Gender and all that: where are the magic bullets? ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Gender and all that: where are the magic bullets?

Ms TN is back in Melbourne listening to the gentle patter of the rain, after a packed couple of days in sun-drenched Sydney. The major event was, of course, the hotly anticipated forum on women in theatre at Belvoir St, where I was part of a panel of "powerful women" (thank you, SMH, my family is now making Dragonball Z noises again) ably conducted by journalist Monica Attard. The panel - see holiday snap below - consisted of me, Gil Appleton, a Belvoir St pioneer and integral to many feminist arts initiatives of the 1970s and 80s, emerging director Shannon Murphy, Bell Shakespeare's associate director Marion Potts and the Sydney Opera House director of performing arts, Rachel Healy.

As everybody knows, the issue is to do with main stage seasons. It's not endemic through the theatre culture - independent theatre, the crucible of Australian theatre culture, has nothing like the same issue. As in every profession, the problem exists in the high-end, well-paid, high-profile jobs.

Everyone on that panel was nervous about the event. Partly it was a desire to do justice to some of the complexity of the question; partly it was because of the heat that has been around much of the discussion. This was naturally exacerbated by Caleb Lewis's withdrawal from the Philip Parsons Young Playwrights Award in protest against the "radical politicisation" of the prize, which is announced simultaneously with the Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture and which that afternoon was announced first, due to the controversy. I am still struggling with Caleb's stand. Does he mean that theatre ought not to be politicised? Is he suggesting that the male-dominated status quo is apolitical? Does the mere discussion of the marginalisation of women really "taint" everything around it? (I get sudden flashes of menstruating women banned from churches).

Ironically enough, Caleb was a co-winner with Tahli Corin, prompting some cynicism around the traps, and not unincidentally, putting Tahli in an uncomfortable spotlight. Which, I may say, she negotiated with considerable grace. But this very response illustrates some horns of this hydra-headed dilemma. The mass reaction to the Belvoir St debate has been a restless and impatient demand for concrete "solutions": among others, Crikey's Steve Dow was scathing that the "ethereal seemed ascendant over the practical". (Although, unlike Dow, I do recall an insistence on mentoring.)

I guess it's possible that the Parsons prize committee was in part influenced by the on-going debate - by a consciousness that women ought to be encouraged as much as men, and that this ought to be pro-active - although this was hotly denied by Neil Armfield, who said the plays were chosen entirely on their merits (and went so far to explain what those merits were). Yet is it such a bad thing if the committee was forced to think about the issue of gender and act on those thoughts? Isn't such action precisely what the unsatisfied are calling for, when they demand "practical" solutions, even quotas? But as soon as it's even perceived to have happened, all hell breaks loose: the prize is "compromised", notions of artistic integrity are in shreds, and women are back in their familiar roles of second-rate wannabes, merely riding the coat-tails of male genius.

Which is to say, there are different issues in the arts to other professions. Theatre is not only an "industry": it is a culture. Artistic merit is a central and thorny question. It's often used by artistic directors and others to evade the knotty questions - all candidates, we are routinely told by main stage companies, are chosen on merit, which given the figures can leave us to reflect on the general mediocrity of womankind. On the other hand, artistic merit is, in the arts, a real issue. That's why it can be so successfully used as a smokescreen: if artistic merit isn't the first aim of our striving, what are we there for?

But how do we measure merit? It is unarguable that merit is read through gender. And that is heinously complex: women can be as rigorous defenders of the privileges of the status quo as men. Their mere presence won't necessarily guarantee equity: as has been pointed out many times, even though women are meagrely represented in main stage creative roles, they mostly run our theatres in managerial roles. More, as the Brontes well knew, the same writing will generate different responses if it is perceived to be by a man than if it is thought to be by a woman. And I'm afraid that, however we like to congratulate ourselves on being more advanced than the 19th century, that is still the case.

The "ethereal" ("ethereal"?) discussion that Dow was so critical about was precisely what I thought valuable about the debate. As the distinguished feminist Eva Cox said to me afterwards, it was "one of the more vigorous discussions about dominant cultures and the difficulty of even identifying them let alone shifting them". (And added acerbically, "John Huxley missed that bit in today's SMH! Why am I not surprised?")

