Monday, 7 February 2011

Straight From The Horse's Mouth

I wish to outline my own experience of the affect the cuts are having on me and on the industry I work in. Speaking as someone who wishes to continue to do good work in the community but cannot see how to move forward, I feel my voice should be heard.
I am a community artist. I work as a freelancer. I am not directly employed by any charity, arts organisation or council, although I have worked with such groups/organisers and council employees to deliver community arts projects in the past. 
My Background: I started my business in 2003. My focus is on creativity and how it channels education. For the first couple of years or so I spent time developing the kind of creative business that would engage children and their families; ‘community involvement’ one could say. My sessions have enabled participants to develop and share skills often in settings that have allowed social interaction across the generations. These sessions brought about opportunity for participants to benefit in a wider sense. I have based all my projects on these principles. I identified a working ethos for myself, one I felt comfortable working to, and, more importantly, and without trying to sound pretentious; one that had not dulled my creativity along the way.
The Cuts: Everyone knew that the direct withdrawal of funding for the Arts would hit hard, but I wonder if people are aware of the knock on effect the loss of jobs in various departments within each local authority across the country is having and will have. It is true that the cuts will damage the work of the volunteering armies in our communities. The input from individuals, like me, cannot be expected to be delivered for free. If the intention is to set up projects or programmes of quality, where participants are safe and where the legal responsibilities are taken on by the organiser(s) – well, that has to come at a price. There is a real danger of going back to a time where people, well-intentioned as they may be, will run sessions on a shoe string, in village and church halls, community centres, resulting in our most vulnerable members of society being at risk. Long running community projects and schemes will, undoubtedly, fall to the wayside. Having less grant money available will slow the regeneration of disadvantaged communities and the continued improvement of services. Have we not learnt anything?
The Arts: Those working in the creative industry realised long ago that they were never going to be rich in this line of work. It has been rare that a project has paid me fully for the time and effort put in and I think anyone working in the same line will agree there is always a large amount of goodwill involved. It is true to say that in recent years, those who work in the Arts, myself included, have been highly dependent on public sector investment.
What I think the government is saying: it is hoping a new contract culture will emerge from this situation. It is counting on leaders and organisations, in their efforts to diversify and broaden their funding bases, to deliver contracted services in order to continue with their work. I believe there will be many external factors that will result in there being an increasing call on strong and high profiled companies in the UK to draw up social responsibility policies or to provide financial support for health and wellbeing related projects and for education too.
My Work and my experience of the downward trend to date:  ‘We’ will have to resort to begging letters to large companies for funding to continue with our work. It is very demoralising for 'us'. This was the situation before the lottery funding, and it has come full circle. Yet companies in the UK have to remain profitable during this difficult time, and so raising their profiles by investing in the community arts, be it performance, music, combined arts, or whatever - may not be something many could consider even if they wanted to. Already many large companies offer sponsorship, run competitions and are involved in charity work.
I have managed to keep my working diary busy for the past few years. My work has never been all about the money. I simply made the best of networking opportunities and funding channels that have resulted in a few success stories, small admittedly, but significant nonetheless.
Time I've had for creative pursuits has been squeezed of late. I've been a slave to the administrative duties; having to work much harder to land those bookings. The last six months have involved checking emails for up and coming arts jobs/funding opportunities on an hourly basis, spending lengthy periods of time making applications, compiling statements… pursuing…chasing…all of the time. I’d always had to do this kind of thing of course, but I found I was having less and less time available to me to write, sketch, or devise new arts projects.
And now I am not getting the project work anymore, whereas I was ticking along nicely. Two local authority workers have played safe and decided not to offer up work that was lined up. Direct communications from people have dried up. I still get information relating to funding channels and project work as I’ve signed up to receive such notifications, but I realise there is too much competition from the voluntary sector for any one job, likewise, I have found already that companies are not responding to my begging letters! It is my fear that the community arts strand of my business may not survive.

Note: I was prompted to write this frank account of my business today by the following article online
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12378974

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing Debra xxx
    Volunteering at SIFA over the last 8 months has given me an opportunity to see innumerable changes unfold within this health setting. SIFA is in a constant flux of reshaping and redefining itself as a means to generating its higher virtue of promoting good health and well-being targeted to the vulnerable and very often stigmatized parts of our community.
    It would seem that funding cuts have yet again become a real fuel for fire and as we hear the testimonies we are often given the negative impacts of monstrous takers. However amongst all the pressure we see that the funding loss has proven a great catalyst in shaking up the foundations towards yielding greater fruition. The idea of been left with nothing puts you in a situation of having to intrinsically re-look at the initial setup.
    So here you may Quest whether I am supporting the funding cuts?
    I’m not agreeing with the funding cuts but rather see how we should seek opportunity within such times. When hardships hit we see more of this inter connectivity going on and people start turning back to what’s most important resembling something like a spiritual awakening. I feel that as SIFA demonstrates this, Once the core foundations have been explored and the root issues are redesigned, the money which then generates (which will inevitably come again) allows companies to not only spend in a greater measure but to adopt a platform of quality, with a more refined focus, which yields greater success than was previously anticipated.

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