Thursday, 19 March 2009
NO ARTS CO DOSH FOR ME - BOO HOO
Well, no Arts Council Bursary for me again in this new round-up. I'm really disappointed. I fit their criteria: full time artist, always working, being published, in need of financial assistance. And although I was shortlisted this time, I didn't make the cut. With my family expanding, I really hoped the pressure would be off me for a while to scramble about looking for ways to earn. There's only so many readings a girl gets to do (and at an average fee of €250, they're hardly the stuff of high earnings.) It's no wonder I don't write much new stuff anymore: I'm constantly looking for other forms of writing work: writing articles, translating, teaching workshops, judging lit comps, residencies etc. But soon (with a new addition to the family) I will have less time and freedom than ever for gadding about the country to give workshops, readings etc. It's hard to know what to try next. I did get a bursary in 2004 and it was a Godsend; I eked it out and made it last for over a year. I sometimes joke that I will be the only writer/vegetarian flipping burgers in Supermac's. Thank God there are four of them in the town I live in because, at this rate, I'll need to go and work there.
I wonder sometimes is it because I am not with a big publisher that the Arts Co don't give me a bursary? Both my publishers - Arlen House and Salt - are small operations, publishing books for the absolute love of literature, hopeful of a profit. But, generally, their writers don't earn advances or pots of money by being published by them. Both houses produce beautiful, literate, readable works but both fight very hard to survive in the commercial publishing world. Their writers are delighted to be published by such caring publishers, but they won't live off their earnings and neither will the publishers themselves. They rely a lot on funding and, without it, things get very hard.
Is it Arts Co policy, I wonder, to only support the already supported i.e. those with big publishers who can promote their work endlessly, or those already earning through uni jobs, long residencies etc.?
Last night, at the launch of the Cúirt brochure, Theo Dorgan lamented the loss of funding to the Arts Council. They, he said, have had to make cuts because they themselves have been cut. I understand this. But, for some reason, literature always seems to me like the poor relation in funding matters.
Theo said: 'The arts matter. Politicians need to understand this.' He also urged us - the artists - to take matters into our own hands. He called on us to contact Arts Minister Martin Cullen and ask him for a reversal of the €8.5 million budget cut to the Arts. I, for one, will be doing just that.
[p.s. The Cúirt line-up is fantastic this year: Joseph O'Neill, Carol Ann Duffy, Claire Keegan, Leontia Flynn, Aidan Higgins, Petina Gappah, Helen Simpson etc. etc. Go, enjoy!]