Arts manifesto ways-of-working

Making the arts better – for artists and communities

20 May 2020

We want to see a world where EVERYONE can access high quality cultural events that are relevant and enriching to them.

A world where the systems are fair, adventurous and open to everyone.

Maybe this pandemic and its aftermath will force all of our hands to do things differently – but maybe that doesn’t need to be a bad thing?

Currently, many artists are underpaid, under-heard and under-supported. We have been inspired by the words of David Jubb in his blog. His vision and suggestions of how wealth and funding could be distributed chime strongly with our thinking. It’s well worth a read.

Update, July 2020

We’ve identified 7 key ingredients for making this ‘new normal’ a reality, and put together a practical proposal to test our recipe: ‘Let Artists Be Artists’.

What happens if you pay an artist to just…be an artist – full-time, for one year, working with the community to make people’s lives better through the arts?

We want to use this moment, where there is no business-as-usual, to think about bigger changes like this. We’re not sure that getting ‘back to normal’ is what should happen – and we’re not the only ones:

“There has been a lot of reflection during the pandemic, not all of it concluding that the arts should pick up exactly where they left off. This may be the moment for structural change. The British arts after the pandemic may need to be rawer, more basic, more plugged into their communities than ever. And that might not be a bad thing.”

Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian

With all of this in mind, we – hopefully along with others – want to build a new normal:

  • where the arts truly is for everyone
  • where there are no barriers to access
  • where artists are supported well
  • where doors are open and the arts are rooted in our communities and not always in buildings that can, for many, feel like the home of privilege and wealth

As time goes on, we will share more about our plans for working alongside communities to come up with amazing events that can happen under social distancing. But right now our primary focus is on supporting artists.

If you work in the arts and you want to see change in the industry too, please scroll down to find the sections that are most relevant to you. How can we work together to make them happen?

Artists are vital

Art doesn’t exist without artists. They’re amazing and unique and important. We think that supporting artists to flourish should be a prime concern of any arts organisation, venue or commissioner.

Listen to artists

To make sure we’re supporting artists on their terms, it’s essential to listen to artists. We think that changes to any process that affects artists need to be shaped by artists.

We consulted a range of artists (and paid for their time) to hear their views on lockdown when shaping this plan.

Artists on lockdown: Viv Gordon

A conversation with theatre-maker, survivor activist & arts and mental health campaigner Viv Gordon

Support artists’ immediate needs

The coronavirus crisis is catastrophic for many artists. Some have lost their entire income overnight. So alongside long-term, systemic changes, it seems clear to us that actions also need to be taken to provide short-term support RIGHT NOW.

Donate to an artist support fund

There are a few different options out there. Lots of us on the team here at Strike A Light are donating to #GigAid, run by artist Bryony Kimmings and our friends at Battersea Arts Centre:

Provide support in making bids and finding funding

There is funding out there, including dedicated emergency support, but sometimes it can be hard to find or apply for or even understand! One step we’ve taken is to run special advice sessions to help artists access existing funding.

Introduction to Writing a Funding Bid

Create Gloucestershire are hosting an online course for Gloucestershire based artists, fundraisers and those working with creative groups to get started writing funding bids.

We also send out a regular artist newsletter to keep artists informed about funding, project grants and other opportunities.

Keep commissioning work – at fair rates

The importance of artists’ work hasn’t suddenly diminished because of lockdown. And it isn’t cheaper for an artist to produce a new piece of work, or to adapt an existing one, for a totally different digital format. So it seems clear to us that artists shouldn’t be paid less for their work just because it’s being delivered online.

We will treat any callouts or commissions we launch during lockdown the same way as we would have done under normal circumstances – including rates of pay.

For instance, we’ve recently launched a series of home residencies where we’re paying artists for their time while they’re working at home – at the same rate as we would if they were in a rehearsal room.

Pay artists for their time

Lockdown has had a devastating impact on all kinds of live events. Since it became clear that we would have to cancel our entire spring and summer programme of events and activities, we have:

  1. Committed to carry on paying our freelance youth theatre and dance tutors and offering interactive online sessions for our groups so they can still ‘meet’ with their group (as well as creating some one-off sessions which will be shared more widely and open to anyone)
  2. Provided financial support to artists we were working with who were about to tour, to support the re-development or re-scheduling of their work
  3. Had individual conversations with each artist or company we were due to programme in our upcoming season – to work out the best way we can support them financially and practically, committing at least the fee they would have received for the planned performance
  4. Worked with artists who were due to perform shows as part of our spring season and paid them additionally to create and share new online work
  5. Paid artists for their time as consultants to inform the development of our response and future plans

Because without artists, there are no shows or events or arts industry to hang on to! In our view, this time of emergency should mean more support for artists, not less.

Stop the project treadmill

Instead, pay artists over longer terms to develop work and connections with communities/audiences.

Pretty much what it says on the tin. We don’t think that the ‘project-to-project’ treadmill is good for artists or for audiences.

We’re determined to find, test and model better ways of paying artists to spend time on their craft – starting with how we’re going to create our autumn ‘season’ this year.

We’ve got some exciting plans in the works for this: instead of programming one-night shows, we’ll be employing 6 artists and 3 community producers over 4 months to make amazing events in Gloucester in 2020.

Update, July 2020

We’ve identified 7 key ingredients for making this ‘new normal’ a reality, and put together a practical proposal to test our recipe: ‘Let Artists Be Artists’.

What happens if you pay an artist to just…be an artist – full-time, for one year, working with the community to make people’s lives better through the arts?