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Today is a bit momentous –  my first day as a 100 % fully self- employed artist.
A couple of weeks ago I heard that I had been successful in gaining funding from Bradford organisation Two28 to run a participatory art project in Bradford. This has given me the opportunity to take the leap and give up my part-time catering job of 11 years to be fully freelance. Saturday was my last day of paid employment – and I have to say, it feels GREAT.

For many years I have been relatively happy with the balance between my employed and freelance status – having a regular part time income has meant that I have been able to take time to develop my practice, pick and choose what freelance projects I go for, and not have to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills. My job was very close to home  -a 5 minute walk –  and there were other benefits too – my other half also works there and many of the staff are friends – so although pay was not good, and the work routine, it felt until fairly recently that it ‘worked’
In recent months however, low pay and poor working conditions has made the job a lot more stressful, frustrating and demoralising  – basically no longer do-able –  so I’ve been looking for an ‘out’. Ultimately this situation has been good (though I didn’t actually believe this until this morning!) as I’ve been catalysed into being more proactive in seeking funding/other sources of income: and  as a result, the funding from Two28 has come through.

I’ve been funded to deliver a participatory art project called Wur Bradford, which will explore themes of exchange, kindness and reciprocity with people in Bradford through creative dialogue, play and community building.

The project has developed from a two week residency I did in a stall at Bradford’s Oastler Market last July. The project, called ‘Wur at Oastler Market‘, (‘ Wur’ in my native Scotland means ‘we are’ and ‘our’) asked market visitors to collaborate with me to explore the questions

What is the relationship between I and we?
How can creativity connect and empower us?

From this residency I realised the value of a neutral, welcoming public space where people could make, share ideas, and connect with others to make positive change; and I wanted to develop this model further and to build a more sustained project. Wur Bradford will be responsive and process- based –  dependent on the ideas people bring to it, but activities will include workshops, skills shares, and space for discussions and collaborations with individuals, groups and organisations. My aim is for the space to be a haven for people to talk, imagine, create, connect.

At the moment I’m in the process of sorting out a public space for the project to take place in – I am hopeful I’ll be able to secure another market stall with the support of Bradford Council, who supported my residency last year- and then the project begins in May. I have to pinch myself regularly to remind myself I am finally ‘HERE’ – the place I wanted to be – fully freelance.

I’m already thinking about the future –  I plan to  apply for further funding and support from other sources and organisations so that Wur Bradford can continue longer term. I’m aware I will need to use my time strategically in order to stay afloat, and refine my focus.  At this point, on this sunny Monday morning in Yorkshire, I don’t know what the future will bring, but I’m feeling so energised and excited about the possibilities – giving up my job feels like the best thing I’ve done in years.

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