This week, we have chosen to focus on the subject of what the creative arts mean to us.
We chose to focus on this as it is an area that is often overlooked; creative subjects are often deemed as “easier” subjects and recently, the government has gone as far as to suggest they are not as important as other subjects. Throughout my time as an A-Level student and then at university, when people would ask me what I was studying, there would always be a slight eyebrow raise followed by “oh that’s interesting…” when I explained that I was studying Drama. More often than not, I have had people follow up with, “well at least you’re doing English as well!” As if Drama by itself isn’t a good enough degree subject… At school, Drama, as well as subjects such as Music and Art, were considered the “easy” options. Anyone who actually did one of these subjects as an A-Level, or even a GCSE, however, will roll their eyes and proceed to tell you that actually, that was their hardest subject and was by far the most time consuming.
While, yes, it may be true that Art and Drama are perhaps not as intellectually stimulating as Science or Maths, they have their own challenges too. Working as a team, initially with people you may have never met before, requires confidence and social skills that you may not necessarily learn in other subjects. The confidence to perform to a room full of people, something that you have to be able to do if you are a Music or Drama student, is also something that you do not get from other subjects. The skills you learn as a Drama student are also the skills that employers actually look for. Teamwork, presentation skills, time management, communication, the ability to work under pressure… the list goes on. So why then, are we not encouraged to study creative subjects more?
While there are many transferable skills that I have learnt from Drama, skills that have turned out to be invaluable in setting up The Notable, I have also gained so much more than just ‘good words’ for my CV. To me, the creative arts are important as firstly, without them, what would we have done during lockdown? Without the creative arts there would be no Netflix, no Prime, no boxsets, no Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings marathons. Beyond the television, what would happen if suddenly we had no music to go and listen to, or plays and musicals to go and watch? The creative arts aren’t a trivial part of our lives, they are a significantly important part, whether you think so or not.
Secondly, the creative arts are important to me because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. As a very, very, shy child and teenager, the only time I ever wasn’t terrified to open my mouth and speak was when I was on stage. I started doing Drama after school when I was twelve and fell in love with it almost immediately. I then took it up at GCSE a few years later, and until I left university in April, I have always been a Drama student. The confidence that you gain from either studying Drama at school or being involved in an extracurricular Drama class simply can’t be found anywhere else. The confidence that I initially only had when on stage, performing as someone else, gradually became part of who I was and suddenly I didn’t need to pretend I was a confident person, I just was.
In addition to this, as a performer, you have to be constantly aware and ready to adapt, whether that be in rehearsal or when you are on stage and everything starts to go wrong. Whether that be someone forgets a line, repeats a line, someone faints and has to be dragged off stage (the audience had no idea, so we carried on!!), a prop malfunctions… lots can go wrong when you’re performing! And when that happens, as an actor you can’t stop the show, so you carry on. Some of my personal on stage nightmares have included when I was only about twelve and I had a nose bleed on stage and somehow managed to incorporate it into the performance so that the director had no idea, or more recently my first performance at university could not have gone worse; no one knew their lines, someone fell off their chair, and I had to improvise an entire section to avoid us repeating a whole scene. As I say, these things happen and nine out of ten times, the audience have no idea. This level of confidence as well as the ability to stay calm under pressure and to work through problems very quickly and efficiently is something you cannot be taught in a classroom, it is a skill that you only really acquire performing.
So why are creative arts seen as the “lesser” subjects or “easier” options? In my opinion, the people who believe this, are the people who have never felt the incredible adrenaline rush that is standing on a stage, with the lights on so bright that you can feel the heat from them on your face, and all you can hear is the audience’s steady breath. They are the people who haven’t gained the transferable skills from working collaboratively with your peers to produce something you are incredibly proud of and will never forget. The creative arts are such an important part of everyone’s lives (everyone watches Netflix!) and they should be celebrated as not just something that energetic Drama kids do, but that anyone who wants to develop their confidence, teamwork and communication skills should do.