The discussion around gender (as it is around any sort of endemic bigotry) is conditioned by the fact that we've all been here before. Quotas have been tried: they simply created a lot of resentment, even from those supposed to be the beneficiaries, who justly felt their achievements were demeaned; and they also generated a lot of bad, "ticking the boxes" art. This kind of solution is in fact one of the major complaints about the funding processes of the Arts Council in Britain: the focus moves away from making great art to social engineering. I think the major failure of quotas or any other simplistic "solution" is that they permit people not to think: they provide a simple answer that evades the real work.

The real work is changing the complex of ideologies that situates the white, abled, middle class male subject as the normative consciousness, and which constitutes anyone else as Other. The real problem for women is that we are considered to have a gender, while men can be neutral. Men can speak for all of "mankind", while women (or people with the wrong-coloured skin, sexuality, body) speak only to their own kind. The "human condition" has, for centuries, been considered to be a male state.

And the real issue for theatre is that protecting the privilege of a minority means that its culture stagnates.

Marginalising 53 per cent of the population means limiting access to a huge pool of ideas and energy. As any ecologist knows, a population without diversity loses genetic vigor and eventually dies out. Why, to take one example, is the MTC so worried about its aging subscriber base? Is it because of a blindness towards the realities of a large part of their potential audiences? And it's not as if these energies aren't already present. You just have to get out and about in Melbourne's thriving independent theatre scene. I'd be fascinated to see gender figures for non-mainstage theatre: my bet is that gender inequity there is small to non-existent.

In other words, if theatres don't recognise and deal with this broader issue they won't survive. What is required, as in so many things, is clear-sighted leadership, a recognition of the problem that goes beyond token gestures that don't actually challenge entrenched positions.

No way could a single panel discussion come up with quick-fix solutions. There aren't any, and we're fooling ourselves if we think there are. How, in an hour-long discussion, does one justly address a hugely complex problem that permeates not only the entirety of Australian society (where men still occupy the majority of the top jobs and top pay), but which reaches far beyond our sea-girt shores? Remember that Original Sin happened when Eve tasted of the Fruit of Knowledge. We all know we only scratched the surface.

But that doesn't mean that action can't be taken, or that nothing can be done. Identifying a problem is always the first step to doing something about it. But let's get that right first, or else we'll still be stuck in the same circle of hell decades hence.

Picture: From left: your faithful blogger, Gil Appleton, Shannon Murphy, Marion Potts and Rachel Healy at Belvoir St Theatre yesterday. Photo: Dean Sewell


Mark W said...

As one who was there and had more than a passing knowledge of the falsity of the comment that 'when you are a lawyer, you are qualified and therefore don't have to prove anything more' (but see the recent announced appointments of Judges and QCs in Victoria where, if merit is truly the criteria, the women are blasting the blokes off the map), I wanted but didn't ask two questions:

What's the pathway for directors to become main stage directors about anyway?; and
In any case, what would a new theatre look like where the thrustingness to direct traffic is on display when everyone first gets together to put on a show (let alone when very substantial and desirable resources are at stake) no longer quite worked in that fashion?

I suppose we're all expected to know it when we see it but that's not to say that there can't be a bit of chicken, egg, carrot and stick in the mix.

Maude said...

Thanks for the overview Alison. I'd be interested to know what Neil's criteria for merit are... so I can reflect as you suggest on the general mediocrity of women artists and their proposals. Having been advised by an Oz Co apparatchik recently to do some research into how each company makes their programming decisions, because women really don't sell themselves or their ideas well enough, it's clear we really need to pull up our socks. Perhaps we should start injecting ourselves with testosterone to increase our aggression and sense of deservingness. Heaven help our husbands and children then, when we come home after a long day of pitching ideas to our buddies and social networking.

As the redoubtable Lucy Freeman says, if it is true that women are so much less able then do something about that. If it's not true, then do something about that. Doing nothing is not good enough any longer.

And in passing, what on earth is Mark W talking about? Can make neither head nor tail of it.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Mark - the first question about pathways for aspiring directors/practitioners is maybe for others to discuss. And like Maude, I can't make head nor tail of your second...

Hi Maude - to be honest, I can't quite remember the virtues that Neil discussed in talking about the qualities of the plays the Parsons committee chose for the award. One was their poetic expressiveness, but of course I'd remember that.

Re the testosterone: I'm kind of wondering if you're not picking up on my irony. Or if I'm not picking up yours.

