Safe! and other stories

Google searches: best laptops of 2014

Mood: tense, but positive (just keep breathing)

Theme song: “Under Pressure”

Putting the show together is going great. Procrastination to work ratio getting better. Have an amazing director who keeps my head from exploding, and a great boyfriend who takes care of the music.

Pressure! I love pressure. I’m best under pressure. Although right now, I feel fear. Can’t see forest for the trees.

Just found this on Mo’Nique’s Twitter: False Evidence Appearing Real. I like it. When fearful, I can’t put pictures together, even though I’m best at connecting things – pictures, thoughts, notes, people…. Can’t join dots. But I think I’ve done my bit of fear. Now I can do my bit of work. Sunday (= showtime) cometh…. 🙂

Revamp, social engagement and life news

Sooooo, I revamped my blog due to increased clickage/voluntary hijacking by #SaveIdeasTap campaign! I don’t mind. Like everything else, the tool is sharpened in the action.

I didn’t create this blog specifically for social causes, but if that’s what I do, it’ll be here!

Other than that – table reading of my play on Sunday! Sooo excited. Scared. Excited. You get me.

Writing my one woman show for… next Sunday! So scared excited see above.

Sometime when things calm down, I’ll write about that salsa class I attended yesterday… and why ballroom dancing can be a refuge for sexism. 😀

Until then!

Shit White Feminists Need To Stop Doing

Reading a lot about “white feminism” as a mainstream phenomenon. Good stuff!

The Belle Jar

I’m a white feminist, and let me tell you something: white feminism* is pretty bullshit. It’s exclusive, oppressive, and serves to further marginalize the people who are most impacted by misogyny. Unfortunately, white feminism is also the western status quo of feminism, meaning that white feminists have the biggest platforms, have increased access to resources and media, and are generally considered to be The Voice of Feminism. In theory, someone truly interested in equality would use these assets to amplify the voices of women of colour. In practice, white supremacy is a real thing and white feminists often seem to forget that their white privilege makes it easy as hell to trample over women of colour as they work to dismantle the patriarchy.

So, in honour of International Women’s Day, here is a non-exhaustive list of Shit White Feminists Need to Stop Doing:

1. Believing Their Experiences of Marginalization Are…

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“We’re not here to make a profit – [we’re] helping as many people as possible” – interview with James Hopkirk, Editor of Ideas Tap, part 3.

RS: You are based in London. (Insert a comment on living costs in the capital.) But you also organize training outside of London, correct?

JH: That’s right. We are a national charity, and while we have a London base, we’ve always worked very hard to do as much outside of London – whether in person or online – as possible. As such, last year we ran as many Spas outside of London as in it, working with our partner organisations around the country to make it possible.

RS: What are your main partner organisations? 

JH: We have 52 partners around the country – some of the biggest and best arts organisations in the UK. They include the National Theatre, BFI, mac birmingham, Royal Exchange, The Lowry, Magnum Photos, National Youth Theatre, Sky Academy, FORMAT Festival – and many, many more. We work with them to create exclusive industry opportunities for our members – from funding to mentoring to performance and exhibition opportunities.

RS: What impact has becoming a charity had on Ideas Tap?

JH: We were originally part of our Chairman’s trust, the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust. But we became a charity in our own right about five years ago. That charitable status is key to our identity. We exist purely to help creative people. We’re not here to make a profit or to serve some other purpose – all of our targets as an organisation are based around helping as many people as possible in as many different ways as possible. When we first started out, a lot of people would ask “what’s the catch?” assuming that there must be some nefarious pretext for giving all these things away!

RS: Yes, I saw a lot of comments along the lines of “They were too good to be true”. On the flipside, you inspired incredible loyalty! On a more personal note – can you talk about your role in IdeasTap? What’s your job description?

JH: I’m the Editor – the head of editorial, marketing and digital. What that means is that I’m responsible for everything that happens on the website, the articles we produce and all of our social media and promotion. I’ve been here for six years now and it is without doubt the best job I’ve ever hard. I’ve never worked for a charity before – my background is in journalism – and I’ve found it incredibly inspiring working for an organisation that supports so many extraordinarily talented people. It really is a very different feeling walking into the office here from anything I’ve done before, much as I’ve enjoyed my previous jobs – and I know it’s a feeling the team here share.

RS: It’s really great to hear that. Not only we, as artists, were helped by you, but also you enjoyed doing it… Can you name some artists who made a big career and were initially helped by IT?

JH: It’s hard to single people out – there are so many. And I also wouldn’t want us to take credit for anyone’s success. All we’ve ever done is give people resources – whether money, mentoring, introductions, a boost to their self esteem even. It is on the basis of their talent that they have succeeded.

RS: It’s dangerously close to #GoodbyeIdeasTap vibe, but do you have a best memory you’d like to share?

