I have been quite frightened recently.
In a few months time another years worth of graduates will be let loose onto a barren wasteland of recession drenched industries, and at the bottom of that heap is the arts. Oh god. Another years worth of arts refugees scraping for unpaid internships without the safety net of a student loan to support them, whilst the celebrities fight each other for roles in off west end plays or cameos in Morrison’s adverts. I’d hate to think that anyone would have to do a job that they didn’t love to do for a living, but for the majority of us this is what’s going to be happening until the recession is over. The good thing? If we can survive in this climate then we’ll be laughing if things ever get back to neutral.
At this point I’d like to mention a lovely article written by Jessica Pidsley.
for Spotlight last year as a letter to graduates. It’s meant for actors but I think the same thing applies to anyone. It really helped to read it last year, and I have re-read it after writing this article.
…be subject to what they often call ‘career obsession’…
On top of this, if you consider yourself to be someone who works in the arts then you may, at times, be subject to what they often call ‘career obsession’. The industry is competitive yes, however I believe it’s a mistake to think that because the pursuit of a career in the arts is already laced with passion and integrity that we don’t run the risk of becoming one of those people who works far too much and forgets to smell the roses: of course we are still susceptible to this.
I am talking as someone who had a few days free after Christmas and found themselves in a bit of a January slump. I kept thinking; Am I not doing enough? Maybe I should email some people? Take some classes? Volunteer to sit and usher for free along with 25 other people who may or may not be remembered by the assistant stage manager who looked after us every Friday and Saturday night for 8 weeks running? Maybe then I’ll have done shit loads of work to make myself feel better? The thing is, I am also someone who is already booked up with various projects until the end of July.
…in the west we have this desperate need to be ‘successful’…
I met a man in his early twenties in Egypt when I was about 19, he was my tour guide, he worked very hard and appeared to be very happy, a hell of a lot happier than I was at the time (I was 19, it’s allowed). He told me that he didn’t understand why in the west we have this desperate need to be ‘successful’, to be somebody. He said that in his life all that mattered to him and his friends was to have a roof over his head, food on the table and hopefully at one point a beautiful wife, and if he enjoyed playing the banjo or being creative in some way on top of that, then all the better for it.
If someone had presented this argument to me out of context I might have argued that having a career and following your dreams was valuable to a flourishing life, but I didn’t have much to go on, with him there in the constant sunshine living the dream, and me working in a bar 5 nights a week to fund my various artistic careers that paid me nothing (or very little) but that I felt were absolutely necessary.
…we need to be reminded of what’s important…
I’m almost paying devils advocate here, because since getting back from Egypt I have worked really, really hard to get to a different stage in my career, and I am infinitely happy every time I have what I do validated by someone saying that they enjoyed the show. But if we ever feel negative, that we may never work again, or feel like we will never get to wherever it is that we feel is the end goal, that’s when we need to be reminded of what’s important. When I am eventually shaken out of it I always end up thinking back to that image; the very contented and kind Egyptian man and the miserable London girl. Sometimes I think that he had it all figured out, sometimes I just think it was the sun that made all the difference.