AN OPEN LETTER TO NICKY MORGAN – A GUEST POST

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Dear Nicky,

I hear you have warned young people that choosing to study arts subjects could “hold them back for the rest of their lives.”

Just for clarity, ‘art’ is defined as: “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”

The Education Secretary is telling children to shut down their imaginations- well isn’t that just dandy. Apparently “those who study maths to A-level will earn 10% more over their lifetime.” Realistically, people who study maths to A-level will probably earn more like 90% more than I will in my lifetime. And you know what? I honestly could not care less.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a full appreciation for scientific and mathematical subjects- they have an incredibly high value within society. Each day, groundbreaking medical and technological advances are made that change people’s lives. Which is brilliant. But the arts are just as important.

People escape the pressure of their working life by losing themselves in creativity on a daily basis. They allow the literary meanderings of Faulks or McEwan or E L James, to transcend the cramped isolation of the underground. They place their headphones on and have the inane murmurings of Taylor Swift blare away their troubles. Millions upon millions of people escape in to the world of Westeros or Litchfield prison; they immerse themselves in stories of meth producers or singing high school kids, or even simply six chums, relaxing in their local coffeehouse. They see pieces of art and design, which are at the foundation of our cultural identity and make them feel something. The most famous Briton isn’t a mathematician or a scientist; sorry to burst that bubble, but the poor sod just wrote a few plays and some poems. Thankfully you weren’t around back then to try and stick a pin in his creative balloon.

And you’re not sticking one in mine, either.

So I have cobbled together the words of those who made the decision to pursue a passion that would “hold them back for the rest of their lives”, to present my point far more aptly than I can:

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that

nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We are told that one must be careful of books, and what’s inside them, for words have the power to change us.

History is a nightmare from which we are trying to awake.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

But I remember one thing: it wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Nicky, my dear,

You cast a shadow on something wherever you stand, so choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

We will not be led into the heart of an immense darkness;

Afterall, we are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.

The curves of our lips rewrite history.

 We owe it to the young people of the future. Young people like

Matilda, whose strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.

They are not alone. You will not suppress the imaginations of future generations of Matildas and Harrys everywhere, because you view arts and humanities as ‘soft subjects’. So here I am setting up an artistic version of Dumbledore’s Army (couldn’t help myself), to ensure that the fire of creativity will continue to burn long in the imaginations of our young people and not be snuffed out by these dementorish measures.

I’m an actor, pursuing my creative ambition. So no, I am not going to go out and get a ‘real job’. I already have one.

Yours creatively,

Liam

Written by Liam Steward-George.

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Actor, writer, bold pant wearer.

The Month

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September. The academic benchmark of a new year.

A time which used to signify the prospect of a crisp, new uniform, an unreasonable level of concern over pencil cases and the feeling of dread surrounding homework.

This September, I’ve realised (like most), that there’ll be no more school ties to keep me looking smart, no new pens to improve my writing and no fresh teachers to do the job of inspiring me. All that I have leftover this month is a yearning for carnivals gone by and the summer holiday that I never had.

I feel like it’s time for change, or at the very most, a new year’s resolution. This is probably because I’ve somehow fallen out of sync with the rest of the post-education, adult, population and have refused to let go of this month as the beginning of a new year. I feel like it’s a time to be honest, to start learning again and to make promises; much like I’ve felt every Michaelmas since nursery school.

So, with the changing of seasons, as the leaves begin to drop, so does the tempo in the capital and the slog to save for Christmas begins. And moreso than ever, I have realised that hard work really does pay off. I’m not sure why after seventeen years of education, it has taken me one year of not being educated to realise this, but the penny has finally dropped. I have achieved what I have thus far by learning and that doesn’t have to change because I am no longer a student. I’ve rediscovered the importance of surrounding myself with people who I can learn from, finding books that entertain me and learning a language despite the slog.

So seeing as our parents have forever banged on about our schooldays being the best of our lives, we should probably head back to them and start a new year all of our own instead of dwelling over our post-summer slumps.

And why wait until January?

Happy New Year.

The Friendship

Is it possible that mixed- sex- friendships are restricted to being made during our school or university days? Post-education, it seems to me that it has become increasingly hard to meet someone with a view to pursue a friendship, rather than a love affair. And I’ve learnt recently (the hard way) that male/female friendships made in your twenties are actually rather few and far between-something I’ve grown to resent.

I understand that when socialising, most are on the hunt for a sexual partner. I get it, balls and boobs are heading south and you’re panicking. But shouldn’t we just slow down when we meet someone and get to know whether they prefer jam or marmalade on their toast first? After all, some of the best sexual relationships are based upon friendship. And some of the best relationships are simply just friendship. I’m always up for meeting new people but I’m also very aware that when my company for the night is a member of the male variety, sex is always on someone’s mind.

Maybe I’m too presumptuous and assume that guys are always after one thing? But as of late, it has been proved that, in fact, the majority of the time, they are: and my assumptions have been confirmed. When asking my guy mates about this issue, I’ve been labelled “naive” to think that an invitation to have coffee could be strictly platonic. They themselves also suggested that men don’t tend to read signals; instead they read your chest. So when it comes to finding friends of the opposite sex, I must hold my hands up and admit that I’m hopeless at it. Maybe I’ll just leave it and stick to the guy mates I already have who pick their noses and tell me I look like shit, when I really do, look like shit. But even with my male mates from way-back-when, there’s normally a point in our friendship where we’ve asked ourselves whether we fancy one another, or whether something could potentially happen… and have even enjoyed the odd vodka-induced-snog. It seems as though it’s quite difficult to remain platonic rather than playmates.

Personally I’m not shy and don’t mind letting someone know that the most they’re getting is a pint bought for them but why is it that “I only like you as a friend” is such an insult? It seems as though spitting in one’s face is likely to be far more pleasant-being fancied is apparently more important than being funny, charismatic or interesting these days. People search for ‘the one’ for years, by-passing potential friendships and pushing them to one side because they don’t pass the marriage test. Think about how many people you’ve got along with and disposed of because you didn’t fancy them-you’ve missed out on having both a wingman, another insight into the male/female mind and someone new to quite simply have a laugh with.

I’m starting to think that maybe it’s impossible to be friends with the opposite sex. Take the world’s favourite TV show. It might be entitled ‘Friends’, but how many of them actually are just friends? It might be fiction but take a look at your own “friendship group” and count how many people around you have dated, fumbled or dabbled.

I rest my case.