An online job ad posted by UK creative writing charity Arvon, “renowned for its residential creative writing courses for schools, groups and individuals,” points to an interesting new creative writing platform in the UK. The ad is for a Digital Communications Officer “to assist in the delivery of a major new digital project for Arvon, an online resource section about the craft of writing, with premium content for members, and a new Tumblr website that highlights writing expertise across the web.”
The ad continues: “The principles of the programme are about opening up access to opportunities in the arts, and talent development. Positions are aimed at those who would not otherwise be in a position to develop their skills and CV through unpaid work experience in order to enter arts professions.”
Despite that alarming phrase “unpaid work experience,” then, this appears to be a bid to get more of the unskilled and less well educated into creative writing and related opportunities in the arts. This apparently is being offered in conjunction with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, also supported by the Garfield Weston Foundation, Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, as the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme, “creating work and training opportunities for 40 outstanding new graduates in 40 arts organisations across the UK.”
The outline continues:
This talent development initiative will identify gifted recent graduates who would otherwise not be in a financial position to work for free in order to get a foot on the competitive career ladder in the arts. With unpaid internships or work experience still a major barrier to securing the diversity and vibrancy of our future arts workforce, the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme will champion new voices.
Again, the “work for free” message is surely sending a worrying message about current conditions in the UK arts, and the pernicious but growing practice of unpaid internships. The outline concedes as much: “The practice of offering unpaid arts internships, whilst often illegal, is still a divisive issue, often supporting wealth and privilege at entry level over talent and skill, damaging diversity and potential for the sector.”
The Jerwood Foundation, incidentally, according to Wikipedia, “was established in 1977 by Alan Grieve for John Jerwood, an international businessman and philanthropist. Since Jerwood’s death in 1991 it has been administered by Grieve.” Information on John Jerwood himself is hard to come by, but apparently he won a Military Cross in World War 2 and spent most of his life in Japan, where he “built a hugely successful pearl dealing business” and reportedly accumulated “vast wealth.”
So that’s the pedigree of this opportunity. The Writers’ Centre Norwich is numbered among the partner organizations, as well as Arvon itself and quite a number of theaters.