Sharing knowledge on older arts issues

The ideas behind Independent Creative Living were presented at the 2016 Bealtaine Festival held in Dublin.

Artist Francis Bailey at VOLTage, glór, Ennis, Co.Clare, part of Bealtaine Festival 2016. Photo: Eamon Ward

The initiator of the Independent Creative Living (ICL) concept Esther Salamon and colleague and researcher Susan Jones were invited to contribute to the 2016 Bealtaine Festival. This is organised annually by Age and Opportunity, whose ambition is to turn the period from age fifty onwards into “one of the most satisfying times in people's lives, by facilitating opportunities in arts and culture, sport and physical activity and learning and active citizenship”. The theme for 2016 included ambitions to improve the visibility of older artists and to enable more of them to keep making work and being creative in their older years.

The presentation given as part of the’ This is not my beautiful house’ seminar in May 2016 highlighted the poor economic position for UK’s creative people, most of whom don’t gain the commercial success needed to sustain productive and comfortable lives into old age, and are heavily reliant on state pensions. In the performing arts, fifty per cent of professional musicians take home under £20,000 a year, half of Equity members make £5,000 from their professional work, and the average annual income for composers from commissions is £3,689. It’s not much better for writers who earn as little as £11,000 a year and visual artists with an annual average income of £10,000. Most creative people live below the UK’s acknowledged £17,000 a year poverty line and are less likely to own property and less than a third will have saved for a pension.

Because most arts policies and talent development schemes prioritise the creativity of ‘young’ artists and judge this to be where all the innovation and ‘cutting-edge’ work goes on, the expertise and insight of creative people who have a lifetime’s art practice behind them is currently barely capitalised on. 

Artists, architects, housing and healthcare specialists at the seminar heard about the ambition of ICL to address the situation in the North East of England.  ICL aims to provide safe, affordable housing within a community of like-minded artists and related cultural professions. Its aim is to attract people who were dedicated to sustaining and sharing their expert knowledge and creativity in order to contribute to local and regional asset exchanges and the new ‘currencies’ such as time-banks, mentoring and leadership. provide