III. Young, Arty & Pretty Skint



Money, money, money Always sunny In the rich man’s world Aha-ahaaa All the things I could do If I had a little money

(Here’s an earworm, please sing throughout reading)

Money is a difficult subject. It probably shouldn’t be, but it always is. What follows is not me bemoaning a lack of it, but instead just trying to lay bare some of the issues around the topic. Admittedly these are different for almost everyone, but bear with me.

(Just a side note: please do feel free to laugh, giggle or snort throughout all of this. It often seems to be the best way to approach anything financial!)

The simple fact is that as young people we are usually, at best, poor and at worst, pretty much destitute. (I say all this in relativity, of course. We are still much better off than people of our age 100 years ago or in other places around the planet currently. We are very lucky really!) As laughably stereotypical as you might find this youthful penury, there are several reasons behind it. I am sure you already know them, but for context I will state them.

Firstly, most of us are in education and our time is taken up learning. This naturally means that, secondly, we are either dependent on our wonderful parents or on low wage jobs that have to fit around study. Thirdly, we are young and naturally like to have fun and do silly things. This is definitely part of growing up and of being human generally, but it does require a certain expenditure.

There is also the irony that as you grow up and you hopefully start earning larger amounts of money, the number of things you have to pay for also seems to go up… and here I will quote ABBA again.

I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay Ain’t it sad And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me That’s too bad

Combine a general youthful lack of pennies with being artistic and we may as well start trading in good deeds and gratitude… which is pretty much what happens anyway. The creative arts sector is an area that is notoriously difficult to earn money in and it often involves lots of voluntary work to build up a portfolio before a person can find anything that is actually paid.

The other problem is that art of all types takes a long time to create and that time all has to be covered by the end profit of the piece, production or product. For example, in theatre, you have to cover the development time, travel, equipment and the venue costs at the most basic level. If a production is taking it really seriously this expands to having to pay for accommodation and food and a full crew, all of whom have to be highly skilled at their jobs and need to be paid for their rehearsal time as well. The simple economics don’t really stack up.

The natural thought is ‘If it’s so unprofitable then why do it?’ There’s so many answers to this, but here’s a few!

Art and creativity hold massive social benefits. Everything from providing a shared experience to discuss and connect over, to their creation providing the experiences that develop the social skills (‘soft skills’ to give them their official title) that allow us to form good relationships with people and be confident and happy throughout life. Also many people just have an overwhelming passion for artistic expression. A genuine need to create and experiment.

Young people are often creatively driven for the sake of being creative. Not because of profit. This begs the question ‘Do we value art because of its monetary worth, or do we value it because of the effect that it has on us?’ Creativity is such a positive thing. It can educate, entertain, enlighten and bring so much joy to people. It can be casual escapism or hard-core sole searching. It highlights the world’s ridiculousness or beauty or horror and can morally challenge on every level… you get the point.

Having an income becomes much more important as we start having families who depend on us or if we didn’t have families who could support us to begin with… but we’re young! We don’t think about all that, do we?! (Well, you make your mind up on that one)

Anyway, going back to being youthful and frivolous, there is a certain joy that can be taken in living cheaply - the ‘student lifestyle’ as it is so regularly characterised. As my friend Freya recently said to me with glee ‘I’m finally doing things on nothing!’

What’s needed is cheap local events and opportunities for young people. Things that are fun and inspiring. Places for people to brain crunch and collaborate. Space where ideas can be made, where they can develop and grow… without having to think about ones bank balance.

Just to finish, I asked a few young creative friends of mine their thoughts on whether money was an issue, here’s what they had to say:

Freya (20) Actor and Singer– Money: yes and no. Yes because if you feel you need/want other’s inspiration to improve your practice you have to pay for lessons/classes/workshops etc. And no because you can learn independently via books, online, family/friends and through your own expressive passion and abilities; in which you learn much more about yourself as an artist.

Kim (20) Actor and Artist – Of course money can be an issue- there will always be something to complain about.

Mari (18) Musician and Artist – I wouldn’t say money effects my ability to be creative… apart from maybe the lack of it pushing me to be more creative in finding alternative ways of doing things.

Grace (20) Artist – I feel like money will always be a problem for creative people? Wherever you are haha.

Polly (19) Artist – Money was always a problem – especially in Exeter as the cost of renting and living was so much more than where I live now (Pontypridd, South Wales).

If you are interested in hearing more about the future of Theatre and The Creative Arts in Exeter I recently hosted a debate on the subject for Ideas On Info at the Exeter Bike Shed Theatre just before it closed down this March. Link is [here]


Enjoy singing ABBA for the rest of the day. Here’s some [Money, Money, Money](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETxmCCsMoD0).

Come along and join us at Devon’s only dedicated youth arts festival. TYPify is going on from the 6th – 8th July at the historic Poltimore House just outside of Exeter.

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