It's a time of national debt and major cuts to the arts from our beloved Tories, where the roofs of West End theatres are caving in and where another posh person is waiting in the wings to take over at the National Theatre. It makes me wonder: should I really be writing this, encouraging a career in the arts to the next generation?
I have a difficult relationship with my chosen career path; every morsel of my being recoils when passing through the world's border controls, forced to state "artist" as my career. My dad carries lead up a ladder each week to get the same wage I do. I spent last month in Australia touring my solo show, The Worst of Scottee, for the same he would earn in a month. In turn, I carry around a feeling of working class guilt for earning a living without a proper job.
I got into the arts in via the back door. Expelled from school with no qualifications, I've had to earn my place in a sector obsessed with class and academia – as such, I've developed a rather facetious outlook on the state of the arts. For those of you set on "giving it go" and waiting for what mums up and down the country call your big break, you'll need to understand the economics of showing off your creative side. This is the sort of stuff your careers adviser will never tell you.
First, the arts business model is flawed, and always has been. Since time began, rich people have thrown money at other people who used to be rich (before getting into the arts) just so they are able to eat. The death of Queen Victoria and the wars that followed saw patronage grind to a halt and ever since artists have struggled to keep afloat.
Today the only people buying visual art are the multinational financecompanies in London's illustrious Square Mile. City boys want work that "looks a bit Banksy" for their waiting rooms. This has already begun to affect the type of work being produced by young artists. In 100 years' time, the Antiques Roadshow will be overrun with cheaply-made street art and historians will forever think we liked this sort of thing.
What else? Audiences in the UK do not pay the real-time cost for a theatre show. In the US and Australia, the average ticket price for my show is $35 (about £21), but audiences will pay a maximum of £15 in the UK. This means artists are often open to exploitation; they are often overworked and underpaid (if paid at all) – all of which is deemed okay by the sector.
Those of us who are desperate to escape poverty (or in Jamie Oliver's world, to buy a plasma screen TV) play the National Lottery, the generated income of which is given to Arts Council England anddistributed to artists who are then able to roam about the country freely expressing themselves. I spend most of my working day begging for this money in 2,000-word pleas to the Arts Council; this makes me sound like a spoilt brat but I honestly believe that this invention of generating money for the arts is genius and it's possibly the only reason we still have culture in the UK.
Culture needs to be subsidised. Unlike many millions on this great isle living off state benefits, artists are not penalised for living out of the public purse, but essentially we are no different; most artists, including myself, are directly or indirectly living off the contributions of tax payers. As well as funding you, the state will want to make sure you make work that isn't threatening, so you'll need to make sure you're okay with being silenced when push comes to shove.
Ladies, the sector struggles to give a balanced voice to women so you'll need to fight extra hard for your place. Straight white men currently lead on the proportion of broadcast time; if the arts does anything well it's theatricalising life's injustices. Nepotism is another pandemic rife in the arts; you may be the best person for the job but it's likely the gig will go to the sister, best friend or cousin who has more Twitter followers than you.
My last piece of advice is that you'll only be as good as your last show. People with notebooks will sit in front of you and judge you, and then they'll be allowed to publish their thoughts, which will determine your rise or fall. They'll grade your work with the use of little stars that will ultimately destroy your self-confidence. Sweet!
The arts are essentially a namby-pamby life of stealing Wi-Fi, cheap coffee, waiting tables and overpriced weekend workshops in improvisation that leaves you, at times, financially and mentally unstable.
If this rant has put you off a career in the arts then maybe the arts aren't for you. But if you've seen through the facetious rabble-rousing, ignite that fire in your belly and enjoy the best job in the world – one that allows you to play out your every fantasy, gives you a political voice and enables you to look at the world objectively.