Pauline Tambling, Creative & Cultural Skills, asks… how do we use practice knowledge to create new financial models for sustainable work?
As CEO of a sector skills council, I routinely quote our labour market statistics at conferences. The creative sector continues to grow and to contribute more to the UK’s GDP than ever before. ‘But why then,’ someone asked at a recent seminar hosted by Metal in Peterborough, ‘if the sector’s doing so well, am I finding it so difficult to stay in work as a participatory artist?’ Good question!
There is a host of reasons why it feels tough for people who have made a decent living in the past pioneering arts practice in schools, hospitals, pupil referral units, health or care settings. Arts sector cuts tend to hit freelancers and individuals disproportionately. Across the public sector, ‘intermediary bodies’ are out of fashion and artists have relied on agencies to broker projects with non-arts bodies. For all the evidence of its value and impact, one could hardly say that this work was securely embedded in the minds of arts funders, let alone potential non-arts commissioners. Most activity has been project funded and individually negotiated with sympathetic partners in other sectors – and is easily cut in hard times.
We are operating in a radically different model now. Arts funding is unlikely to improve and the public sector is also facing heavy cuts. Some practitioners are responding by working for less, but no one wins if artists can’t make a living wage. At Creative & Cultural Skills we campaign to ensure all workers – including interns – are paid at least national minimum wage.
The growth area in our sector is often technology related or associated with big live events and performance. It’s also with those artists and activists who are able to ‘make the work’ by finding their own new ‘customers’ to replace grant funding.
We’ve recently been working with Skills for Care, the workforce development body for adult social care, a sector where there are frightening staffing gaps because of demographic changes. There are opportunities for artists with participatory expertise to work on a major scale in care contexts, but we’ll need to build routes into the care sector systematically from entry level upwards. I’ve been really impressed by practitioners who have put time into ensuring excellent practice, growing ‘communities of practice’ and quality frameworks. The problem, unlike in other sectors, is not the quality of work – it’s the need to ‘scale it up’.
In Purfleet, where our Backstage Centre is located, the local council wants to build high-level craft skills into housing developments to create thousands of new homes. It is challenging to know how to do this. The local children’s services department is enthusiastically embracing a ‘cultural entitlement’ model for all schools in Thurrock, at a time when the education sector is downgrading arts education. To do so they are proposing a funding model that requires schools to contribute to costs over a number of years.
These are just two examples of new opportunities. The challenge is: how do we take the knowledge of practice developed through programmes like ArtWorks and create some new financial models and partnerships whereby we can embed this work and make it sustainable?
CEO Creative & Cultural Skills