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Artists With Benefits
Artists With Benefits

Episode 2 · 4 months ago

Episode 2: Managing Risk, Creative Rewilding and a place of hope

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Episode 2 of Artists with Benefits looks at possible solutions to the problems of inequality and precarity in the creative workforce, drawing on experiences in England, Scotland and Norway. How could the benefits system help to plug some of the gaps? We consider mutual schemes and collective risk management, job creation and apprenticeships, a change in 'Job Centre Culture', investing in legacy projects and hyper-local grassroots cultural activities.

Hello, i'm chris bilton from theuniversity of warwick and you're listening to part two of the artistwith benefits podcast. How could the welfare system support afairer, less precarious cultural sector? Once again, i am joined by martinbright from creator society in london, simon sharkey, from the necessary spacein scotland and burd clip from the telemark research institute in norway.All recorded vi azoum in this episode we're talking about ways to address theproblems of sustainability and equality in the cultural sector. So, in theprevious episode, simon sharkey described the gap between a subsidysystem which invents in cultural institutions and organizations and thewelfare system which supports creative people. There is a pipe line connectingthat informal economy of people outside the former cultural sector, people whoare making work with no money or very little money and the bright lights ofthe creative economy, and while that connection has been broken and covinhas shown us just how broken it is the potential to bridge that gap is stillthere somewhere in our collective muscle memory. A simon points out inscotland at least the networks still exist there are designed was to feedthat pipling through through things like the the scottish ye theater as anexample, but almost every producing or receiving house and in scotland has ayouth theater at taxanes. There's nice of us us you theater, arps, scotland, as anetwork. Again, that's one of those kino. It's a network management thingwere it exists? No, but not our theaters are actually able to meet, butan anyway when it's functioning, it's a net wat that connects all of that upand there are really really clear, direct and designed ways of engaging with d t e t e, theless well off economically challenged or ethnic minorities. All of that isfeeding and really really strongly to many of the programs, because it'scoming from top and and bottom these design pathways exist. But what aboutthe young people who they designed for? How are they going to survive as theystart on this creative journey? Bad clip argues that welfare is linkedto questions of risk in our society. Risk is increasing the outsource on toindividuals rather than organizations. That certainly applies to large partsof our median creative industries. Creating the work is risky. Exploitingthe work is safer and more profitable. That was already the case before coviland in the post covied recovery too. The safety net seems to be there fororganizations, but not for individuals. Very many of these schemes, as in as in u k r, although located toinstitutions and- and you know, norway were many of these institutions- havepermanently employed artists. Both orchestras, theaters, etc. Have ordinary permanently employedartists, and they have managed it very well, but now when,when suddenly they do, don't do anything and they then they have savedvery much money or not engaging or hiring self employed people.So then it was actually a huge...

...news in no witin media lately is showingthat the state subsidized institutions have gained yeah twenty thousand twenty twin hour as twenty millioneuros the last year in profit. It's of course, concentrated to to museim some very menates, stableinstitutions, but, and also the orchestras, but but also to the large theaters, whichmight as as it used to be in the uk, in the in the s or in the sentis, but nowadays still ten or way you havethis permanently employed actors, which of course, is both a positive anda negative thing also artistically. Nevertheless, it it provides some safejobs for quite many artists and then very many kind of what we call insidersin the in the labor force, although there will also always be kind ofoutsiders or people precarious, precarious workers, but of but stillthere are a number of more or less safe, safe jobs. So we have some insiders onstable permanent contracts and some precarious outsiders or free lances inthe uk and in norway. Some of the regularly funded organization certainlytried to support independent artists and free lances in their supply chains,but the resources to do this were limited and in the uk, as for norway,whereas insider jobs were eligible for furlough, with governments coveringmost of the salary cost, the outsiders didn't qualify for this kind of salarysupport scheme because they were classified as self employed or isindependent. Small business owners board argues that we need a more mutualcollective way of sharing risk in the cultural sector, instead of outsourcingall of that risk on to precarious freelance independent workers. But ifwe are going to take a more collective approach to risk, it counts both ways.Individuals need to buy into this mutual approach. I think there's a lackof of initiatives trying to share more riskbetween our artists. We we did interview get in popular music. Of course, youhave some some some bands et ce which which do share the risk and which are organized as a company and pay the pay, the bad members, but maybe maybe there's a possibility to do thatto a more larger extent where, because of course, you have very you have a star economy in in thecreative sector. So sometimes some people earn very much, and sometimesthey or lesser. So it could be a possibilities for for amore collective approach, also within art, collectives, sharing, much morerisk and and also sharing much more of the income and in our way that there are. There aresome examples of the government schemes trying to. For example, we have something calledthe theater and down down alliance, which you you, maybe might get employed bythis alliance, and whenever you are out...