Just to be clear: I'm not suggesting for a moment - and certainly wouldn't dare in the company that filled that room, which included among many others women such as Gale Edwards, Lindy Davies and Eva Cox - that women are less able than men.

Mark W said...

I think it really is as simple as the question: Wwhat kind of a theatre would we have in which the gender of the director elicited the response 'so what?'" That's not to say it would be an un-gendered or dis-gendered theatre, it just might be a theatre different from the one we have now.
Collaborative theatre-making in Australia has often affected the task of the director and modified it to one of being the external craftsperson of the gaze. Indeed, auteur-directors are relatively thin on the ground for the last twenty years except in the state companies. Freelancers don't last if they take that stance - or at least not until they've established themselves in the safety of a company of peers first; witness Barry K at Gilgul and the blokes in the generation before.

Mark W./.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Mark - I really think there are places to see what a diverse theatre culture might look like. I don't understand your point about the lack of "auteur directors" outside state companies: off the top of my head, auteur artists new & established I've spotted outside state companies over the past few months: Tanya Gerstle, Daniel Schlusser, Ming Zhu-Hii, Bagryana Popov, Brian Lipson, Anne-Louise Sarks, the Black Lung gang, Mary Sitarenos... which ignores dance, of course...

Borbs said...

It was interesting to hear Simon Phillips on ABC National over the weekend. Find online link below:

It was interesting to hear Kate Cherry mention that male directors may suffer from the dreaded peacock syndrome. Simon's response is not only curious in its use of grammar, but sounds more than a little suss in its logic. What do you guys (and of course girls) think?

“I’m very interested … about the idea that male directors are, kind of, show-offs. Because I think that there may be some kind of really considerable issue in that respect. I’ve been puzzling over the last few weeks about it and trying to work out why. If you look at the directors that have come to the surface recently … they get noticed critically and publically and by people running companies because their work has a certain, kind of, visual, conceptual 'panache'. And, I’m going, why is it? Is there actually something about the, kind of, peacock nature to the way that men approach directing that is in fact different on some level from the concerns that women have in directing a play, which means their inner world is fighting for kind of panache and ways of getting noticed that they tend to rise to the surface more easily.”

Do women directors need to go and find a different animal of choice, and infuse that into the character of their directorial approach? Bring on the lioness and cougar ladies, and watch those peacock feathers fly!

Tracy Mann said...

Dear Alison, I have never responded to a blog before, I think there is a name for my kind who read but never participate, so please be gentle with me! I was at the Philip Parsons Lecture and it certainly was a long overdue discussion, or rather long dormant topic that has found it's legs again. I hope. It should be a weekend forum of discussion, workshops, brainstorming etc, rather like Rudd's 2020 Summit but with actual do-able outcomes with follow through action. Talk AND action. Call me old fashioned.
But I do think something that really needs to be addressed by us a a community is 'where are all the theatres?' Our opportunities as jobbing practioners to make livings with dignity has diminished alarmingly. You say there is a thriving independent theatre scene in Melbourne, but how many members of the audience really understand that 'independent' means co-op, profit share, working for no money? This has been a dirty secret for too long. The fact that many of my peers do not even know that B Sharp is run on a profit share basis is hugely concerning to me. The calibre of performers donating their services provides a delicious smokescreen for a pandemic that has now unfortunately become the norm. Particularly for younger artists who readily accept the need to work 3 jobs to support their 'amateur' careers.
In no way should performers, writers, directors, designers be discouraged from putting on a show Mickey and Judy, but please can we be transparent about the conditions in which these artists and companies survive.
I aplogise for using your blog as a platform for the bee which has become a hive in my bonnet, but my letters to the editor have frequently been ignored.
Best wishes.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Borbs - thanks for that. I feel kind of flabbergasted, given there are plenty of woman directors around - from world famous auteurs like Ariane Mnouchkine to little known emergent directors like Kate Davis - who demonstrate that women aren't just interested in drawing miniatures and have plenty of visual panache. Not that there's anything wrong with miniatures - Jane Austen is one of my favourite writers. But Kathy Acker and Christina Stead and Emily Bronte and Djuna Barnes and Gertrude Stein and Christa Wolf were all, last I checked, women too - and wasn't Henry James deeply interested in miniatures and interiors? He was lucky he wasn't born female...

It's just one of those gendered furphys that makes life harder for ambitious woman artists: it means that in a way their work is simple not seen.

