I wrote in my other blog of my new role as an unpaid carer for my son, who struggles with depression.

I have been unable to update my old a-n blog here since it was featured, so I figured it’s time for a fresh start and am trying to work out how to keep going forward.

Am I or am I not an artist? Other artists will tell me I am, but I haven’t considered myself an artist for over a year, as I’ve been forced out of the profession by lack of properly paid opportunities and pointless bureaucracy.

You may have seen the Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 with Ade Adepitan highlighting how the benefit system abuses disabled people, including those with mental illness.

I no longer know which role I’m doing at any given time. I haven’t applied for Carer’s Allowance, because I still cite that I’m an artist by profession, which feels like a lie.

I still keep applying for funding without success, and I mostly withdraw my labour unless I’m offered proper remuneration, which is rare.

My son was diagnosed with depression back in 2013. It’s been a long journey full of great distress, and not something I felt had any relevance to my practice, I wanted to keep it separate. I still do.

I never aspired to this role, I never asked for it, and now that I have had no choice but to take it on, I now have another unpaid job to add to my non-CV of apparent “scrounging”.

Most of my time is spent reminding my son that he needs to make a doctor’s appointment, for a while I would go with him to the doctor’s, checking and re-checking dates and that he’s doing what he needs to do against all manner of pointless bureaucracy.

Keen to avoid the abuses of the DWP, he was clearly not prepared to seek work, so we applied for ESA instead, which was a process as shown in the Dispatches episode – we were told we weren’t allowed to know what criteria they based their Nurse Ratched assessment on, an assessment that completely ignored the doctor’s diagnosis that he is unfit for work. So we had to go through the appeal process, and our appeal was upheld at the end of March.

The very same week that Work And Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith resigned.

Portrait Of Ian Duncan Smith With Bandaged Nose was painted in the style of Van Gogh, after Self Portrait With Bandaged Ear, has been selected to be exhibited at the Institute for Mental Health via City Arts in Nottingham coming up in May 2016.


1 Comment

As a carer, it’s hard to take time out of the constant form filling, bureaucracy, mind melting stress of the health and social care crisis, but one thing I have been fortunate to achieve is respite funding to visit family.

I normally don’t do any creative work when on a respite break, but it would’ve been silly to not go and see some work I’ve been aching to see for a while, and take the opportunity to explore the sculptural delights of Esbjerg!

So I visited Abba: Supertroupers and Adapt To Survive: Notes From The Future at the Hayward Gallery (not Lee Bul!), The Hive at Kew Gardens, and Mennesket bed Havet, in Esbjerg, Denmark.

All detailed in  my blog.

This previous blog post outlines issues affecting artists working as carers for those with mental health conditions for #mentalhealthawarenessweek

 


0 Comments

Another good article by Sandi Toksvig.

I get criticised for writing a-n blog posts for free, so I know I’m being silenced and pushed out.

Another exploitative “opportunity” here.

I genuinely don’t know who I am now. I can’t produce any art, without funding, I feel like a fake doing a non-arts job to pay the bills, and in trying to find out how to give that up to focus more on my creative practice, bad advice given by volunteers at Citizen’s Advice Bureau was to “get another job”.

That was after yet another job application rejection and a couple of rejected funding proposals.

This caused my mental health to go into crisis mode. I have looked at The Samaritans. I don’t even think phoning them will be worth my time. All they do is listen. They can listen to the ringing of my phone with all the debt collection agencies harassing me for money the Arts Council refuse to award.

But nothing will be resolved.

I went for a respite break to visit family, which did give some relief.

But now I’m back to trying to work out how to get into arts therapy and avoid being coerced into more voluntary stuff while I still have some debts that need paying off.

Good news this week, as the Breathing Space campaign has been successful.

But it doesn’t go far enough to address and safeguard the fact that artists that are carers cannot realistically live off ever-decreasing welfare, Universal Credit delays, PIP application form filling, DWP ignorance and outright financial abuse, Grantium form filling, Grantium rejection after rejection, and maintain a working practice and manage a household as an artist with little or no income.


0 Comments

Carer’s UK are campaigning for Recovery Space – money and mental health. In this blog, for those that are always keen to support artists with mental health conditions, but not artists that care for them, this explains the difficulties we face, and why it’s impossible to practice working as an artist faced with such economic exclusion.

