Friends with Money

I’m writing this blog as I make my way to Manchester, where I’ll be rehearsing (or rather, finish making) The Best of Both World’s: A Busker’s Opera, which premieres at the end of next month at Camden People’s Theatre.

While it’s a lot of fun, making this show currently feels really raw. The tension it explores – the intangible values we hold vs. the state of our bank balance – is very real as I can probably state currently having under £100 to my name.

Now, I know that I’m definitely not in the worst situation around. I have a roof over my head, and I know I’ll be able to feed myself this evening. And until that £100 runs out, I also have no form of debt.

If you ignore my bank statement though, in many other aspects of my career (and indeed, my life), you could probably say that I’m doing alright… you might even go as far as saying that I’m relatively successful… (whatever that means…)

I also must acknowledge that I feel like a bit of a wally writing this. Once again, I’m not about to provide anyone with any answers, and it’s the second post in a row that I seem to be writing from a place of aaaargh…

Listening to Chris Goode’s podcast with Ridiculusmus last week, late at night, whilst walking home from the tube was both reassuring and terrifying… In my book, having been around for twenty years is a massive success in itself. Never mind having toured extensively, published books, and generally made what many would agree is a significant mark in the world of theatre-making… And yet, from what I gather, their bank accounts aren’t in a much better state than mine.

And that’s terrifying because if they haven’t cracked it in twenty years, how am I meant to make it to the end of the month?

And that’s reassuring because they’re still around. They’ve had good years as a regularly funded organisation (RFO) of Arts Council England, then a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) when it became a thing… They’d spent time building up to that, and it then enabled them to do a bunch of things they wouldn’t have been able to do without that support… and now… Now I guess they’re going to have to make a bunch of choices about what they can do moving forward…

There was no drama, in their conversation with Chris Goode. They stated what’s so, in what sounded to me like calm frustration… It was clear that while they have had some tough moments, they love what they do, and they are aware of the political pose they choose to strike up by doing the work they do…

I’m not as wise yet, and I’ll certainly be frantically waving spreadsheets around for the next few weeks… and one thing that I’m also clear on, is that emerging/early career makers have to be aware of the fine print when committing to being an artist.

A few years ago, in the aftermath of the “I’ll show you mine” campaign, I wrote of my frustration of the debate that opposes “the emerging” and “the established”. I think there’s a lot to be gained from the dialogue between both sides of the coin. (I didn’t even mean that money joke…, you’re welcome)

I couldn’t end this blog without mentioning the crowdfunding (or friend funding, as Stella Duffy puts it – and which is often a lot more honest) campaign we are currently running with Drunken Chorus’ development scheme Drunken Nights – of which Jon Haynes is a previous mentor – as it speaks to many aspects of this conversation.

What Drunken Nights does, is give artists some time to consider how they might make DIY, adaptable pieces devised to be put in front of an audience that wasn’t necessarily asking for it. And it gives them some time to be in conversation with an established maker (this year; Nic Green, Ursula Martinez, Third Angel).

I don’t know if the company would quite agree with me, but to me, Drunken Nights has always felt like some kind of DYI free university, where in playing together, many different people are slowly unfolding some very concrete, very responsive ways forward in terms of thinking about what both artists & audience development might look like when it’s done hand in hand…

So yes, here comes the ask.

If you’ve got anything going spare and you care, head there.

If times are tight, tweeting you might.

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