A couple of weeks ago, artist Bryony Kimmings issued a challenge. After writing a long, angry and extraordinarily honest blog post about artists and money, she concluded with “I will show you mine if you show me yours”, asking others to share their experiences and join the conversation. Her original blog, which has now been widely read and discussed within the industry, addressed the problems that artists face in attempting to get paid fairly for touring their work, shedding important light on problems with how the system currently functions.
Since Bryony threw down the gauntlet, there has been an overwhelming response from artists, venues and producers alike. Fellow artist and co-director of Forest Fringe Andy Field put forward a proposal for greater transparency from all quarters, suggesting that an online space might be created to allow this. Alan Lane of Slung Low discussed the work that his company does to change the culture around money in the arts, pointing out that “the only way things change happens is because people do things differently”.
Blast Theory’s Matt Adams has written an open letter from the perspective of a regularly funded organisation, while David Jubb at Battersea Arts Centre pointed artists towards a document that explains clearly how the money works for programming, developing and producing work at the venue. These are just a few of the responses from a variety of different viewpoints, all of which can be found usefully gathered together on A Younger Theatre’s round-up blog.
More recently, Daniel Bye has articulately explored how these discussions sit within wider problems that go far beyond venues negotiating down fees for artists. He writes: “Better conversations, more understanding will help, but this isn’t a sectoral problem. It’s capitalism. This is how it works.” But his blog also expresses hope, suggesting that it seems “just possible” that things could change.
house’s own Gavin Stride has also entered the conversation, stating that we need to “grow the pie” and build up the audiences seeing the work that is under discussion. This, of course, is one of the things that house is hoping to help with, by connecting up the ambitions of all the players involved: artists, programmers and – importantly – audiences. Gavin goes on to suggest that “there are other things we can do. Try new models, develop new relationships and use our position to champion the sector.”
And this conversation about art and money is not over yet. There will be further chances to discuss touring and money at the annual session of Devoted and Disgruntled on 25th-27th January, and then at the end of the month Paines Plough have organised a seminar on the future of small-scale touring. As Maddy Costa discusses in her own blog on the subject for Fuel, the real opportunity is to talk about these issues and “work collaboratively towards some kind of solution”. We would love to continue the conversation within the house network and hear your thoughts, frustrations and suggestions.