On my FB page an ad for a job came up. It was for a Community Engagement worker in the Stoke-on-Trent area for an arts project. From what I can gather the work requires someone with experience. The project is offering a salary of £11,232 (which is a pro rata rate of £18,720), that works out about £10 per hour.
How has this wage been sanctioned by the Arts Council?
I thought that these joke wages were becoming a thing of the past. If the people organising a project cannot offer a sensible salary for this sort of post, say around £28-30,000 pro rata, then how can the project be taken seriously. This sort of work is not easy, engaging people to participate is one of the hardest skills and takes very special expertise.
There will of course be hundreds applying as jobs in the arts are so few, and building experience is hard to do in the funding climate we are living in.
I remember that theatres such as the local New Vic would offer pitifully low wages for marketing assistants, a miserable job, but is a starting point on the arts admin ladder. It was pointed out to me once by one of their managers that what they did was get a graduate for a year or so, work them into the ground, they would get invaluable experience then move on to another better paid post, then the theatre would get another at almost slave wages to and gain from their enthusiasm and energy.
It begs the question, do we really value the arts?
In a short story by Garrison Keillor, a drive through sculpture park is opened using an unused defunct bit of freeway. The story is about how the funds were raised and he makes the far too true point that it was easy to find the money for the art, but almost impossible to find funds for the janitor. This was something I found throughout my time raising funds for arts organisations.
The same attitude also comes in charitable giving. No one wants to pay for the administration, but without planning, admin and well cleaning no organisation can run properly and efficiently.
It is often expected that people working in the arts will work for little or nothing because of their love of the arts. For many the arts is seen just as an activity for spare time, a hobby; and yet when they go to a theatre, concert hall, film, art gallery or read a book, listen to music, they expect the highest quality and complain if everything isn’t just right.
For a few decades now there has amongst many people been an understanding of the economic value of the arts to the country and communities. I remember when this first started being talked about and people were amazed at how much in financial terms the arts gave to towns and cities, certainly far more than the public grant support. The main reason people come to the UK on holiday is not for its glorious weather (****) but for the experience of the arts, for all my dislike of the place, Tate Modern is now a major attraction, the theatres in London and the whole Shakespeare stuff vital for the economic wellbeing of the UK. It of course isn’t just the actual arts venue, performance or exhibition; it is the local hotels, restaurants, taxis and all the other services.
So come on, start paying proper wages for arts jobs, stop stretching budgets so far that people cannot be paid properly. If you don’t get the grants and income you need then cut back and do a smaller project, and pay people a decent wage!!!
Today’s photograph is yet another old one from some prints I found in an old file. It was taken in 1979 in woods near Llanfair Caereinion in Mid Wales (where I was living), on Kodachrome 25 with a long exposure, it’s a long time ago but I think about 30 seconds on f16, I took a whole roll in the darkness under the canopy of trees, the scan is ok, nothing like as sharp as the original reversal.