Advocacy was a high priority for the Paying Artists campaign at the start of 2015 in anticipation of the general election in May. Work began raising the issue of fair pay for artists with MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates, as well as arts organisations, artists and the wider public.
The advocacy work got off to a strong start in January when the Earl of Clancarty, Nick Trench, cited the campaign’s research during a House of Lords debate on government support for individual artists. Acknowledging that ‘artists need to be remunerated properly for the work that they do’ he warned against pressure from government that could influence the kind of work artists were able to produce.
In spring, the campaign recruited 11 artists from across the UK to become Regional Advocates to raise awareness by engaging the public, local politicians and the arts community in the run-up to the election.
Highlights included a fly poster campaign in Cardiff, a relay race in Bristol, a giant cake parade in Liverpool and two discussion events: Not Paying Artists is Bad for You … Discuss at Eastside Projects in Birmingham, and a hustings event at Glasgow Sculpture Studios. Regional Advocate Ben Owen also produced a Paying Artists video.
There was good news in April, when Arts Council of Wales announced its commitment to ensuring proper and fair payment to creative professionals living and working in Wales. Then, in May, The Paying Artists campaign was raised by Claire Baker (Lab) and Fiona Hyslop (SNP) in the Scottish Parliament as a result of the cultural hustings in Glasgow.
Later that month saw the publication of the Paying Artists Consultation Report, which was informed by a period of consultation with the sector that had culminated in a survey that received over 2000 respondents in February.
The report demonstrated strong support for paying artists with over 90% of both artists and galleries supporting the campaign’s key aim that artists should be remunerated for exhibiting in publicly funded galleries. It also showed that more than 70% of galleries and 80% of artists want to see national principles and guidelines for exhibition fees established, and over 70% of artists and almost 60% of galleries want greater transparency about how galleries work with artists.
In September, Paying Artists was back on the agenda when Jeremy Corbyn, who subsequently became leader of the Labour Party, commended the campaign and proposed to roll out its recommendations across the cultural sector in his Vision for Britain 2020 arts plan during the Labour leadership contest.
Autumn saw a burst of activity on the international scene, when artists and AIR Council members Joseph young and Caroline Wright represented the campaign at a number of European conferences, including Status of the Artist: the International Association of Art Europe conference and general assembly, in Pilsen, Czech Republic, the Lithuanian Artists Association 80th Anniversary Conference in Vilnius, and Manifiesta in Ostend.
At home, Paying Artists sessions were led by regional advocates Sean Edwards and S Mark Gubb at Sluice_2015 and ArtQuest’s System Failure respectively. The former focused on fair pay for artists in the artist-led sphere, while the latter (co-hosted with Angela Kennedy from Artists’ Union England) was titled, The money problem: or, how artists could be paid more than £10,000 a year.
Our consultation, research, and advocacy work throughout 2015 have informed the development of a draft fees framework and guidance on Paying Artists. An initial draft framework and guidance was discussed with Regional Advocates and AIR Council at a Paying Artists campaign day and workshop at Eastside Projects in October.
The framework was then honed and a final draft will be released in the new year. The next phase for the campaign as we enter 2016 will be to test and develop it with the sector, with the aim of agreeing a final framework by summer.
More information on the campaign at www.payingartists.org.uk