Thursday, 17 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week

It's #mentalhealthawarenessweek

Laura Bennett tweeted about the social care crisis facing carers here

Gingerbread explain why Universal Credit is failing single parents here

I get a lot of support from artists and other creatives alike for highlighting that I cannot volunteer, donate work, exhibit work for free, make work whilst not being able to pay the energy bills, but an equal amount of lies from those that voluntarily promote volunteering as "amazing" "fantastic work".
Here's why I find that untrue.
It's also because I was given negative advice by a volunteer at Citizen's Advice Bureau which is still negatively affecting my own mental health, and I'm not the only one that thinks vulnerable people are being expected to do work that should be done by a paid professional due to funding cuts. And that includes artists!

Toto energy bill viewed through a Disgustoscope

I was invited to a new studio space in Lincoln, called Mansions Of The Future.
The studio spaces are free for artists, which is good, and is obviously better than the ludicrous idea of artists paying for space, but there comes an expectation to commit four hours' worth of voluntary work, including workshops, which I would normally be paid to do. The one thing, in fact, that I get paid to do is now expected to be free, and there are those that are not only willing, but do it gladly. If it wasn't for this obligation, it would otherwise be a really good space.

This causes stress, because even if I were to spend time making work in the studio spaces, which I can do in my studio at home, I still have overheads of running a house, such as rent, food shopping, energy bills, broadband, phone, clothing, haircuts - I just got my hair done, it wasn't free - travel, birthdays, Christmas, etc - all my GUDP, so then on top of all the unpaid caring work I do, I'm expected to add four hours doing something I normally get paid to do!

Those costs are not going to disappear if I have a free studio space, and I think some artists considered free studio space as an actual payment. 
My safeguarding hat goes on for other artists with mental health issues.

Toto energy bill email with sad emoticon because I refuse to pay their pre-Christmas price hike

Why do I find this a problem?

When I ran Lincoln Artists' Network, we had free use of empty shop space, but when I asked other artists to come and get involved, they would say they had to work!! Many left Lincoln to seek paid work elsewhere, and weren't supportive of a collective ethos. 
I ended up doing tons of work for nothing whilst dealing with a mental health crisis. 
I know of some students with mental health conditions that would pay to use studio space at The Terrace, and then tell me how great that was!
It all went a bit One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and so I distanced myself from it.
Whenever I've run workshops before, I've always been paid money that has paid off erroneous gas bills in the past. The space at The Collection, or schools was free, but I still got paid for my work too.

Imagine David Brent going into The Office, doing a stupid dance, and saying to the staff "Wooo! This Office is free!! It's fantastic that you can work here for free, so Gareth is volunteering (cue Gareth looking quite zombified) to tell you all about how great it is, and how you can also volunteer four hours a week to do photocopying for other office staff, and the marketing, so I can go off to play golf".
In any other profession, workers get paid, not with free office space, but a wage, which they use to pay bills, put a deposit on a mortgage, pay for insurance, drive a car to work, all the normal things most workers require.

In many jobs now, it's underpaid zero hours contract work, so even in non-creative work, people aren't being paid enough - the DWP have sanctioned me for my non-arts job, so when the woman at the Citizen's Advice Bureau suggested I "get another job" it tipped me over the edge of tolerating these lies.

But for some (insane) reason, artists are treated like charity workers, like creative philanthropists that everyone else is somehow entitled to, as if WE'RE denying THEM their right to have our work for nothing, at the expense of our own rights to earn a living, and the arts also needs to follow the same guidelines as any other work for artists that are also carers.

This is the scale and complete madness of the health and social care crisis.
There are even carers that work in care homes part time that can't cope and wish to give up part time paid work because it doesn't pay enough to manage their caring roles, and they're expected to pay additional costs for services to support the person they care for.
So imagine you're an artist, and you're expected all the time to volunteer, or donate work to fundraise for a charity, or other artists are going "I give my work away", which then feeds into this false idea that art is free.

Neither I, nor my son, receive any financial help for mental health or caring from any charities that fundraise, not even in times of crisis.
Carers First always tell me they have no funding.
Carers UK highlight the problem here

I am unique, in that I have experience of economic abuse; that was how I became a single parent, and that my son was also subjected to emotional and financial abuse when he was diagnosed with his illness by a struck off mental health nurse, who fraudulently claimed benefits for him, causing financial problems that we still have not recovered from. 

And when he was suicidal, he didn't call The Samaritans, he called me, and with help from the police, he came home, and he is alive today because he is cared for, with my GUDP, and for this, we're expected to survive on fresh air.