...of work, you get paid from the scheme and i think that's that's a good. Itmight be a good scheme. However, i find it strange that when some of thesepersons, which are employed in this part of this scheme, if they forexample, earth more than one of the one hundred thousand euros ayear or something they, they could of course return some of these income tothe to the scheme, since they are a part of a kind of acollective scheme and do they no, they don't so they just benefit and if they did,of course, if they they don't yeah, they don't take out money fromthe scheme if they have a higher income. But i would say that very many other businesses you share risk. I mean at the researchinstitute river. Some of us are very attractive in the market and earnedquite much money, but it all goes that into the research institute and we arepaid from the research institute. So we are kind of the institute a or managing the risk too much lot sure extent. So, in amutual collective system, it can be difficult getting the star performersto pay in and there's another problem too. It requires cultural institutions,subsidized or charitable organizations to become profit making businesses italso techs us up on another problemin, the in the creativeindustries or at least among artists, that this all the buddies denial of economy means that for very manly they are notinterested in gaining up a profit or, and i mean gaining up a profit, isessential for for risk management and yeah. You see that nowadays duringcome that i mean, if you have a company, youshould have a resource, and that's i find varies. Of course, many artists don't get apayment which allows you to gain a reserve, but if you have thepossibility to do to do so, you should and that's also the way of managingrisk either for yourself wore for, for others, board points to trade unions asanother form of mutual solidarity. By setting out a collective position onpay and conditions, unions can help to protect their members from precariorisk and uncertainty if, for example, the trade union for musicians, they arevery strict about the levels of income you need for to do for a job, so theythey tell their members. They have a very many members and the you know theyare were strict in saying that you're not to do allowed to do a job for lessthan five hundred eros a day, for example. So they have a vile, for example, visual artists in organization for avishal artists. They don't have any collective pricing for examples so andwhen we also see that in income studies so artist, that musicians generally do you er more, and maybe they are more aware of what iswork and what is spare time or what is...

...not to work. So alliances, ensemblesand trade unions could potentially provide artists with some insuranceagainst precarious work, but these kind of themes usually require a distinctionbetween insiders and outsiders between members and non members. Of course, thescheme is is is not open to everyone. You need to prove that you're kind of insider in the in the business or inthe create economy. So when you say maybe twenty percent, i think you needto prove that you at least have worked, have had profits, maybe sixty seventy percent fromartistic work the last years. So it's not the scheme that is open to the very precarious workers which doartistic work or i have a very minimum or small share of artistic income, andthat's, of course, al always a problem that maybe artacii differently in differentcompris. Another problem with schemes like this is how widely and how deeplyshould the support be spread. For example, norway offers grants orscholarships for individual artists up to thirty thousand euros per year forup to ten years. That's a very targeted basic income which allows someestablished artists to pursue a creative career with a basic level ofsecurity and that's great for them. But what about other less successfulartists, even in the way there is perhaps a tendency to focus benefits onindividuals rather than on collective systems of support. I mean there's a there's, a huge focuson the independent, creative entrepreneur and the individual personin the creative economy, and also i mean mong artists, this autonomousgenius- and i mean, if you succeed, you are you you. You deserve a very high income.We see it, for example. It's i think, that's interesting because in the inthe the national theater, for example, in norway they have permanent employedactors. Maybe fifty sixty pernety employees and if some of these actorsget an offer of joining a movie or something like that,they got the ti or they get leave or unpaid leave for for thosemonths. But but they are, there are none that suggest that maybe maybe theyshall do that workand. Maybe the income show go to the theater because yeah i mean they are employedthere and they do work as an actor, but then they get all the money from thismovie that they are doing. But i mean my my job. I count to any work outsidethe company which is related to research, because i have i am kind of binded by acontract. I think that's that, of course, wouldbe interesting to kind of explore a more to say that, for example,and if you are ponent le poy at a theater day with or a the orchestra, ifyou're suddenly get some high paid the work than they could at least say thatokay, that's okay, but then we will profit from it as well. That's animportant principle, which is very late,...

