Monday, February 05, 2018

Open letter to David Leddy

Dear David Leddy,

I just wanted to send you and your company some love and support for your latest show.

I'm writing to you publicly because it seems important at this time we show solidarity to each other.

And because, when I think about it, this could be a letter to all of our colleagues whose funding has been cut. My heart goes out to everyone.

It's just I know you, and like you, and totally respect your work.

I see you open on Saturday, so you'll just be going into production week.

Production week is stressful at the very best of times, and these must be the worst of times for you.

I find Creative Scotland's decision to cut your funding completely incomprehensible. I admire your work profoundly: it's humane, totally creative in its use of form, not afraid to take crazy artistic risks, and it consistently matters.

I can't really deal with funding application forms; I find it profoundly humiliating, somehow, and trying to fill them in always makes me feel very ill.

It's silly of me, I know; and so I always admire people like yourself who can keep their integrity, consistently produce good work, and somehow make the system work for them.

You absolutely must be a model client of Creative Scotland. Which makes their decision all the more absurd.

But I will not simply abuse that organisation. The people I know who work there are devoted, intelligent, committed and eager to help. The fact that they so consistently come up with such bad decisions I suspect has to do with the fact that what they are being asked to do is impossible.

When it was set up, the Arts Council was a progressive and immensely beneficial organisation. But it no longer works. Partly, as we all know, because it is never given enough funds to get any near meeting the demands made upon them.

But I suspect also because we all need a new model of support. The reason our kind of theatre needs support is not, as so many people seem to think, because we are muddle-headed artists who have no idea about money. Quite the opposite.

Our problem is that we are a labour intensive craft trying to operate in a capital intensive economy.

And so if we priced our services in order to cover our costs our ticket prices would be so high that no-one could afford to come and see us.

Doling out inadequate grants to meet the shortfall simply no longer works. We need to start thinking about ways of changing the economic circumstances under which we operate. We could perhaps start by looking at the tax system; we could perhaps start by thinking about a form of universal basic income for arts workers.

Let's hope we can use this debacle as an opportunity to get together with each other, and with this government that seems to value what we do, and see if we can work out something better.

Meantime, my dear, this is scant comfort to you.

All you can do, all any of us can do in the end, is focus on creating the best show you can.

I know it will be good. I can't wait to see it.



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