The Arts, Austerity and My Dirty Protest
I’m Kentish Town born and bred and I’m being priced out of my home. No longer am I able to exist in the place I am from - I’m not rich enough to afford the new, emerging London.
I’m an artist who makes socially engaged projects that rely on subsidy, over the past two years I’ve received five rejection letters from Arts Council England, as a result a series of projects have fallen through. Post Edinburgh Fringe with a deficit of £1600 - the coffers are seriously low and like lots of people reading this money is taking over my mind.
Recently I began to play the lottery in an attempt to change the restrictions my wealth has over my work – I won a tenner. Standing in line at my local supermarket, queuing for my weekly lucky dips I wondered if money from Arts Council England (largely generated from people playing the lottery) could be spent on lottery tickets? Could this create double, triple or quadruple the amount of money given to the arts? Is this the answer to arts austerity?
This Saturday I will be spending £1000 awarded to me by Live Art Development Agency on 500 lottery tickets that will hopefully win big. Now the sceptics amongst you may deem this a waste of public funds and perhaps be outraged that I’m gambling public money under the banner of art during a time of enforced austerity. Let me assure you that only 5-6% of the money spent will be ‘lost’, that’s about £60. 94-95% goes back into the system with 20% of that going back into arts projects, so essentially I’m donating £188 to the arts this weekend.
It’s a nice idea using lottery money to buy lottery tickets; it’s arty and what the cool kids call ‘meta’ but the impetus for this project is much more. Since our elected officials bailed out our risk-taking bankers we’ve been subjected to a series of cuts that have had a detrimental effect on our lives.
The culture sector has seen venues close, jobs lost, arts learning reduced, libraries shut, a hefty price tag put on university education and the most discussed topic amongst artists these days is not how long the cuts will last but how long arts funding is around for - all of these factors mean the arts is quickly becoming for and made by the privileged.
This project is my dirty protest against austerity, against cutting services that support, enrich and educate. A pedantic response to being pushed out of my home by property investors allowed to buy public space to increase their portfolio - an activist response to gentrification in the guise of regeneration. It’s taking matters into my own hands and playing the system at its own game, investing in the one thing on our side – luck, something that cannot yet be taxed, cut, restricted or sold off.
This Saturday I’m taking £60 quid out of the public purse to attempt to win over £2million. 100 people will help me check 500 lines on 250 tickets and we’re broadcasting the whole thing live. So if you’re still outraged at this preposterous use of lottery money then call the authorities but remember it’ll cost the taxpayer far more than my experiment.
Tune in to see how I do on Saturday 5th September at 7.30pm GMT via http://twitter.com/scotteeisfat
For more information on the project and tickets - http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/whats-on/double-your-money/
This project has been made possible by Live Art Development Agency, supported by Arts Council England’s Catalyst programme and Duckie.
Lead image by Holly Revell