...which is not talked very much about inthe art sector, and i'm not sure why. But i think it's may be related to thisidea of the genius artist who really deserves. Where were the economic success is kind of proof that they are doing great works in some way. Precario risk and uncertainty representone of the two big challenges that have come up during this podcast. The other big challenge is equality andaccess. How does somebody get started in a creative career? Whatopportunities are available? My generation, the old people who are nowenjoying successful careers in the creative industries, were underwrittenby various forms of welfare and social security which help them survive whenthey were starting out for to day's young creatives that doesn't exist.Instead, they have the gig economy, unpaid internships, closed networks,all of which leave a majority of young people too exhausted too poor and toosocially excluded to find a way into a creative job and martin bright ofcreative society argues that this is never going to change until we rethinkthe relation between benefits, employment schemes and work. I thinkthere are two very distinct aliments to harald. The benefit system could bereformed. Yes, i think the nature of benefitsneeds to be looked at. I don't think. Realistically, thepresent government is ever going to look at a: u n, w universal basking income skiingbecause it just doesn't fit with their ideology. I mean, unless it's done bydefault, i mean you know in a sense clearly, during coved, large numbers ofpeople have had their salaries paid by the government, but that is certainly not seen by by thisadministration. As a good thing, so if we're going to be looking at positivemodels, one of the things that needs to be looked at, i think, is returning to something like thesomething like the future jobs fund. We do have the kickstart scheme, which hasbeen set up by this government, which the jury is out on, but some idea of paid placements for young people,starting out in their careers, has to be away forward the the recognitionfrom man again. This is controversial forthis government because they don't like to look at what was done by previouslabor governments. But the future jobs fund, which paid for people to work forsix months, was extremely successful within the crasie sector and justgiving people that opportunity of paid work allows them six months of insight. Itallows employers to employ people that they might not otherwise have employed,because you had t to employ people that...

...were on benefits and it really didshift. It really did ship perceptions so that sort of scheme some sort ofenhanced kickstart scheme would be hugely helpful. I also think they need to look verycarefully at. What's now called the new enterpriseallowance scheme, this was a scheme that allow people to set up their ownbusinesses and was originally set up during the fate era where people were paid, it was an incentive to get peopleoff. Unemployment benefits was designed to spark a series of onecan only imagine light engineering companies around thecountry and no bad thing if that's what it had done, but actually what it didwas spark all sorts of people within alternative culture to set up their owncreative businesses. I can only think that this govern willbe looking again at some sort of they can't call it the new enterpriseand marit scene, because that's what it's already called, but some sort ofenhances by enterprise allowance scheme- and these are all kind of technicaltweaks of the benefit system. But i think, what's really needed- is a really root branch, definitive reform of job creation of the job center culture,because that's where the problem lies, that the merging of the functions of thebenefit office and the job center has poisoned the the job sent a side of things.Nobody goes to a job center, ironically now nobody goes to job sentit, a job.Really you go there to sign on, and it's where you you know, is whereyou're sanctioned by your adviser, and i think there has to be some sortof reimagined way of getting people back to work,which makes the place that you go to find work, a place of hope and a placeof positivity and there's a role. There's a role there for, for everyone,there's a role for local councils as a wrong universities, f colleges to find new ways of of of working onthat cuss between school university and work. The original new deal in the stry to give artists meaningful work which valued their skills and made avalued, visible contribution to local communities. So what kind of real jobscould we offer young people in the creative industries to day in our postpandemic world with a bit of imagination? It should be possible orshould have been possible to to engage people in legacy projects. I don'tquite see why that hasn't happened so for it, for instance, let me give you acouple of examples from the creative society family that that happened during the last cession,which involved a degree of imagination frominstitutions as well. So the british council had an amazingarchive of films from t s that were sitting in. You know on reels in basements. Who knows where i think itwould be fi actually, and so a small group of young unemployed graduateswere put to work to digitize those films to allow them to be put on to the british council website and beaccessible to everyone, and there there at right. When you goon to bridge cancel website, you can find them their beautiful amazing,archi, archi films and that...

