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Arts Jobs Suspend Unpaid Job Listings

Posted on 09 August 2010 by Jake Orr


The Arts Council England (ACE) recent suspension of advertising unpaid jobs on the ArtsJobs.org.uk website comes as a huge blow to young people who are looking to further their work experience within the arts industry. As a young person who relies upon the advertising of unpaid work to further my own experience and working connections within an industry that is difficult to break into, I am somewhat disappointed through this complete suspension.

Last week the home page for the ArtsJobs website included a notice that “due to the high volume of adverts for unpaid opportunities that contravene Minimum Wage Regulations we are temporarily suspending adverts for unpaid work, work experience, voluntary roles or internships.” Their message was furthered by stating they are working on “developments to the website that will help users to post genuine volunteering opportunities only and [that] stay within Minimum Wage Regulations.” but do they really realise the full extent of what they have just done?

The ArtsJobs website has been for many months now recorgnised as a valueable resource for young people (and for many people out of work who are ‘older’) to gain information easily, free of charge on opportunities through voluntary working roles within the arts industry. What the ArtsJobs website became was a place for organisations and individuals working within the arts to seek out people who are actively interested in gaining experience on projects, performances, work experience through internships, (the list is endless I’m sure) to a large audience who want and need this information.

ACE’s recent decision to separate their twitter accounts into paid work and unpaid work, shows the sheer demand for making distinctions between the paid and unpaid. Their naming of the account as ArtsOpps goes further to show exactly what this service was aiming to promote: opportunities. The suspension (whilst appears to be temporary as they improve their services) is without a doubt a dreadful mistake that is having a wide spread impact within the arts world and by people trying to gain experience.

A fine example of how the ArtsJobs listing service having helped to develop opportunities for young people can be seen with this very site. A Younger Theatre is supported by a group of 11 volunteers, nearly all of whom came to apply for positions to work and write with myself from adverts placed on the ArtsJobs website. As a completely unfunded website the lack of payment for writing is valued against the experience of attending press nights, reviewing shows, improving journalism skills and giving a strong sense of working as part of a team – this is valuable in an industry swapped with underpaid work and needing experience to work professionally. AYT is a place for opportunities, but no where near as a valuable resource as the ArtsJobs listing site is.

Naturally there is an important issue which shouldn’t be ignored: the fact that ACE are trying to deal with as suggested by the “contravening opportunities” in relation to the “Minimal Wage Regulations”. However it just makes me question how you can impose such regulations upon opportunities which are mostly going to be unpaid due to the nature of the work itself? With cuts taking place across the arts (see #artsfunding), and causalities such as Future Jobs (see our article here) already hit – the promotion of work experience/internships within the arts is going to be unpaid because there is a lack of funding for it otherwise!

Internships are valuable. Work experience within the arts is valuable. The ArtsJobs listings website for unpaid work is the most valuable resource for any young person wanting to gain experience within the arts: FACT.

Can ACE not see this? Minimal Wage Regulations should naturally be in place by organisations who can and should afford to pay the person involved in an opportunity, but the large majority of companies/indviduals advertising on the site geniunely need assistance by the army of volunteers who are equally eager to gain experience for their CVs. With the Edinburgh Fringe currently taking place it makes me wonder just how many companies used the ArtsJobs service to gain core team members in one of the most life changing and hardest festivals in the world.

Young people engage with the ArtsJobs listings website, just as much as those looking for opportunities and those giving the opportunities – they rely upon this service. Whilst ACE attempts to sort out the issues with “Minimal Wage Regulations” I hope they realise the damage they are causing through this suspension.

Until the suspension is lifted you might be able to find opportunities through websites such as GumTree (although I’m sure this is more full of ‘minimal wage’ problems than ArtsJobs!), GetIntoTheatre, or through watching twitter time lines closely.

You can read The Stage article on this topic here.

AYT is dedicated in supporting young people in the early stages of entering the theatre industry – if you have an opportunity that could further this please get in touch with us and we will gladly post it for free on the website. AYT also has a comprehensive list of theatres that operate internships that can be found here.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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Taking Notes: Is the National Theatre living up to it’s name?

Posted on 09 July 2010 by Lois Jeary

National Theatre: A middle-class nightmare?

There is something deliciously quaint about Terrence Rattigan’s ‘After the Dance’ at the National Theatre. It captures the dying days of an all-drinking, all-smoking generation, longing for their lost youth and stumbling tipsily toward the horrors of war. The London flat is spacious, the dresses are glamorous and the accents are perfectly clipped and proper. In short, it’s a period piece.

Or is it?

For when the curtains close and the house lights come up, that world of privilege, or at least very refined accents, is all around you.

