#Heartunions Week 11th -17th February 2019 Theresa Poulton

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Artist Theresa Poulton, talks about her freelance experience and why she joined a trade union.

From conversations with fellow artists I feel that there is a common census that it is acceptable for artists to simply get by...financially I mean. Very few of us are looking for fame and fortune, far from it, most of the artists I know are more than happy to give rather than take. However, the pressure of being a 'precarious worker' can be somewhat stressful.

There are periods of time when I am not earning a living from my art practice, I'm in limbo, waiting for the next sessional work to begin - if at all. Therefore I have loads of free time to get in my studio, really, do I? In actual fact I am normally using that particular time to research, make connections, prepare funding applications and set budgets, write proposals which rarely come to fruition, attend meetings which I'm not paid for, developing my knowledge and understanding of art in order pass on new skills to my students and worry about how I can justify paying for a studio etc.etc.

What about the guilt factor, the inner turmoil of not having a so called proper job, constantly niggling away in ones creative mind...some people are on the minimum wage, zero contract hours, appalling working conditions and here I am more often than not earning a decent wage doing what I love. Yet I can still moan for England. What am I whinging about I hear you say? If you don't like it, get the hell out of the art world! Why should I abandon my dreams, my passion for teaching, an education and career which I have worked hard for? None of this happened over night, I can assure you it's been a financial and mental battle. Academia did not come easy to me, trust me. Six years of consecutive Fine Art studies, part of which was self funded, living on the edge, by myself...the list goes on. Woe is me!

I must add that some Arts organisations I work with are much more clued up than others, they are fully aware of AUE's recommended rates of pay, they acknowledge the fight which the union endured in order to give artists the respect and financial payment which they deserve. Not having to go cap in hand whilst negotiating payments makes life so much easier, less embarrassing. Unfortunately, there are still those who aren't au fait with AUE financial guidelines but it's not that difficult to enlighten them – it's quite empowering really.

What needs improving? That's a difficult question, who am I to say, after all I have taken more than I have given from Artist Union England, you have given me guidance and support in more ways than one. Shame on me! Maybe time to give back...oh that's the guilty inner child, sorry...and the

AUE Member Theresa Poulton


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A membership to Artists’ Union England gets you professional support and access to resources. That means you’ll get:

  • Public and Products Liability (PPL) insurance
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Artists’ Union England is the collective voice of artists living and working in England.

Membership costs £42 annually – equivalent to £3.50 per month