Hi Tracy - the term is "lurker", and it's a perfectly respectable thing to be, despite its sinister sound. And yes, this is what that comment box is for!

Thanks for those observations (and yes, plans for actual strategising and further discussion are indeed on the drawing board - everyone agrees that the issue needs more space, time and action).

Your point about the fact that most culture is subsidised by artists is an important one. It was the major concern I took with me to the 2020 Summit; but sadly, the idea that artists ought to have their labour acknowledged by economic reward doesn't play well to politicians alert to the "arts bludger" meme. That won't change until Australia starts to value its cultural achievements, and that won't change without a lot of clever advocacy, lobbying and outreach which can give the facts to the lies that are strewn about blithely by the anti-arts brigade. The Australian public as a whole is quite hospitable to the idea of culture, but a lot mitigates against their whole-hearted acceptance, including a lot of misinformation.

Given the impossibility of generating a peak body for the arts - yes, we have dozens of little ones - I feel a little disillusioned about the possibility of that happening any time soon.

Doesn't mean it's not worth fighting for, of course.

Tracy Mann said...

Oh Alison, you'll never get rid of me now! Yes it is terribly frustrating being an Australian artist in a land of philistines, politically speaking, and we have been fighting for decades to be represented on our stages and screens - 'TV Make it Australian' campaign in the 70's is just one example.
Dragging our feet to our nation's capitol, cap in hand, is exhausting. Our hard working union officers and delegates have had endless forays up the Hume to speak to disinterested Ministers of our plight. But one of my issues with the 'independent' scene are Cheap Tuesdays, where you can 'pay what you can as long at it's $10!' to see some of our finest working for nothing. Try sharing THAT profit!
But I am glad that dialogue has started about the 'other' issue. We are such a small community and we really need to take care of each other and stay strong and hang in there. Our stories will always need to be told, and someone will have to play a botox free Grandmother, and that, just quietly, will be me!

Alison Croggon said...

Botox-free grandmothers are GO!

As a sidenote: the Malthouse's Tower seasons, which showcase independent companies and artists, is a paid gig. I do think established companies should pay artists appropriately. The fact is that without co-ops or the other features of a gift economy, I wouldn't get to see a lot of brilliant theatre. Which doesn't mean it's right.

I still think the French system of an itinerant workers allowance is enlightened and practical - and it works, accounting for a lot of the cultural richness there - but the global political mood has shifted markedly away from such schemes.

Alison Croggon said...

A postscript: some independent theatre is Melbourne is in fact subsidised through special project funding, applied for by the companies, sometimes under the aegis of larger institutions. But that doesn't change the basic reality.

Even if you're paid it's a challenge to survive as a freelancer. One main stage directing gig or commission a year might land you 12 grand if you're lucky - not a lot if you need to feed yourself, let alone if you have children. Which makes the question of who gets the full-time jobs even pointier.

Anonymous said...

Some independent theatre in Sydney is subsidised as well - but the fact remains -artists largely work for nothing in this field and administrations who farm out the support all have weekly wages.

I hate this. I am a theatre artist. I try to forget it and rise above it.

I don't know how comapnies that support these so called "alternative" programs sleep at night (eg, sydney: griffin, company B).

Big issue.

I no won't put on work at those venues -- I'd rather be "independent"

Alison Croggon said...

"Independent" on this blog also means "unpaid". I do value the autonomy it gives me, quite fiercely in fact, but that's the price of it. Most of the work I do that I value most has no apparent economic value. Or only has economic value for other people.

Yes, income is the major dilemma faced by all artists, and not only in this country and time. In many ways we're more comfortable than many others - at least the weather is mostly warm.

Anonymous said...

How can they sleep at night, you ask? I'm not sure why you blame them. Mostly, they have created programs where otherwise the theatres would be dark. Remember what it was like at Griffin before they formalised their program in 2004 or so? When Griffin wasn't doing its own shows the space was just put out offer commercial hire. I did shows there under both systems. It was horrible when we just rented the space as "true independents", as you might say. All this non-artistic shit to deal with. Now Griffin deal with most of that.

As I understand it, and I've taken the trouble to try and understand, when companies don't have enough resources to fill the theatre with their own work all year (another issue entirely), they have a choice. Leave it dark, hire it out commercially, or create programs like they have now. Good on 'em for choosing the later.

