Written by Ash
Laura and I have been working together, and with some amazing artists, for around a year now. At the end of 2019 we spoke about formalising our collaboration as a company of sorts. However, when Covid-19 hit the UK during the forth week of maternity leave, planning for the future and testing new ways of working seemed unimaginable. We spoke together about needing to re-train; to move away from an exploitative sector which undervalued labour and perpetuated precarity; to find a role in which we could be remunerated appropriately, not only financially but sometimes with the words “thank you”; to find a position in which having a skillset as organisers, project managers, bookkeepers, writers, caregivers, fundraisers, educators, allies, academics, is recognised as a deeply political and creative endeavour.
We spoke like this because we were tired.
We were tired long before Covid-19, of course, but the almost instant sharp focus of injustice, inequality of access and fear that the pandemic has enabled, although not unknown to us before, has certainly amplified the bitter taste in our mouths.
Throughout this lockdown, a time without a present, as Arundahti Roy has said, we have supported one another in voice notes, zoom catch-ups and emails. As despair turns to action, as it almost always hopefully can, we have come to realise that this is very much not the time to leave our work behind. In fact, how dare we have had the privilege to think we could just walk away. It is instead exactly the moment in which we should be thinking about coming together. It is a time to collectivise, to share resources and to support one other.
We both applied to ACE’s Emergency Response Fund and were each given £2,500. Like for most, it doesn’t cover lost earnings for the next six months or the untold lost potential earnings for the next two or more years. In real terms it doesn’t even cover the hours spent undoing work already done, as tour bookings fell apart, funding applications were halted and projects downsized dramatically overnight. Truthfully I will use this money to eat, pay my mooring fees, buy nappies for my kids, and possibly buy a better hand cream, but we are also using this money to pay ourselves for the labour of establishing The Uncultured.
The Uncultured takes our shared interests of artist development and social change and allows us to think holistically about how we produce, curate, facilitate and advocate. We are interested in supporting fair, kind and caring practices as a form of strength and resistance to historical injustices. We want to shout loud and ask questions and ask people to tell us why we might be wrong. We want to support a shift in the way freelancers and institutions work together for their mutual benefit. We want to hold on to some of the pain we’ve all felt in this moment to help make sure it can’t happen this way again.
So…I guess we’ll see…but maybe this is the time to launch a new arts producing company after all?