...the legacy sits there and it's a wonderful thing.Another example was the digitization of the photographs at the londonmetropolis in archive, which was done by a small army of unemployed graduates.Now we should be able to do those kinds of projects now, but it takes leadership and it takesimagination and it the problem that we've had. I think, understandably, because it's such anextraordinary situation is that people, panicked and people are in survival mode, andyou know perhaps now that we're coming out of the pandemic, we can and we'regoing to have to imagine ways of getting people back to work that we cancome up with some similar schemes that will, you know, will provide a legacy t, butdo young people want to do these jobs there's often a gap between the skillsand aspirations of young people and the jobs that are actually available tothem. The possibilities of creative work and a creative economy are notalways obvious, especially to young people from poorer backgrounds. Part ofthe challenge for educators and advocates like martin is to point outthat these connections and entry points into creative work. The really goodexample about is the london metropolis on archive tutition project, because itwas fascinating during the interviews which were done by job centers for tfor those jobs because half the problem is that you'll meetyoung people who have huge ambition. So i remember interviewing a young man forthose jobs who been unemployed for three years, and i said well, you knowwhat you want to do and you say it's not what i want to do. The difficultyis that i am a film director and i'm finding very difficult to get a job asa film director. I mean it's easy to sneer right, but imean he was totally genuine and i said well in what sense you a film, directand said. Well, i you know, i make films, i put them on youtube and youknow i'm a film director and i said well tell you what why don'tyou take one of these jobs that london metaphors and archive his ways? What'sthat got to do with it, i said. Well, you know you learn to usethese fantastic, like giant cameras and giants coming equipment, and you knowit's not it's tangentially connected, but it's about images and it's aboutlearning about history and how you present, images and and part of our job, i think is just- isjust helping. People make those those kinds of imaginate, imaginative, leapsand, of course, young middle class. People generally dounderstand that. That's what you do you know you get your foot in the door. Youget the foot in the door with something that isn't entirely exactly what youwant to do, but it's still got an element that you can use to apply to the next job, and you no part of our job is justexplaining that to young people and showing that what looks like it may not be the most creative job actually has a creativeelement to it. That will allow you to get skills that will help you to movethrough the industry. So creative society is more focused on small firststeps than big glamorous projects and, as with the original new deal in the s,a lot of this work is happening on a very small local scale. There'sattention here that we are very resistant and have been. I mean this.This applies to recent labor administrations as well as conservative.The station we are very resistant to top down. Solutions were very resistantto anything that smacks of centralized government telling us whatwe what we have to do,...

...and the risk of of schemes where you simply say you know let letter thousand flowersbloom is that there is no strategy involved and things happen in a veryhaphazard way, often in a slightly repetitive way. So i mean perhaps one way around. Thisis to have much more regionally based solutions or even hyper locally basedsolutions where pots of money are given to local mayors or even smalleradministrative units to to distribute for schemes. But i would i would i would see this is a moment where youcould suggest you could suggest a series of legacyprojects that that young people could go to work on or even into generationalprojects. You know i'm not going to sit here and say whatthey should be, and heaven forbid that it should just be. You know hundreds oforal history projects, which is the usual way that these things end up, butthere must be ways that we can. We can get we're going to have to find ways ofgetting young people back to work, and it is likely that some of thosesolutions are going to be driven by government money. So, let's just tryingto be a bit more imaginative about the way that we do that. Simon sharkeyagrees with that local emphasis and he argues that governments and fundingagencies can direct support downwards and outwards towards smaller localgrassroots organizations where it's most needed. He draws attention to someof the things which the scottish government did differently during covilcompared to the rest of the uk, especially for smaller local projectsat the bottom of the food chain. One of the things that happened, which ithought was really useful to sheare in relevance to this idea of subsidy orwealthy or going into artists, or you know in theaging artist, supporting them and kind of ing out a catheter, maintainingit cave whether you're marching of met, let kava was, was a scheme that wedesigned called the co culture collective. So six and a half millionwas sithen off of. I think it was ninety eight million over that onepoint: five: seven billion six and a half million was siphoned off and andan invite went out to organizations that were based in communities and whoemployed for the lanes orfice to for police making or participate in thearts or connected to health and welfare or any number of reasons. But it had tobe local and so that we can look at it as a national finitter. It would becomeit would become network, and it was funds of between a hundredand three hundred thousand, which is really significant for smallorganizations, half of which was to go to employing freelances to deliverprograms that would also bring in agencies, like local authorities, fallinto the organizations and gos such as as co mental health association, a inviron or enterprise, so that theywould call less around the idea that ups and culture can lead in thecreative recovery with the local people and artists at the symtom of a now inmade was that's it. That's not something that that's not wealthy,because it's directed as a subsidy...

