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Shortfuse last night (and a rant)

May 19, 2010 Leave a comment

We got there late, unfortunately, but it turned out to be something of a miracle we got there at all.

Intriguing collection of stuff – a range of semi-autobiography, well-crafted tales and wonderfully evocative language. Also, unusually, some live music from The Orange and then from the First Monday Ukulele Club, which was as unlikely as it sounds – a stage filled with people playing rock’n’roll on ukeleles… a sight to behold and extraordinary (in a good way) to hear.

Shortfuse is next on 18 June, I believe (their website should soon have updated information – shortfusefiction.com). The theme for that night will be ‘taboo’. Then it’ll be taking a long break for the summer, so it’ll be a case of ‘get there or miss out for the next 4 months or so’.

Discussions afterwards were interesting and left me musing on how hard it is to organise any kind of arts event – and how much harder it’s likely to become in future in the current financial climate. So this is the ‘rant’ part of this post.

I don’t just mean things like literary readings, but art exhibitions, dance performance, theatre… we’re already at a stage where a huge amount of cultural activity is done for free, or for pennies, because the people who do it have some longer-range vision or dedication and are essentially prepared to put time and effort into making it happen.

This is so even in ‘popular’ culture – I’ve been to places like goth/industrial music events where the DJs organise the event, put in huge amounts of time flyering and advertising on social websites, etc., all for a split of the door takings after they’ve paid venue costs. They do it because they’re dedicated, which they have to be to put in the number of hours it takes in background work to make something happen and walk away at the end with less money than it will cost to get a taxi home.

And that’s just for an event with DJs. If you have a PA system, props, admin costs, or any of the myriad of other things it takes to get some kind of performance together, anything that might be called ‘alternative arts’ is going to struggle. Sure, it always has. Think for example of the number of artists whose paintings now sell for small fortunes, but who never saw a penny from their work in their own lifetimes (and whose work wasn’t even thought to have artistic merit in their own lifetimes!). And there are plenty of writers with experiences on similar lines…

But it does leave me wondering if there’s any financial model (other than working off arts grants) that would help keep ‘marginal’ events alive, because so much of what they do can’t be valued economically. I’m just thinking here of the many painters, dancers, actors, and writers whose work starts off in the margins of culture and develops there until the mainstream is ready for it…

Well, ok economists will usually say everything has an economic value; what I’m arguing here is that the value of fringe cultural events doesn’t lie in the present but the future, and usually exceeds the extent to which it can be monetised in the present. Does that make sense?

If anyone wants to start a debate or discussion about this, I’m up for it.

Helpful information for writers

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

A big hand for the peeps at Writing East Midlands. Like many writers, I have profiles on half a dozen writing websites including this one. I had a particular technical question about copyright I wanted to explore before starting off down what, for me at least, is a new route – pitching for TV. So I emailed them to ask my question. And you know what? They didn’t know the answer, but they found out. And they replied to me. I’m sure most writers will know how remarkable and how praiseworthy that kind of thing is.

So: my technical question was about registering pitches, treatments, and other TV-related stuff prior to throwing it into an environment where you basically don’t know who’s going to read it, how it will be handled, and whether at some point down the line someone might think it’s a good idea and snaffle it. How much this happens, I don’t know, but the web seems to be telling me it’s a risk and the way to deal with it is to register stuff.

I already knew about the UK Copyright Service. But WEM were able to tell me about the Writers’ Copyright Association which appears to be more flexible and (important at my stage in the game) rather cheaper. And I guess the headline news is, it’s very gratifying to deal with a writers’ website that is prepared to take the view that if they can’t answer a question straight off, they’ll actually go and find out some answers. Well done WEM.

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