What would make things easier or better for artists that are also carers?

What I require is a regular income for the work I do, both as an artist, and as a full time carer; like a wage. Not Universal Credit.
Enough to pay all my household expenses as they are, but more than this, as the house we currently live in is too small for our needs.
My son spends most of his time at home coping with depression and anxiety, and spends most of his time in his room. 
So ideally, we require a bigger house - we used to live in a larger house when I was a student, but due to the rogue landlord, we were evicted.
On DIY SOS they often convert houses for kids with physical disabilities, but young adults with mental health issues also need stable homes that help to reduce anxiety.
We either need a mortgage or social housing.

I either need a studio space at home that I can shut in to work in; sometimes I daydream of converting the loft into a studio space, but as I rent, that would be an expensive job for my landlord, the rent will go up, and my income will remain too low to afford it. 
Or I could make use of this free studio space, but I still need to be paid to run the house, and my GUDP, so I wouldn't be able to do free workshops.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

This Woman's Work

All of my motivation was destroyed completely a few weeks ago, by a woman from Citizen's Advice telling me to "get another job".
I'm thinking of giving up my zero hours contract work, which was taken on to mitigate against the bedroom tax, to focus on my self-employment and my caring role, as it doesn't earn enough to cover any shortfall, or live without benefits support.
It takes time out of my practice as an artist, and I'm not better off because of it.
It IS my another job, which I thought would pay the bills, but apparently doesn't.

Luckily, Sandi Toksvig can explain to the DWP how caring is unpaid labour.

Imagine a world where artists give up their another jobs and actually get paid for being an artist.


This week it was also suggested that I pay £300 per month for some space (with what money, I have no idea) and work for free until I make enough for a better space.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Recovery Space

This week, Carers UK are campaigning for Recovery Space - to highlight the financial impact of caring for someone with an illness or disability.

Most carers comment that we would prefer to be paid - many cite the living wage, in my case, it should still be a 30 - 40k salary.

Many arts organisations should be doing more to safeguard artists against the abuse we're left to suffer.

Monday, 15 January 2018


New Years Day meal
Here you can see how I cleared away all work and set the table for our New Years' Day meal, with food bought from supermarkets, not from a food bank, champagne, fresh flowers, and candles. 
This is my lifestyle choice.
I'm a bit of an old romantic, bohemian, but not a freeloader.

Last week's Carer's Meeting after the New Year focussed on safeguarding.

Here's a really good blog about how artists can safeguard against exploitation within the arts.

My sister got me a Sketch-A-Day sketchbook, but how on earth do I draw every day whilst on too low an income for my role as a carer?
Realistically, it's financially unviable without a regular wage.
I've started to illustrate what MY lifestyle choice would be. A keyring given as a present from one of my trainees acts as a metaphor - a glass slipper - Chromeo wore orange stilettos in their video, so do they fit this shoe?
I ended up colouring in this hand with a highlighter pen.
My dream house
In my carer's assessment, I was told that this house is adequate for our needs. But it isn't. We need a spare bedroom for family to stay when visiting, so they can help us out more often. My depressed son isn't able to go and visit them, as his anxiety makes travel impossible considering I don't drive. 
If I look at most houses to rent, the sort of house that would be adequate is above the LHA rate for Housing Benefit, so I would require a good salary for part time work to be able to afford it. So I decided to speculate - if I wasn't subject to the constant financial abuse of the welfare system and the arts world, what would be my ideal home?

I'm thinking about lifestyle choice here. The house I currently rent was the last place I could've chosen before we would've become homeless due to a previous rogue landlord. It isn't ideal. And our circumstances have declined since we moved here. 
So I broadened my search to look for 4 bedroom houses for sale in Lincoln.
As it isn't my lifestyle choice to rent privately - if I had a choice, I would be earning a salary as an artist and I would be able to afford to buy my own house.
With a separate studio space, a contemporary kitchen and bathroom, not one that hasn't been replaced since the 80s.

It's good news that Labour have finally upheld renter's rights to protection from rogue landlords, but that's just the start of the end to the constant financial neglect and no wage / low wage economy.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Carer's Rights Day

Carer's Rights Day event at Lincoln Golf Centre - apparently we have rights, I have yet to discover any more about them.

How cute. Unfortunately, this value is apparently available as slavery, in unpaid labour, for some inexplicable reason, set at £62.70 per week

That's if you're "eligible", which I'm not.


