Will Martin Bright’s vision of inspiring, encouraging, skilling and putting to useful purpose the generation of young people who will emerge from education to unemployment be realised?
I was immediately inspired myself by Martin’s big idea when I originally read his piece in the New Statesman. Called ‘The New Deal of the Mind’ this brave and visionary project would scoop up this potentially lost generation and create a version of Franklyn Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 30’s. It would see an army of young people employed in projects to record, write, film, photograph, design and record aspects of our lives, the recession, living histories, archives and so on – creating a legacy for future generations from this era whilst battling the scourge of unemployment in current times.
Since I first read about the New Deal of the Mind, I have been pushing the idea whenever I have had the opportunity. And today – the stellar gathering at 11 Downing Street (hosted by Mrs Darling) demonstrated that this is an idea which has grabbed hold of everyone’s imagination.
I can’t even begin to describe the guest list – other than the head of any arts, music, film etc organisation you can think ofwas there – from Sir John Tusa, Alan Yentob and Sir David Putnam to Michael Wolff, Sir Christopher Grayling and Mark Thompson (and loads more). As for Secretaries of State – we had two – James Purnell and Andy Burnham who both verbally gave their support and said they were both thinking along these lines anyway.
The event was kicked off by Martin describing the idea – and then we heard from Alan Brinkley, Professor of History at Columbia University who is an expert on Roosevelt’s New Deal and gave us the history and analysis of it.
Then it was opened for discussion to the floor – and the great and the good all agreed it was a brilliant idea. There seemed to be some debate as to whether this army could be achieved in existing structures with existing funds (benefits, money already earmarked for apprenticeships etc) or new money. There was agreement that whatever shape this took, who ran it or who funded it – that this needed to be done fast, as locally as possible and without endless hoops to jump through. It has to be simple.
Admiration for the idea was fulsome – but it took Trevor Phillips (Equality and Human Rights Commission) to put money on the table with the challenge for others to do same and for a partner to come forward to set up a project. It will be interesting to see if the others come forward – or if everyone just waits for someone else to do it!
The other person who particularly impressed me was the woman from the Heritage Lottery who said she was interested in partnering on the archiving idea. I hope all the others are fired up by the meet-up and put what were a range of splendid desires into reality.
Congratulations to Martin who is driving this ferociously and relentlessly forward. It takes someone with passion to push this forward – and this is a critical period where everyone has said yes – great idea. Now his challenge is to make it happen.