I am sure that the National Theatre is aware that its audience remains overwhelmingly middle-aged and middle class, and yet I would hope that it is not complacent about it. I recognise the important contribution made by people who are able to and enjoy spending their wealth on supporting theatre and the arts; however, in the long term the affluent returning audience may not be enough to defend the National Theatre in particular, and theatre in general, against charges of obsoletism.

To be fair, the National Theatre is trying to attract a more diverse audience through schemes such as the Travelex £10 tickets; Entry Pass, which gives free and heavily discounted tickets to under 25-year-olds (and which is now vulnerable to being axed after A Night Less Ordinary was culled by the recent funding cuts); the Discover programme that invites people to learn more about the workings of the theatre; and the Connections scheme, where youth groups from around the country stage specially commissioned plays by leading writers. Its upcoming programme also demonstrates an interesting mix of shows, with the unique and dynamic ‘Earthquakes in London’ and ‘FELA!’ standing out. The Square² also shows cutting-edge outdoor theatre from international companies and is cheap enough to take the risk thanks to Priceless Previews, where you pay what you choose at the end of the show.

However, despite these initiatives, I rarely see any evidence of real progress being made in getting younger people, or people from different socio-economic backgrounds, through the door and into the stalls. Other theatres, located not that far away from the middle class haven of Southbank, seem to be doing a better job of engaging different audiences through access schemes and the type of works staged. Through its Two Boroughs project the Young Vic provides free tickets to residents of Lambeth and Southwark, which goes some way to engaging a diverse, local audience. Likewise the Theatre Royal Stratford East stages plays targeted at the local community and bills its Youth Arts Studio Season alongside the rest of its productions.

You could argue that it doesn’t matter if National Theatre audiences are a sea of the same faces month after month. If other theatres are better at engaging and catering for different audiences then leave them to it, and allow the National to remain a comfortable haven of chinos and twin-sets. However, it is precisely because the National Theatre is so important and good at what it does, thanks to its tremendous space, resources and reputation, that it is necessary that it does everything it can to shield itself from the criticism that it is irrelevant to society as a whole. If recent funding cuts are just the tip of the iceberg, then the case must be made for why institutions such as the National Theatre have to be protected from more savage attacks to their finances. That argument will be a lot easier to make and win if theatres are seen to be less elitist, and start to actively serve local communities and a wider audience.

Either way you look at it, attracting a more diverse audience is a necessity. If you don’t see any problem in leaving the National Theatre to be run as a purely corporate institution, funded by ticket sales to people who can afford whatever it charges, then kindly compare it to all other private businesses. If any company turned around and said ‘No, we’re fine with the customer base we’ve got thank you, we don’t need to appeal to anyone else’ it would be corporate suicide. Conversely, if you feel that theatres should be supported by the state in order to pursue innovative and interesting new works, then what publically funded institution in its right mind says ‘We’ll take the public’s money thanks, but we’ll only serve a small, wealthy proportion of them’? Theatres provide a public space and service and so should be supported out of the public purse; however, in order to justify this they have to try and serve that public as well as they can, which with a little imagination and investment is perfectly possible to do, without hurting existing audiences or artistic standards.

I appreciate that the National Theatre is taking measures to diversify its audience base, but I long for the day that noticeable improvements start to be made. All theatres have a responsibility and reason to attract a more diverse audience, but perhaps none more so than the National, which must serve society as a whole and not just a privileged few. The clue is in the name!

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How the Arts Funding Cuts Affect Young People

Posted on 18 June 2010 by Jake Orr


2009 was the year for young people in theatre and the arts. A pioneering year that saw the launch of A Night Less Ordinary Scheme, Future Jobs and Find Your Talent all promoting and helping to get young people actively involved with theatre and the arts. However today these outstanding opportunities have had their funding cut and are likely to cease functioning from the governments drastic reshaping to reduce the expenditure within the country.

As an unprecedented supporter of organisations that push to work with Young People in the arts, we are deeply saddened to hear that these schemes are to face the lethal blow that the Government is currently dealing in its extensive cuts. The Arts Council England (ACE) have been forced to make drastic decisions, and whilst all 880 organisations have had to take a 0.5% cut in their ACE funding, some of this seems to have a greater impact on organisations linked extensively with young people.

How will this affect young people?

The cutting of A Night Less Ordinary (ANLO) will see theatres no longer being able to offer free tickets to those people under the age of 26. It will also have an impact on both the National Theatre and Barbican Theatre who have incorporated ANLO into their Entry Pass and FreeB schemes which allow them to give free and discounted tickets to young people.

The greater impact will be essentially a slight decline in the number of young people attending theatre due to the now impending costs. Regardless of discounted tickets for young people, the prospect of a free ticket would be far more appealing than having to pay. ANLO benefited those people that couldn’t afford to attend their local theatre or indeed any theatre.

The purpose of ANLO was to get more young people into theatres and engaging with the vast amount of culture available free of charge. The Department of DCMS has now left a gaping hole by removing the bridge that ANLO allowed access for.

