Some thoughts about the economics of being a mother and an artist.
I have just spent the last 3 weeks making a show. It’s a joyful and thoughtful deconstruction of circus performed by 5 strong, powerful and wonderful female circus performers. Because of get-ins, techs, bank holidays and we made the whole show in 2 weeks and 2 days. There is still loads of work to be done before we take the show to the fringe but I am so fucking proud of what we made.
Now I am back home in rural Scotland and have been thinking about the economics of making a show and being an artist who also has a small child.
I earned £450 per week for each of the weeks I was away.
That is the minimum that I hope to earn for a weeks work and would love to hit a point in the future that I can earn more but for now that is what I get for my own projects (I normally charge £500 per week for someone else’s project although there are always exceptions if the project is super great and they have no money which happens quite often).
It’s a weird position to be a not really emerging because I have received some funding and done some projects but not really be mid career or whatever comes next.
But I was also paid nothing for the months of work and effort that it takes to get the project to happen. Again maybe as I get more experienced one day I will be able to pay myself for that too.
But this is the complicated bit.
I spend £250 a week on childcare that I don’t usually pay for.
Now the wee one is 18 months and climbing up everything and running at full pelt it would be super unsafe to have him running around in the same room as a Cyr Wheel and Hair Hanging. Although I have seen a toddler bring the most joy possible to a rehearsal room he can’t be there the whole time as I am torn between being mum and being the director and normally end up being shit at both. But I can’t claim the childcare as an expense! This makes no sense!
So for 3 weeks work I come away with £200 pw and £600 for 3 weeks work.
I am so proud of what we made but how do you eat and pay your rent, fuel and phone bill and everything else off £200pw?
I know that this is nothing new and that many people have been making art and being parents for years but I guess that this is my new experience that I am sharing.
The week before I worked on a new show for Buzzcut festival. I was paid £100 and I spent £250 on childcare so that week cost me £150 to make my show. I’m not trying to call out Buzzcut they are artist led and I would walk to the end of the world for something artist led and it was a choice to make a new piece of work for the festival but what I have learnt in the process is that I can’t afford to do that. I think I though I could find a magical free childcare option(sometimes called grandparents) but I couldn’t and I now know that I can’t afford to show my work at Buzzcut any more. And they are just one of many places.
If I am not making money to live off then it is so easy to feel like my career is some kind of vanity project? Maybe it is? I think about this all the time.
I think(I mean I have to fucking believe!) that there is some value in the world beyond money. That my work is worth seeing and means something to people. That the more I make the better I am getting(or worse but making things that are shit sometimes is okay too thats part of the process) and that I should be able to keep developing and making new things while touring older work. That work made by mothers is under represented and is important .
Its weird I was so so so worried when I was pregnant about my career (particularly having just graduated as a circus performer and that at that point I was performing in my own work because I was cheaper than anyone else) but actually the opposite has happen. My career is going great and I have done shows at some theatres I love. I have made some work that I am so proud of and received my first funding from Creative Scotland, I also now run a youth circus in the rural village that we live which is something I always wanted to do. And this is all so great but financially it doesn’t add up because I have more work and less money than ever before. I know I am never going to be rich but surely I should be able to get by?
I know that I choose to have a baby etc etc but I guess the crux of it is that at the moment we are all fighting for our funding and getting any project off the ground feels like a huge achievement. And it is. But work made by mothers is important.