Former Coronation Street star Catherine Tyldesley has criticised the Government's support of the arts after an ad campaign suggested a ballet dancer could "reboot" their career by moving in to cyber security.
The actress said it was "utterly disgusting" that the advert, released in October as part of the Government's Cyber First campaign, featured a young dancer tying up her ballet pumps alongside the caption: "Fatima's next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn't know it yet)."
It added the slogan: "Rethink. Reskill. Reboot."
Tyldesley, who has penned a new play, The Ceremony, which will be streamed live from the stage of a Leeds theatre to raise money for arts charities, told the PA news agency: "I think I can speak for the cast when I say this industry has given me so much joy and it's given me a living and I know how lucky I am. It's not an easy thing to do.
"I feel like we want to each give something back and support people that are part of our industry that are really struggling and where would we be without theatre and entertainment?
"You look back over the centuries and it's the one thing that gets people through times of hardship – song, dance, music.
"It's the thing that keeps people going and it's the one industry that has been well and truly forgotten about during all of this.
"We are super passionate about bringing it to the forefront and saying, 'thank you' – giving something back and raising as much money as possible."
Emmerdale actor Stephen Rahman-Hughes, who also stars in the play, said: "It is frustrating because obviously theatre and, I guess, TV and film and all entertainment is woven into our culture and we are very fortunate to be in a culture where it is woven in it.
"It's very much a part of our lives at every level, from when you are a kid right through your life. To suddenly have it taken away and be seen as dispensable... and knowing the amount of hard work and generosity that the industry gives, it's really important that we are seen as important and that we see each other as important and we all stick together."
Tyldesley added: "I think what we are saying is Fatima will not retrain. Fatima will continue to do what she loves and bring happiness to the world.
"I had students contacting me that were in drama school literally very, very depressed saying: 'Cath, I don't know what to do, this is my everything. Should I retrain? I've spent all this money, my mum holds down three jobs to put me through training and now they are saying I should do something else?'
"I am talking people suffering from chronic depression because of the comments that were made by our Government. It's utterly disgusting. We are here to fight back."
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 poster – one of a series which featured people from a variety of other professions – was heavily criticised on social media, prompting Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to brand it "crass".
According to Arts Council England, the arts and culture industry contributes more than £10 billion a year to the UK economy, with £3 spent on food, drink, accommodation and travel for every £1 spent on theatre tickets.
Mr Dowden has announced a £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to save cultural institutions on the brink of collapse.
Tyldesley's play, which was written during lockdown, will raise funds for Acting for Others, Theatre Artists Fund and Leeds Heritage Theatres and will be filmed on an empty stage at the Leeds City Varieties Music Hall.
It follows a hopeless Mancunian life coach who buys some Ayahuasca from Bury Market for her first ever attempt to contact the spirit world.
The Ceremony will be broadcast online for 10 performances only, starting from December 13.
Tickets to watch the production online and at-home can be purchased from www.stream.theatre.