The energy bill keeps changing. I can't cope with it. It's affecting my mental health, as I no longer believe any of the suppliers are telling the truth any more. With respect of price increases. I think I'm paying for usage, then they arbitrarily increase the price. My income is not increasing to reflect the increase.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Turner Prize


Fancy Footwork custom converse #womanspreading at Feren's Art Gallery in the Turner Prize exhibition.


I really wish Ferens Gallery staff were paid, instead of working for free as "volunteers". They were very friendly, and full of recommendations, advice etc, but I didn't feel compelled to go and see everything, and it's because I know they're not paid, and are part of the slave economy exploited by the creative industries.

Unpaid work.

My favourite to win the Turner Prize

Article 27 of the Human Rights Act

Lubaina Himid's work, formerly seen at Nottingham Contemporary

Absolutely no irony here - artists are now the slaves.

The audience is also a slave. 

"Comment is free" - although it isn't if you're an artist.

The slavery of looking at an image of Thatcher - this is costing me £322.39 in cuts.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

BBC 6 Music #ArtIsEverywhere - except in Grantium applications of course, and Universal Credit.

This week, I won a ticket to attend BBC6music's #ArtIsEverywhere Breakfast Show recording with Mary Anne Hobbs live at Feren's Art Gallery in Hull.
So amid organising things for Birds Yard for the Christmas Market (see Illustration blog), I frantically booked a train ticket and a last minute hotel, and headed the long way round the Humber to go.
(Of course, if I were paid properly, I could afford to run a car, it would be an hour's drive across the Humber bridge).

Arriving in Hull, UK City Of Culture
It was an early start after a sleepless night, up before 7.00a.m. to arrive at Feren's Art Gallery, where this year's Turner Prize nominees are exhibiting work in anticipation of the award. I've never actually been to the Turner Prize exhibition before, it's a wonder if I catch it on TV, so it was a good excuse to go and visit.

Gold signs are all the rage, apparently.

This breakfast was not free, it was £1 for some #juice

I got the Juice! #Chromeo

My Turner Prize entry.

Maryanne Hobbs doing her live radio broadcast

Maryanne Hobbs with artist Sam

Maryanne Hobbs interviewing Dominic Wilcox

The Feren's Art Gallery team provided us with some materials - a piece of paper and some charcoal, although there was a shortage, so the audience were asked to break it in half to share around.
Banana Legs
My live drawing of Dominic Wilcox - he got up just as I was about to draw his legs, so he got banana legs instead, unfortunately. I'm sure he could invent a way of walking with them!

Maryanne Hobbs tweeting and interviewing Nick from Blast Theory
Here is Maryanne Hobbs interviewing Nick from Blast Theory, whose work I haven't had the luxury of seeing in Hull, as I've been busy doing non-art things, such as attending Carer's Rights Day and earning money in non-art jobs where I'm not allowed to take photos or anything creative.
I remember meeting Nick when Blast Theory had their Frequency Festival piece in Lincoln, before I realised that Frequency Festival is a total failure for artists here in Lincoln.

charcoal, not all that good for drawing faces!

Just did this to see what it looked like!

At the coal face, I should be on strike #JeremyDeller

When all the poor artists have been eradicated by austerity, most probably.

That's Nick from Blast Theory and Jason Bruges, both male digital artists.
Women digital artists are priced out of even contemplating doing any work nowadays, by funding organisations that reject proposals, and failure of things like Frequency Festival. Those that do, are often just doing it for free, or worse, paying to do it.

A discussion with David Bowie's photographer. Again, he said that he got to work with David because he was a bit cheeky and asked. Easy to do if you're a healthy white male with no caring responsibilities at all, and you get paid to do it. Not so easy if no one wants to pay you, and Universal Credit.

You can't see him, he is hiding behind Maryanne Hobbs!

There he is!

Philip Selway of Radiohead about to perform some live music

A girl drawing a unicorn

Nick Tandavanitj and Dominic Wilcox
Nick Tandavanitj from Blast Theory and Dominic Wilcox plotting world domination or something. I'm just behind them, but with no funding.

Perhaps they should get together and sort out the Grantium application so that I can get funding.

A live doodle of Philip Selway performing music for BBC 6 music breakfast #ArtIsEverywhere

Selfie with Maryanne Hobbs :-)

Radiohead's keyboard #TheFunkLady
How I left without stroking Radiohead's keyboard is a mystery - mainly that I hadn't really had any breakfast, and needed to go and get some food!