Friday, 9 July 2010

Spoken/Written Comes to the End of its Funding

I - Spoken/Written

Just one thing after another (and of course all one really wants to do in weather like this is go and sit in the Sea! to cool off). Now that Spoken/Written has come to the end of its funding, it was time to contact the Arts Council, as the funding was in part to cover the period of changing landscape and uncertainty in the regional lit scene. Many things have happened over the six months since the last smaller award was granted; Arts Matrix was bought by Plymouth College of Art, Cyprus Well got a new director (Tracey Guiry of the former organization) and started up its blog and calendar, the Literature South West website was closed/archived in favour of the aforementioned; and all in all, the scene changed a great deal. It was now time to see what the funders thought, and whether or not Spoken/Written still (as I believe it has) a place worth preserving on the lit scene. But the Literature and Visual Arts Officer was away on maternity leave - the one who had seen and been aware of Spoken/Written from its heart sank. Especially when central office said that there was no one who had yet been appointed with her caseload... However, mercifully, they were wrong, and my calls through to an answerphone message with a name I hadn't recognized (before asking at central office) were replied to! So I rang back in turn, and there WAS someone who had taken over the role! Thankfully, I explained where things stood...and heard that meetings were to be held over the coming month, and that things might be clearer after that.

So - as things stand, it doesn't look completely hopeless, but having said that, there is definitely no guarantee that the Arts Council will fund Spoken/Written a fourth time. Its vision was always of independence for the Bulletin, and I have tried to persuade folks to contribute a small sum to the service if they value it. But while a number of really public spirited and wonderful folks have given money, and tried to cover the shortfall left by those who have given nothing, not enough people have paid for their subscriptions. Forwarding? as it's an e-mail newsletter. Too many newsletters in the inbox, to remember which ones were the ones that were useful? Hobbyist approaches by those who like to keep 'in the loop' but aren't quite committed enough to bother with paying for it? There are many reasons or possible reasons.

II - Three Roles...

Whether an alternative source of support can be found is also still an open question. And all the while the admin and uncertainty sap energy away from other vital tasks such as research for the newsletter itself (I usually like to pack folks off with a bumper edition for the summer break), and my other jobs - selling our books, doing workshops and performing at festivals and events. (All much harder work than they sound! There's a very good reason why 'everyone' who can write a book or perform a story doesn't publish and sell their books or become professional storytellers!) Just as 'everyone' who has a craft a skill doesn't end up running workshops... No one ever tells you of all the getting there, getting back, packing up, storing stuff, carting stuff, finding homes for piles of materials, some really messy (pva/plaster figures, anything with ivy or holly - ouch!), some that need soaking beforehand (willow), collecting materials (from tanner, cobbler, theatres), writing up evaluations for lots of events and workshops for funders/organizers, loads of admin (for every festival think two forms per person you're taking), phonecalls (nerve wracking if you're a bit shy), dozens of e-mails, thanking, explaining, confirming, requesting, reminding, drawing attention to....setting up stalls, taking down stalls, putting up marquees of various types (with varying levels of stress depending on how many are on hand to help, which one it is, and what the weather's like). I could go on.

Selling books and storytelling theatre, doing festivals and workshops might sound great, but believe me, as most storytellers etc. will tell you - it isn't all pony rides in May sunshine! And stress over Spoken/Written's future sometimes just seems like too much...especially when everything is on such a shoestring. To cap it all, some of the Collective team have pulled out of the coming Buddhafield Festival, and we're having to find other artists to replace them. All the rest of our usual team are busy - two at the Pilton Festival, one at the Golowan Festival, one coming anyway but with Swamp Circus, not the Collective...but happily, we have a great bunch in the Collective, and the folks going to Pilton have found us one replacement artist (another Bicton College graduate!), and our circus member has found a it's just getting all their details to Majical Youth (the ones we'll be working for) in time!

Here's to some time off somewhere near the Sea...