Two years and three months ago, I moved to London and shook up my whole life. I was ready for an adventure, and boy did I ever get one. I spent a few months running around the city, seeing loads of theatre, getting to know people and companies and venues here, going to festivals in Edinburgh and Wroclaw, Poland…and then I realised how much of my savings I’d spent, and I got a job.
It was a temporary reception position that turned into 13 months of commuting to Chiswick 5 days a week – and still not making ends meet. So I got another job, this one a bit easier to get to, better paid…and permanent. Six months later, I realised how little theatre I’ve seen, and how little theatre I’ve done, and how miserable that makes me.
Since I graduated from university in 2007, I’ve had a series of full time jobs with ‘manager’ in the title, and I’ve tried to make theatre around that. I’ve thought of it as necessary, this ‘stability’ other artists are always pining for. I’ve thought of myself as a responsible adult, a functioning member of society. I’ve told myself to just get on with it, that this is the way the world works, and what else can you do?
It hasn’t been all bad. I’ve worked at some great companies that are doing interesting creative work. My colleagues have always been lovely. I saved some money. I had paid time off for holidays and sick days. But it hurts to have stories in my heart that need telling. It hurts to pretend to be a person who cares that the kettle in the office kitchen is broken again. It hurts to hide my passion for theatre for most of the week, and then try to find that passion again when the time and place are more appropriate.
So it’s time to shake things up again. I’m leaving my day job.
For years, I believed that I couldn’t possibly quit my day job until I was earning some income from my theatre work. But now I’ve figured out I’ll never get my theatre work off the ground while I’m in an office full time and coming home tired and discouraged at the end of the day.
All very well, you say, but isn’t there rent to pay? Yep. That’s why I got a job in the first place. But I’m going to find out how other self-employed artists make this work. It’s not glamorous, and it’s not stable, but I can do all kinds of things. Tutoring gigs. Catering gigs. Online transcription gigs. Workshop facilitating gigs. Graphic design gigs… Gigs. Not a job.
And yes, finally making an application to the Arts Council. Because for all my despairing that my theatre work is unfunded…I haven’t actually asked for any money. So that’s happening.
Fellow artists, I know it’s uncouth to talk about how we can afford to live in vibrant, creative, expensive cities. But if you have any insights, I’d so love to hear them.
I know it’s not going to be easy. But it’s going to be different. And I’m going to be in control of how I spend my time and energy and inspiration. And I’m going to make some things happen. Because that’s what I do. Wish me luck.