annihilation of something that benefits us all,” says arts writer Marianka Swain.

“Kill the dreams of every Fatima, dismiss their jobs as ‘unviable’, while preventing them from working, and we’ll lose the entertainment that keeps us sane during lockdowns, which feeds our minds and souls, and which is a key part of our national identity.”

Shadow mental health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan had her own response to the poster and tweeted: “Fatima, you be you. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you aren’t good enough because you don’t conform to their preconceived social norms.”

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette and Lancashire Post. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.

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