Why I'm Not "Lucky" To Work In The Arts

Sunday 29 October 2017

I work in a field that not many people get to succeed in. Full time, full paid jobs are far and few between, and the wages are minimal. It's a field you pursue because you're passionate about it because you can't imagine yourself doing anything else in, it's not a field you pursue because of the pay cheque. And it certainly isn't a career you choose because it's easy... despite what many people will have told you when you were deliberating over whether or not to take drama at GCSE.

Because of all these factors, I am grateful to have my job. I am grateful to have found a place of employment I love and one that supports me. I am grateful to have been born into a life that came with a certain amount of privilege that meant I could go to university and follow my passion, when so many people in this country, and across the world do not have that option. And I am grateful to myself for all the hard work I put in to get here.

And I will admit there are days where I can't believe this is what I get to do for a living. But when somebody tells me 'aren't I lucky to have this job' it just doesn't sit right with me.

Because put simply  - loving your job does not take away how hard you worked to get there.

I didn't enter some kind of job lottery and pull the winning numbers. I started working for this when I was nine. Sure back then I had no idea that spending my weekends rehearsing for a play with a bunch of university students would lead to a career in the arts but in a lot of ways it did. In fact, the only thing about my career I put down to luck is stumbling on something I was so passionate about at such a young age. Everything after that? Was me putting in the hours.

Me giving up two nights and my weekends as a teenager to rehearse for the community panto.
Me choosing to work hard at A Level so that I could prove taking Theatre Studies was worthwhile.
Me getting into a great university and passing my degree.
Me volunteering and gaining work experience whenever I could.
Me working several jobs and an internship at the same time after graduation.
Me working on minimum wage for years while work in the arts dripped in.
Me refusing to give up when everyone and everything seemed to think I should.

And now more than ever, doing a job I love, means working hard. Really really hard.

I have had one full weekend off since the end of August. I wake up in the middle of the night with creative ideas for workshops or fears that nobody will buy tickets to an event. I stand in the middle of Lancashire towns when it's cold and wet and speak to hundreds of people about ART. I run workshops with teenagers who spend most of their time making fun of the way I laugh hoping that I make a difference to one of them. I answer work emails at night because that's the best time to get hold of an artist or arrange meetings with volunteers outside normal working hours. I live with the knowledge that funding for my job could run out within 6 months. And while I love my job, there are compromises and sacrifices that I have to make. Because guess what? The Arts? Don't come with a huge paycheck. So I work a full time and take on freelance work too so that I can live the life I want and do the job I want.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn or to elicit any type of sympathy. I'm just stating the facts. Because I wish I knew more about how hard other people work and I CERTAINLY wish I knew more about the work behind the title when at 21 I was trying to figure out which jobs to apply for.

There are things in life we are lucky to have. I think the more of us that recognise and admit any privileges that fall upon us, the more we can do to make sure we share that luck around. But the majority of good things in life don't happen by chance and it is important to acknowledge that too.

So I'm not lucky to have a job in the arts, none of us are. But I am grateful for it, and the many many factors that contributed to me being where I am in life now, every single day x

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