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This isn’t business as usual - please stop pretending it is

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

Is anyone else really struggling with the huge influx of ‘just go digital’ or ‘Creative response to COVID-19’ type commissions for artists at the minute?

Or is it just me?

I’m flabbergasted that so many organisations think throwing £1k at an artist who previously made live theatre, or dance, or beautiful music or visual arts, means that all of a sudden we’re going to be digital-art-engagement-whizz-kids overnight.

No-one is asking their bin person to collect the bins via a live-stream.

No-one asking hairdressers to come up with creative digital ways to cut and style their clients hair via conference call.

No-one is expecting coffee shop owners to work out a way to digitally print lattes directly into people’s homes.

It doesn’t work like that.

A script-writer, painter, actor, musician, potter, poet, dancer, novelist doesn’t necessarily have the skills, expertise, knowledge or technical capacity to take such a seismic shift in their creative thinking and output in the few months these commissions are expecting them to do so.

And 500 quid to create a response to the unfolding epidemic is equally unhelpful - particularly for artists who now find their beautiful plans, projects and business models in tatters around their feet.

Many of us are simply reeling from the loss of 100% of our income right now.

Some of us are directly impacted and are trying to grieve for loved ones lost at a time when we cannot even hug our nearest and dearest.

And all of us are watching in horror as the death toll rises across the world and it feels like civilisation as we know it is teetering on a knife-edge.

And that’s OK.

We shouldn’t feel pressured to suddenly be inspired to write our opus magnum via a 24-hour live digital tweet-a-thon that is also being streamed in virtual reality to every continent.

That’s simply not how the creative process works.

And organisations supporting artists should know that.

I don’t want to name and shame - organisations and the people that run them are going through everything we are too.

I know we’re all still reeling from the colossal impact of what is taking place right now, and people in organisations are trying to do what they think is best for those they can support with the small amounts they do have.

But I now find myself and my artist friends and peers in a frenzied fight over scraps being offered to us, with application processes that expect even more justification or demonstration of why we’re deserving of the money over someone else.

It feels like I’m trapped in some awful Orwellian version of the X-Factor, behaving like the kids from FAME showing all our tricks and high-kicks and how dynamic and responsive we can be to the increasingly daunting challenges being thrown our way.

It’s exhausting.

It’s unsustainable.

Many people who enjoy the privilege of being in secure employment are now being furloughed - their careers put on hold and their financial needs met during this time of national, no, global crisis.

And that should not be seen as a privilege - we should all be demanding the same level of support.

Artists work tirelessly to make our communities vibrant, stimulating and exciting places to live.

And they do, so often, for very little financial reward.

We are in a crisis.

This is not business as usual.

If you truly believe in the value of artists, put your money where your mouth is and put money in our pockets.

It doesn’t need to be much, we’re used to dining out on the scraps - just enough to pay our bills, feed our bellies.

Give us time... time to grieve, time to think, time to be still and reflect.

Trust us... you’ll be thankful of the investment in the months and years to come.

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