On Fairness

“Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies”

In a Thatcherite Britain, heavy with the ideological antipathy towards support for culture or anything non-vocational, a company I worked with made a successful application for arts subsidy. Big cheers all round. At the time it felt like a massive windfall, even though it wasn’t enough to pay anyone involved a reasonable wage for their considerable investment in time, energy and effort.

The grapevine is never so noisy as when you have nothing better to value stuff by. Always buoyant from the huge cheers of a mass audience, the making of our large scale work was a labour of love, not money. So it came as a bit of a surprise when the trickle down gossip was that some folk, people working in a field adjacent to our own, some folk thought our funding bonus was taken straight from their pockets. That they were the established artists in the field and that they deserved the money, the gift, the extra life.

Still, that was the 1990s. When the Prime Minister and her government breathed life into that lie that arts, culture and any study not directly driven towards the means of production was an unnecessary luxury.

Fast forward to today, when the arts and culture sectors (see, even I’m using the word sector, like its a box I can live in) are similarly branded. A not dis-similar view is bubbling up once again. Artists are picking apart others’ art. Not to find the good in it, not to examine it for its ideas and provocations, but to ask why it got funding and I didn’t. Or my friends didn’t. Or any number of people who make art that I like and that are much better than that didn’t get the money.

Well tough. The arts and cultural funding system isn’t fair, it’s officers are working overtime with minimal resources and no quality control. Its as much a lottery as the one the money comes from.

But don’t think that money is yours.