I think I speak for all artists and creatives across the world when I say that these past months have been a monumental struggle.
Covid-19 has seen the loss of so many jobs and the total depletion of our economy. In a time where people are making an effort to come together and support one another, the government seems to want to take us in the opposite direction. So many vital jobs have been disrespected and disregarded throughout this pandemic, and the creative industry is one of them.
I’m only at the very beginning of my career as an artist, and yet I have already felt the resistance that our jobs are faced with. I have been expected on multiple occasions to produce work for free, assuming that the payment of ‘exposure’ or ‘experience’ will suffice. After hearing so many stories like this from other creatives, I know this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is the lack of respect for artists.
It is too steep a climb to achieve success as a creative, and the effects of the recent pandemic have only made things harder.
We all, of course, received a hearty reminder of how the government values the arts when they launched a delightfully patronising ad campaign in early October. This campaign came around the same time chancellor Rishi Sunak advised that creatives across the country should ‘retrain’ and find other jobs.
Outrage and disbelief circled around the creative community, as well as images of the condescending advert. Artists, musicians, writers, and performers alike voiced their amazement at the government’s disregard for their careers.
Charlotte Bence of the Equity trade union put it perfectly in her response:
“Fatima doesn’t need to retrain – what Fatima needs is adequate state support as a freelance artist, support that so far she has been lacking. Freelance workers deserve better than patronising adverts telling them to go and work elsewhere.”
My concern, is there are some young artists out there that may listen to this ‘government advice’ with some seriousness. This is a time where a career as an artist is looked at as the ultimate uphill struggle and I’m worried that many artists might choose to turn and walk back down the hill. We need better support and a more sustainable future for Scottish Artists.
This, is precisely what the SEEING RED campaign is aiming to do. We want to start a conversation about the resilience and courage of the creative industry in Scotland, and help to create better support for all jobs in the arts sector.
So who are the Scottish Artists Union, and what do they do?
Set up in 2001, the Scottish Artists Union are a registered Scottish Trade Union, managed by a voluntary executive committee. They campaign for arts funding to directly support the arts industry, and offer memberships to artists, which includes access to a network of advice, guidance and legal support. This ensures people working in the creative industry in Scotland are better supported in their practice and are backed by a certified union during payment disputes and contract negotiations.
Working with the Scottish Artists Union on this campaign has been both exciting and encouraging. It’s a reminder that there are organisations out there dedicated to helping artists and strengthening the creative sector. SAU is just one of many Trade Unions across Scotland that are leading the development of the arts.
We hope to make a difference with this campaign, even if it’s a small one. We will be posting more information over the coming weeks about what the SAU are doing, and how you can get involved! To read more about the Campaign, go to https://www.artistsunion.scot/seeing_red
If you are an artist living in Scotland, I encourage you to get involved with the campaign! Follow the Scottish Artists Union on social media to stay updated and share our campaign images. Tell us what you’d like to see change for creatives across the country, and support as many local, independent creatives as you can, especially in the upcoming Christmas months.
And for fellow creatives of all disciplines: don’t go anywhere. The world needs us more than it knows.
Scottish Artists Union -
Instagram - @artistsunion.scot
Twitter - @SCOArtistsUnion