“Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.” Michel de Montaigne
No matter how released or infuriated we all may feel after the Referendum, or how much normal life has seemed to implode in the last few days, it’s what we all do now, individually and together, that will make the difference.
And in that, it is still a-n’s job to represent and support all of our artist members, and to provide an open line of communication, a voice, for all interested parties. We’ve been doing this for 35 years and we will continue to do so, and to work with, nurture and develop partnerships with like-minded organisations and networks across the UK and Europe for the benefit of our members, no matter how difficult that becomes.
In the space of a few days we have moved from the known, into deeply worrying and uncharted territory, and following the unfolding leadership crises in our daily media streams, it would seem that we have only the promise of further upheaval and discontent to come.
Solidarity is a word that has echoed in many a social media thread over the last few days, and I would agree and say that there has never been a more important time to be part of, and feel part of a strong collective voice – and to feel that it is heard.
As by far the biggest artist representative body with over 20,000 members in the UK a-n is your collective voice. It is vital that we listen to your concerns and represent your views at the highest level to ensure your voices are heard in these uncertain and turbulent times.
Over the last three years we have built strong lobbying skills and clout, taking our impactful Paying Artists campaign from a membership mandate, through rigorous research and sector consultation to raise it to the attention of the leaders and over 180 representatives of the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National and Green parties, as well as the DCMS, the House of Lords and arts councils across the UK. In broader advocacy work we have been instrumental in preparing a submission to the Treasury’s Parliamentary Spending Review in 2015 to ensure that the contribution of individual artists to the success of the creative economy was presented, and made a submission to the Culture Media and Sport Committee’s Countries of Culture Inquiry in May this year, firmly putting forward the perspective of the individual artist and the too often precarious nature of their livelihoods.
Here’s what we’re doing
a-n can and will continue to represent your views at home and internationally. We will continue to confer with our sister organisations across Europe with whom we have developed relationships during the Paying Artists campaign when taking your feedback and input to our consultations on fair pay to conferences and roundtables in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Berlin to name a few.
a-n’s recent membership of European lobbying group Culture Action Europe (CAE) has been welcomed, and is a partnership we are keen to develop.
Following the Referendum result, CAE said it will ‘stand with’ the UK cultural sector:
“Culture Action Europe is committed to serving as a bridge between the British and European cultural landscapes, both during and after this political separation” and “will remain devoted to the UK cultural sector, and will work to minimise the effects of Brexit on British artists, cultural operators, institutions and citizens, especially as regards freedom of movement and access to EU programmes.”
It is especially in relation to CAE’s focus on the two fundamental rights related to culture, arts and citizens – 1) the fundamental freedom of artistic expression and 2) the freedom of movement, especially for artists and cultural professionals – that we see our relationship with them ensure we continue to develop positive European links and opportunities of our artist membership.
Here’s what you can do
1. We have convened a special meeting of our AIR Council Advisors in London on 14 July to discuss implications for our membership and the visual arts following the Referendum.
We invite our members to email particular questions or concerns to our AIR Council representatives in advance of this meeting to [email protected] for them to be raised and discussed.
The key issues emerging through this meeting will be fed back to you, will inform our forward activity and support and contribute to the content planning of four regional roadshows we will deliver across the UK between October and March.
2. If you haven’t already, sign up to the a-n/AIR Paying Artists Campaign at www.PayingArtists.org.uk to add your voice to our lobbying power as we steer the campaign onwards to realise equitable pay in publicly funded galleries.
3. We can help you to campaign and lobby! Use the ‘Paying Artists Campaign Pack’ to plan approaches to MPs and opinion formers around pay, equality, diversity and democracy.
4. The Creative Industries Federation is hosting country-wide discussions and debates to explore the broader ramifications of Brexit on culture. Find out more and register your interest in attending these events at www.creativeindustriesfederation.com
5. You’ll also have an opportunity to attend a-n’s regional roadshows later in the year – we’ll invite members to discuss the specific impact you think Brexit will have for you and your practice, the visual arts and your networks, and share these with the broader membership.
Over the coming days we’ll be publishing the views of artists and arts organisations, commenting on how they feel the UK’s exit from the EU is likely to impact the visual arts. Follow a-n on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates, where you can also join the discussion and add your views.