The companies don't owe you a living. Why should they pay you? It's not their work. They have their own work to deal with.

Let's drop the victimhood.

Maude said...

Dear Anonymous, the issue is not with companies making the venues available to independents, that I agree is salutary. The problem is when those independent productions, supported through the access programmes like B Sharp, are then implicitly claimed by the mother company, so to those who don't know, Company B is doing lots and lots of shows in a year, and 'employing' so many fine artists. The problem is that it becomes normal for artists to work for nothing in high profile settings. And when working for nothing is normal that's amateur. We want a resilient and brilliant professional theatre culture, but what is being created is a resilient and brilliant amateur theatre culture. And the problem with that is if you have a family or responsibilities you can't work for nothing. So you don't work. The resilient and brilliant predominately amateur theatre culture we are creating is populated by young people who don't need to earn as much (yet) and people with personal fortunes (when I say fortune that is comparative) or other means of paying the rent/food/school bills. (Spouses who earn good money? Patrons? A well-chosen high performing share portfolio? Just trying to figure out where I should be directing my energy instead of frittering it away on making the work.) (Too many parenthetical statements in this comment). Is it OK that the profession of artist will pretty soon only be available to the young and the rich? And which gender then, I wonder rhetorically, will predominate?

Lucy Freeman said...

In our theatre culture where state theatre companies do not have representatives viewing a broad range of work across the sector, but rather recruit their directors from other major performing arts board companies, or only notice directors who inexplicably, in a flurry of peacock feathers, “come to the surface”, perhaps it is worth considering quotas as the most expedient way to get women directors into the system.

Given how few professional directing positions there are in subsidised companies, competition will always be tough, so even with affirmative action strategies would not the selected directors from 'the margins' be those who display "merit"? If it were policy to appoint women in key creative positions, companies would be forced to widen the scope of their search and may familiarize themselves with a range of artists (with or without peacock feathers) who have ‘panache’. At the very least we may get rid of the annoying question “where are the women?” I for one am not too concerned about whether it would be demeaning for ‘quota recipients’. I think the current situation is far more demeaning to women who are trained, experienced, educated, talented, ambitious etc.

Alison, you say quotas have been tried and failed. Where and when was this? I would love to know more about the outcomes. This link is to an article that explores the need for a quota system in the French government.

Food for thought.

I totally agree that this issue is complex and that leadership is required. I fear there is only so far a group of directors can take this issue unless someone in a position of authority embraces the concerns and begins to tackle them on our behalf.

Before I sign off - a couple of quick responses:

Tracy- the Australian Women Directors Alliance (AWDA) has proposed a weekend forum for 2010.

Maude- the situation that you describe at B-Sharp also exists here at the Tower (Malthouse). Contrary to a statement on this blog, The Tower is not a paid gig. It is largely a co-op venue. I elected not to stage a show there in 2009 when my budget projections showed that the guaranteed costs to venue staff (such as techs and FOH) outvalued those of the door dependent performers and key creatives.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Lucy - are you saying that artists at the Tower are not paid? I am certain it's not a co-op situation there, but will check.

Re the quota thing: the classic example is Playbox in the '90s. Programs were put together with the primary idea of ensuring various kinds of quotas, enough of this, enough of that, gender parity etc. Instead of producing a bunch of exciting art (with a couple of exceptions, although I remember the most exciting thing I saw there being put on in the foyer - directed by a woman, btw) it produced a parade of dreary, earnest, badly written plays. It didn't work for audiences - Playbox percentages were, as Julian Meyrick showed, around 30 per cent.

There were a number of things at work here: the nationalistic drive for all-Australian work a major one, as well as a narrowly defined idea of what plays were. But it did show the dangers of shifting the emphasis away from making art to social programming. As, on an entirely different scale of order and deadliness, does Stalin's Russia.

As soon as you move the judgments of art to extrinsic weightings, you are in danger of those becoming more important than the art itself. And in my view, that is a real danger of quotas, especially if they are locked into funding. I leave you with that dilemma: it is worth it if a woman gain the world, if she loses her soul?

The real challenge, as I said above, is to change the structured judgments that close off possibilities: whether it's because an artist is black, or female, or disabled, or whatever. Not to change the artistic ambition. When that happens, as in Back To Back, the work of Sarah Kane, Wesley Enoch's Black Medea, Bangarra, what you get is thrilling work.

Stephen Armstrong said...