...towards organizations to maintain andbuild an infrastructure around that. However, when you reflect on it, it'snot it's not a million miles away from how we enjoyed having money in our pocket to to be with the youth theater of theband, the galligan or or our own company, and and produce whatthat move went on schools or whatever, so that experience was brought to be inthe steven group who grew up with all of that behindthem and are looking at twenty four centiares of making that happen.Government funding over the past year has been directed to an immediateproblem of survival, but beyond lockdown that strategy of putting moneyinto somebody's pocket, so they can take a risk. Try something new couldperhaps address some longer term. Challenges for the cultural sector atnational level. For uk government is unwilling to give people free money,whether that's universal basic income or subsidy or ground, or a freeuniversity education. But maybe that risk is more acceptable, smaller, lessexposed if it's delegated to the local level, and if you do invest in people,some of them enough of them might repay that investment by making something newor giving something back. After all, creative people continue to be thebiggest investors and supporters for creative work, and that contributionalso pays back in all kinds of hidden ways to the wider economy, to society,to well being and a quality of life. His simon again talking about theparticipation art sector in scotland, thoes, it's a massive bit of subsidy tothe creative industries, and we it does luke after that, the most importance in hotestcommunities and with a level of xpit that you nid. Otherwise it feels- and thatis that's just not it's just not recognized and and lots of ways. That'sthat's possibly the biggest headen subsidy in terms of the the responsibility and weight that isplaced on the artist and organizations who to love of that work, because thethe are the pateret f i all and and when this tress, that's relatedto all of all of that, work as well is as massive and we are wealthy, which could for india is if they are not thepeople that, if the people, the communities that they're working withhave the choice throughwealthier to walk in these participatoryconnective, creative engagement on lastic ways of dealing with their localenvironment, whether it's the high street or or whatever else. If therewas a subsidy that allowed communities to call a less around organizationslate, then it would be a massive strategic. I think, a way of addressinga whole lot of elms but a whole load of oopportunities. I started this podcast thinking that universal basic incomewould be the solution to precario and inequality in the creative economy, butmaybe, what's even more important, is a bit of imagination and a bit of freedomto allow young people to create their own future. To take risks to rebuildlocal communities, ovid has exposed terrible structural problems in ourcultural sector, but it's also shown...

...the green shoots of something else:local solidarity, participator as a pathway into the creative industries onsemble organizations, sharing risk, mutually new ways of working andcreating things together. Martin bright talks about something hecalls creative rewilding, but we're already. A creative society werealready talking about this concept of creative rewilding, which may soundvery ground or potentious. But, in fact, is is precisely what needs to happenthat that you know we're all coming out of this terribly dark time and we do need to find those green shoots.We do need to think about new ways of doing things and the lessons of solidarity that we'velearned during lockdown, perhaps a refocusing on what really matters means that some of the solutions aregoing to be rather more modest than the sorts ofgrand national schemes that i'm talking about that you know. Perhaps what weshould be looking at is very small scale. Local creative projects that mayeven just be a group of young people going on a walkfor instance, and recording their thoughts or looking at you know what they're, whattheir plans are for the future, and i you know this isn't going to makethem huge amounts of money. But some sort of period of reflection isreally necessary. I think, and and learning from the solitary that webuilt, perhaps during during lockdown and and finding new ways of new ways ofworking together, but the mass. What i like to see you've been listening to part two ofartists, with benefits with chris bilton from university of warwickproduced by mike raczinsky, a bootie recording thanks to martin bright, acreative society, simon sharking, at the necessary space on board clipper attelemark research institute for taking part thanks to warwick's productivityand the futures of work g rp. For supporting us, and thank you forlistening and depending on when you are listening to this. You can also takepart in a free weather. Are discussing this podcast on wednesday, the twentyeighth of july two thousand and twenty one t t.

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