The UK’s culture secretary has distanced himself from a “crass” government-backed advert suggesting a ballet dancer retrain in “cyber”.
After a social media backlash Oliver Dowden said the advert did not come from his department, adding: “I agree it was crass.”
Acclaimed choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne was among twitter users criticising the advert.
But Mr Dowden said £1.57bn is being invested in the industry.
Critics on Twitter called the advert “patronising”, saying it showed the government was not helping the arts through the pandemic. Sir Matthew’s tweet asked: “This has to be a joke? Right?”
In a tweet, writer Caitlin Moran wondered if the government had “recently created a Hopes and Dreams Crushing Department”.
Shadow mental health minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan 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.”
The advert depicts a ballet dancer and reads: “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet). Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.”
It is attributed to CyberFirst, a programme led by the National Cyber Security Centre to encourage young people to get into tech, and to HM Government.
Mr Dowden said in a tweet: “I want to save jobs in the arts”. He said the advert “was a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security”.
To those tweeting re #Fatima
This is not something from @DCMS & I agree it was crass
This was a partner campaign encouraging people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber security
I want to save jobs in the arts which is why we are investing £1.57bn
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) October 12, 2020
The image from the CyberFirst “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” campaign – where training is being run by a company CyberFirst/UK Government advertcalled QA – now appears to have been removed as does the whole page detailing the programme.
Before its removal, it read: “If your career plan’s been altered this year, you’re not alone.
“2020 has shaken up jobs – but most successful careers have a turning point. The government-backed Rethink. Reskill. Reboot. programme by CyberFirst could be yours.”
The image of “Fatima” comes from a photograph by Atlanta-based photographer Krys Alex published on Instagram in July 2017. The original picture shows dancers Desire’e Kelley and Tasha Williams from the Vibez in Motion Dance Studio in Atlanta, Georgia.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced industries to scale back their businesses and cut jobs, including many music venues and cultural organisations.
Last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that all workers needed to adapt to the changing environment.
He told ITV: “Can things happen in exactly the way they did? No. But everyone is having to find ways to adapt and adjust to the new reality.”
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the National Cyber Security Centre and GCHQ have all been contacted for comment.