For International Women’s Day, I joined the strike. I think I’m on strike fatigue now. The art world carries on regardless, and seems to give no thought to artists that have been neglected to the point of all abandonment.

Sometimes, I think of vague ideas of ways to make work that requires minimum input, maximum return. Should I exhibit the smashed glass broken because I do 300% washing up? Should I pay a tenner to submit our failed PIP assessment for an Open exhibition?

City Arts emails me with an Open Call for their latest Institute Of Mental Health exhibition, but Portrait Of Ian Duncan Smith With Bandaged Nose still torments me in my studio, unsold, with mounting debts piling, and an unknown wait for the PIP review, my motivation to make something new with no funding is at absolute zero.

The CAB suggest we could make a new application for PIP. (whilst waiting for the DWP to reassess their failures).  And to keep a daily diary. Do I look like Anne Frank??

No.

I’m being realistic here. I’m not dressing up caring as being all nice cups of tea and biscuits, because it isn’t.

Yes, I need time for myself, but that time is valuable. And it needs to be paid for, so for arts funding purposes, make sure you read the blog to understand the effect caring has on artists, and sign the letter to try to mitigate some of the impact.


0 Comments

2017 was mostly spent making Grantium applications that failed.

I was successfully awarded some respite funding, so I have enjoyed a lot of time out, not doing much work at all due to lack of funding.

I recently attended a Carer’s Rights Day event, which didn’t seem to say much about Carer’s Rights.

However, I was fortunate enough to be given a ticket to go to BBC6music’s ArtIsEverywhere live Breakfast Show broadcast at Feren’s Art gallery in Hull, and went to see the Turner Prize exhibition.

Some thoughts on the Turner Prize exhibition.

Another waste of time involved the bureaucracy of a PIP application and rejection, but with this ruling, we may receive this additional income next year.


0 Comments

Last Thursday I hoped to seek insights into sustaining a practice at the a-n Assembly event in Leeds.

Artists were separated into small groups to participate in small discussions. I met with a curator from Tetley and a lady that works at Castlefield gallery in Manchester.

The first discussion was Care. I have absolutely no idea how to keep practising whilst trying to keep everything else going on an absolute pittance of an income, and the question of slavery is still ringing in my mind for anyone that thinks I can just keep working for free.

There was a question of how to make all the work visible, and the results of a poll about all the extra work freelancers do.

This comic stuck in my head

And the consensus is to stop doing so much, take time out. But of course there’s no one to take over when things get too much for me.

For me, the most useful information was to be reminded to apply for Access costs in my current Arts Council grant application.

The separation of work and home is harder when you work from home, and then others appear and say they want to start a studio group, get rate relief and charge a lower amount. Any amount is too much for me, as no one is paying me for my time.

Let me be absolutely clear on this. Without any funding or other additional income I cannot even contemplate making any more work.

Absolutely not. I am not a slave for anyone else’s career goals.

There was a session in the kitchen. All the artists were expected to contribute to making the evening meal. So it wasn’t actually free, it was made with free labour. Of course, asked to pick tomatoes from the vine, my thoughts turned to all the poor, sorry farmers in South Lincolnshire, whose supply of cheap labour has dwindled since Brexit now that all the migrant workers have diminished or gone, and an image of an old Brexiteer marshalling artists to slave away in the fields, instead of producing any artwork, appeared in my head in dystopian awareness.

After all, food preparation used to be Mum’s job, for which she got paid properly to do.

I used to get paid to be a waitress, but I was forced to quit that work many years ago, mainly because it was soul destroying, and I now have the burden of three times the washing up at home, as I have two sons that refuse to do it. Therefore, I hate the washing up. When I arrived home, they had made themselves food and sure enough, there was a whole bowlful of dirty plates.

If it were a business dinner, we would have caterers to prepare the food, and the labour would be deferred to others, thus providing non-artists with work too.

There would most likely be a dishwasher.

In the later discussion about sustainability, it seems other artists have had the same conversation with lecturers that half joke that artists will always be poor.

I’m sorry, but it’s wholly unacceptable. My mention of Article 27 of the Human Rights Act brought nothing but silence.

This morning’s reading this article. There must be countless carers out there to whom the same issues apply. One thing’s for sure, things need to change, and change now.


0 Comments