JH: Hah! There are a hell of a lot over six years. It’s hard to pick one, but a personal highlight for me was when Magnum Photos held their Annual General Meeting in our offices. Because they’re a co-operative of international photographers, they all gather just once a year in London or New York or Paris to discuss the future of the organisation and induct new photographers. I’m a photographer, so our building was filled with my heroes. We got a load of our photographer members to come in and interview them all, and we produced a one-off zine rounding them all up. It was a mad, but brilliant weekend! I think being up at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years back was also a real highlight. Seeing so much brilliant work performed by our members and loved by the audiences was pretty special.

RS: Is there anything that you’d like to add, that we didn’t cover? 

JH: Well, I want to thank you and all the other members who came out and spoke up on Twitter and Facebook yesterday. It was a very sad day for all of us here, but to see the incredible support, and hear some of the ways that we’d helped people, was just amazing, and put a smile on all our faces. The fact that members have set up a campaign is humbling – we are very, very grateful indeed.

RS: It is sincerely our pleasure. Feels good to give back! And to reiterate, we now need an individual/corporate entity (or several), that will decide to support you so that you can have a 2-3 year plan to begin with – because the work you do is hugely important. If anybody wants to save the day, earn scores of good PR and good will of many artists…. I’m not being subtle, but I don’t think I want to be. #JustSaying

JH: Haha – yes, exactly! Thank you so much – this is amazing.

RS: Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

JH: An absolute pleasure – thank you for everything that you’re doing for us.

 

“We’ve explored cheaper models, but […] the numbers didn’t add up.” – Go back to part 2.

“We’ve explored cheaper models, but […] the numbers didn’t add up.” – interview with James Hopkirk, Editor of Ideas Tap, part 2.

RS: Now, 2 million is a pretty large number for most artists and non-artists – and I’m sure all readers can sympathise with the dilemma of “nice-to-haves”. The bills simply have to be paid! Could you tell me briefly how the money is being spent? Assume I’m not familiar with Ideas Tap.

JH: The main expenses are office space – including the space we use to run our Spa events, staff, servers to host our members’ data securely, a development team to keep moving the website forward and deal with problems and of the course the large budget that is spent on running our Spa programme, the funding we give out to our members, the money we pay mentors and other industry experts and the money we use to fund some of the big competitions we run on the site.

RS: This is perhaps the moment for me to say, as an Ideas Tap member, that you guys offer FREE WORKSHOPS AND MENTORING, on either first come first serve or competition basis; not to mention that you pay more advanced artists who lead those workshops. That is simply – rare.

JH: Yes, we’ve always tried to keep everything we do free, to ensure it’s open access. In our discussions around closure, we did talk about the possibility of paid membership, which some people were talking about on Twitter yesterday. We did some research, modelled the numbers and ultimately it didn’t add up. Not only did it go against the grain, but it simply wouldn’t generate enough money, after the costs of collection and management, to be worth it.

RS: Ah, the cost of collection and management – something laypeople won’t have thought about, but it would be a percentage of implementing and running the new system! That makes a lot more sense, now…

JH: Yeah – processing fees really add up! And whole subscription management side of things, the associated marketing and so on is expensive.

RS: Of course, it would be – after the first heartfelt wave of support, you’d have to chase us like any other organisation. Not fun, costly, against core values.

JH: Exactly.

RS: So, sticking to the money for a little bit more, next to the membership talk you have people who start crowdfunding pages for you. Could you comment on that?

JH: Aha – I’ve seen people suggesting crowdfunding for us, but I didn’t know anyone had actually started one.

It’s incredibly flattering – very moving, in fact, for all of us here.

The problem, though, is that what we need is long-term funding.

And by long-term, we’d really need a two or three year commitment.

RS: Yes, it’s like all those charities that phone us, going “When you give regularly, you enable us to plan spending and further actions!”

And I know the spiel well, ’cause like many artists I worked on the other side of that phone..

JH: Exactly!

Haha

RS: …Except you don’t want to be a nuisance – you want to continue to give freely. As a member I saw that a lot of people on IdeasTap didn’t have official arts training, yet there seems to be an incredible hunger and need for the service you provide!

JH: Yes, especially as the cost of education is now so stratospherically high, I think the sort of informal training we offered, for free, while certainly not a direct replacement for formal education, was a lifeline for a lot of young people who simply couldn’t afford university or other professional training.

“We’re not here to make a profit” – continue to part 3.

“We’d rather close than suffer a slow death” – go back to part 1.

“We’d rather close than suffer a slow death” – interview with James Hopkirk, Editor of Ideas Tap, part 1.

When I first heard that Ideas Tap was to close, my first instinct was to Do Something – to campaign. On second thought, I had realized I would need information, and decided to speak to someone on the inside – which is how I ended up doing a thorough Skype interview with James Hopkirk, who took 90 minutes from his morning to answer my questions.

Rita Suszek: Hello James, how are you this morning?

James Hopkirk: I’m good, thank you! Still blown away by what you guys are doing!

RS: I’m happy to hear that. So – for the benefit of the readers – we started talking yesterday, when I learnt that Ideas Tap was closing and began to try and contact someone on the inside. Could you tell me how long have you known this was going to happen?

JH: In a way, I’ve always known this was a possibility. When I joined six years ago I knew that PDHCT (Peter De Haan Charitable Trust) had a finite pool of money.