Hi. There have been many stimulating ribs along this string but I only have a minute so will stick to clarifying Malthouse Theatre's programming and remuneration policy. All productions programnmed by Malthouse Theatre (and hence included in the Season One or Season Two brochures) are fully professional and remunerated as such. This includes Tower Theatre seasons. The majority of Tower Theatre productions are invited remounts from the independent sector. All artists and technicians are fully remunerated from the moment they enter the space - the whole concept is to relieve the artists of technical, management and marketing responsibility as well as the finacial risk of the presentation which the Company assumes. Where possible, additional investment might also be offered for reworking the production ahead of the season. When not programmed or being used for development or Education activities, the Tower Theatre is available for rental. Stephen

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks for the clarification, Stephen. Lucy, I'm assuming the show you're talking about wasn't part of the Malthouse's programmed season but a proposal to independently rent the space? I was just referring to the Tower season in the Malthouse brochures.

Lucy Freeman said...

Alison and Stephen sorry for the misleading comment re Tower Room. As you suggest Alison I was referring to independent productions in the Tower as opposed to those programmed by The Malthouse.

In the Tower, The Malthouse programmed 3 shows in season 2, 2009, and 1 in season 1, 2010. That’s four professional shows in a twelve month period.

This is not a criticism, just an observation in support of Maude's comment- made as part of a wider argument - that despite appearances/assumtpions, there are artists working for nothing in high profile settings (such as Belvoir B and The Tower).

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks Lucy. A key part of Maude's point was that Company B was programming those co-op productions, and therefore gaining lustre from unpaid artists. The Malthouse clearly sets a best practice standard here in terms of providing a showcase for independent theatre.

On its website Belvoir make quite clear that the B Sharp season is presented "without guarantee of remuneration", so you can't accuse it of being misleading. There are a few companies here like Theatre Works or La Mama which offer a similar umbrella, curating seasons of independent work and providing the space, profile and other institutional support to enable artists to get work on (some have their own funding, many do not). And a lot of good work gets put on this way that otherwise would never be seen.

I agree working for nothing is an unsustainable situation, but it will continue as long as arts funding continues at its present level. As I said above, unless something shifts significantly in the broader culture, I can't see that changing anytime soon.

Alison Croggon said...

...An afterthought: if we are to criticise companies for putting on unpaid work, this does highlight a dilemma. La Mama, the most productive company in Melbourne in terms of shows, obviously couldn't program the diversity and number of shows that it does if it paid everybody who performed there equity rates. Neither could Theatre Works, Fortyfive Downstairs, the Store Room, Red Stitch and many other venues and production houses that drive Melbourne's theatre scene. Should we be demanding that any funded company provide equity pay rates? Should artists withdraw their labour if they don't get paid properly? (You can do this in France, but I'm not sure that here anybody would notice).

Paying people properly means that less work gets shown. In 2009 B Sharp programmed 15 shows, the Malthouse programmed 5, including its three month residency for My Darling Patricia: the difference is clearly in the wages. If there weren't any independent scene, there wouldn't be a Tower season at the Malthouse, the Full Tilt gig at the Arts Centre or what appears at the MTC's Lawler Studio, because there would be nothing to put on. But all of it is subsidised by unpaid labour.

Just ruminating here. I don't see a solution.

Lucy Freeman said...

I don't see a solution either and agree that the old cv would be pretty thin if it were not for staging shows at La Mama and in supported venue initiatives such as those offered at The Store Room and Theatreworks.

A small adjustment to one aspect of the 'system' (that will not change the world but might help few artists out financially) might be to increase awareness of the need to value artist remunerations in small to medium funding schemes.

For example, I don't know if others have experienced this lately, but I am observing a tendency for local government arts / cultural support schemes to fund the venue component of projects and deny the artist payment component. When the financial support received from a council is used to pay costs to a venue within the municipality- money never actually changes hands.

This may be a small gripe, but it another example of how tax-payer funded assistance ENABLES creative work, without necessarily subsidising the artist contribution.

However, I totally understand the points made here about needing to value any schemes that assist the staging of independent work, for without them where would we be?


Alison Croggon said...

That local government policy sounds like a bit of creative accounting - a kind of Clayton's arts budget!

This whole issue is about valuing the work of artists full-stop. Like everything else, it's complex. But it would be nice if authorities took that work as seriously as, say, accounting.