The Future Jobs scheme set up in 2009 allowed for people between the age of 18 and 26 who had been unemployed for more than 6 months to apply for jobs within (amongst others) the creative industries. Theatres and arts organisations were given a grant to cover the cost of hiring an individual or in the creation of new jobs that would given workable skills to young people.

Future Jobs got young people off job seekers allowance, into the creative industry and gave them lifelong transferrable skills to further their careers and engagement of the arts. Sadly, another loss through the cuts by the Government, which will have a direct impact on young people finding a way into the increasingly difficult theatre industry. How does a young person trying to gain experience in the arts survive when the majority of experience led opportunities are unpaid internships?

People off job seekers allowance, into jobs learning transferable skills, to then further their careers and seal their futures. How could this scheme not benefit young people? Cut, Cut, Cut.

Finally we have to turn our attention to Find Your Talent, a scheme run by the Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) whose other work includes Creative Partnerships. Find Your Talent enables school children and young people to engage and discover the arts. By nurturing the creative talent within these young people they hope to expose what every child/young person has a right to experience: culture, and a rich and diverse culture of that. Creativity that allows for problem solving, self-discipline, teamwork and communication to be nurtured in a creative environment.

The Arts Funding Cuts were always going to be harsh. There is no point in shying away from the fact that savings had to be made, and despite the need and investment that funding the arts can bring, the cuts are only the beginning of what could be a tough year for theatre and the arts. Young people have had it good for the past year, and we certainly hope that those that have been part of the projects or who have lost out from the cuts are going to keep supporting and working with and for young people.

The cuts are affecting us all, but let us not forget that young people are our future, and by cutting valuable resources and through making it increasing difficult for people to engage with the arts, the more we will thirst for culture and be denied it. Let’s hope 2010 offers hope for young people, and that the funding cuts don’t do away with all of young peoples resources.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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Tweet No More

Posted on 18 June 2010 by Jake Orr

Have I lost the ability to tweet?

Twitter is a huge part of my life. I won’t deny it – I’ll even admit that I might be slightly addicted to it. It’s been a way of expressing myself, has offered the largest method of me networking humanly possible in the theatre industry in a short amount of time, and has even landed me a relationship – not bad for just over a year’s worth of tweeting some several thousand tweets. But is my time up for the ‘micro-blogging’ site?

I feel somewhat at a loss when it comes to Twitter these days. A certain something has left the site and in return the same material is being churned out again and again. Have I exhausted all those that I should and do follow? The people now springing up on twitter are those who are trying to sell their Edinburgh shows, those catching up on the twitter band-wagon somewhat late and a whole lot of spam. No wonder I feel tired of it all.

The problem goes a lot deeper than those that are using Twitter now, it goes into theatre marketing, into the mundane “I’m doing this now” that I tweet each day, and into the lack of innovation. I am finding more than ever that I am using twitter to talk to people, to those ‘friends’ I am forming through my 140 characters (and for those of my followers that also follow the same people I do they get a lot of the same conversation talk too). Am I just forming meaningless conversations without actually informing my followers?

What happened to using twitter as a method of informing, engaging and acting?

Despite declaring that my tweeting days might be over through a lack of innovation or indeed I face the tweet of dialogue too much, it is all a little ironic. Let me explain:

I completely tore apart Such Sweet Sorrows (The RSC and Mudlurk Romeo and Juliet on Twitter) and it’s breaking of twitter conventions and rules despite the fact it was innovative when it came to play over those 6 weeks in our Twitter time lines. Surely this is one of the most innovative uses a theatre company has come up with so far beyond the ROH’s Twitter Opera for a online audience? Even my constant highlighting of when marketing in and for theatre the need for dialogue on Twitter seems ironic now when all I do myself is create the dialogue just without the justification.

I have also discussed numerous times how Twitter is a constantly evolving organism and arts organisations have to be open and ready to adapt to this. Naturally twitter is still developing in its early years, and we are still finding where it best fits into our work but also into our own personal accounts and personalities. Despite this there is a constant nagging doubt in my mind that arts organisations have twitter ‘figured out’ and as an audience we are still plugging into the marketing stream and accepting it for what it is. We all know why arts organisations use Twitter, it’s marketing, it’s the possibility of bums on seats, but what about the innovative methods of engagement that Twitter can be used for?

If indeed Twitter is a tool to evolve with, then I, as a person who uses it for my own personal uses as well as for companies I work with on a theatre marketing basis, I have to learn to adapt. I’m unsure as of yet as to what that might mean, but the feeling that I’ve lost my ability to tweet beyond mundane is currently haunting me and the twitter persona’s I have.

Do I just continue to tweet a former shadow of myself, or do I call it a day and hang up my tweeting fingers and actually put them to better use?

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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