But a few years back we decided that what we had created had exceeded our expectations, and that we were helping a lot of people – and it was worth ensuring it could continue.

So, we began fundraising. Over the last three years we’ve worked very hard to find funds from government, Arts Council, trusts and foundations, wealthy individuals – and so on. And we have had some success. For example, last year the Arts Council gave us a £250k exceptional award, for the nationwide training programme Ideas Tap Inspires. But it was project funding, not core funding – and core funding is what we need to continue.

To date, we’ve failed to find this sort of funding.

RS: So the core funding, as the name suggests, enables the organisation to run, and then there are particular projects where you might secure funding from an outside source, like the Arts Council?

JH: Yes, that’s right.We need an organisation or individual who can fund our core costs – the minimum for IdeasTap to operate and offer our members what we currently do.Additional projects on top of this are great – but they’re nice-to-haves, they don’t pay the bills.

We applied last year to the Arts Council for NPO status (National Portfolio Organisation) , which would have covered some of our core costs, but sadly we were unsuccessful.

RS: Dangerous ground here, perhaps, but is there any speculation or a reason why you were unsuccessful…?

JH: I don’t know, to be honest. Competition is fierce, and there’s a smaller and smaller pot of money to distribute – so it’s tough for all arts organisations. But because we help so many young artists nationwide, widen access to the arts and bring together so many different art forms and arts organisations in one place, we were very disappointed.

So about six months ago it started to become clear that we might have to close. And it was in November that the first steps in the process began.

RS: What were the first steps? Did you have to reduce staff?

JH: That’s right. The trustees decided that we couldn’t continue to spend money at the rate we were, so at that point, we had to reduce our headcount. At the same time, we also started looking into reducing our office overheads and so prepared to close our Creative Space programme, which has now shut.

RS: I see. Speaking of money spending – could you give me a run down of the numbers? I.e. how much do you need to continue running comfortably and so on.

JH: We cost about £2m a year to run. We’ve explored cheaper models, but the charitable outputs – the number of people we’d be helping – just didn’t stack up. We also don’t want to run a half-hearted version of IdeasTap – we’d rather close than suffer a slow death. We’re not cheap to run, sadly – space, staff, servers, developers and so on cost a lot of money.

Continued in part two.

Ideas Tap is NOT closing – WE CAN #SaveIdeasTap

ideastap

So that was my reaction this morning. Lucky I didn’t spit my coffee. I saw the link on a page of a fellow artist and wondered if it’s April’s Fool coming a tad early.

In the times of high tuition fees (in the arts especially), in the times when Googling “lack of working class actors” gives you page results from Judi Dench to Julie Walters, from David Morrisey to Jimmy McGovern, the last one stating that lack of working class voice affects what gets made.

In the times when artists wonder whether they should leave London, or be priced out; when the phrase “art cuts” commands nothing but dreary recognition; when iconic places, like Madame Jojo’s and Tin Pan Alley are being closed…

Ideas Tap is a beacon of hope and help for all of us artists – offering funding not only for under-25s, but also under 30 or with no age limit. It is one of the few organisations that understand that making a career in the arts can take years – that we’re not all fresh-faced 16 year-olds (who are brilliant and deserve the support, but so do their slightly older sisters and brothers, a.k.a. US).

London lives and breathes art, but it is worth to ask: what kind? If, alongside of hit-factories, crunching out musical hits to awestruck tourists, we want to have conversations, realisations, young artists and artists who are slightly older and from all walks of life – if we want to have our voices heard, if art is not just for people who can afford to make it – we need communities. We need skill exchanges, we need support networks. Ideas Tap is an existing network that does a brilliant job. It is a charity, that – like many charities – steps in where the government does not engage anymore.

To me personally, Ideas Tap, along with poetry-specific Apples and Snakes, are a source of artistic community, free workshops and guidance. When I write any artistic content, I check Ideas Mag; it is a source of pride that I was shortlisted in the Editor’s Brief; it is an existing community teaching and enabling me to create my career in the world of art.

If you want to get involved, we’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter – #SaveIdeasTap and we’re gonna make some noise!

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Hallelujah!

The second draft of the play is DONE, ladies and gentlemen, with blood sweat and tears. I have regained sanity, but not for long – one woman show coming up on the 29th and I need to write it still! Brief reprieve – 3,2,1, GO!

Please remain calm while we re-load the world

Google search: How to write a play (yes, desperation is here)

Playlist: Tarantino movie soundtracks

Realisations: plenty

Writing my play. I’d tear out some hair, but I spent some time growing that mohawk and it would be a waste. I’m really looking forward to my one woman show now – it feels like I will know what I’m doing a little more.

In any case?

Challenge: get the thoughts out of my head and onto my computer with minimum amount of self-loathing.

That play is in there. My mind is quite versatile, so I wrote about 5 sketches going from scratch – revamping the characters, trying on different plots… in the end though, I will work on the original draft I submitted. The action in it needs to be seriously ramped up. But that play is in there. I believe it. I can feel it.

I have the rest of today and tonight. Tomorrow deadline cometh.

Wish me luck.

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