We spend a lot of time in the arts talking about ‘resilience’. Is it just code for doing more stuff with less money?
Well that’s my most clickbaity opening to a blog post yet, because my personal answer is ‘hell yeah’. The biggest problem that we have in the UK arts scene is simple lack of cash. I wrote last week about how much artists (and organisations) have to do to keep going – and how we’re mostly all trying to draw from the same ever-shrinking pot. But I do think there’s a bit more to resilience than that.
I’ve been writing Upstart’s annual report for 2022-23 over the last few days (our financial year runs from March to February each year, which is a bit confusing but basically means I’m writing the reports 9 months after our year has ended) and I’ve been thinking a lot about the approach we’ve been taking to keeping going after the pandemic nearly broke us. The big thing has been diversification – as well as continuing to make theatre, we worked with Royal Botanic Gardens Kew on our Reforest board game, and we’ve been continuing to do that in 2023 as well as some other digital projects that I won’t go into here. It’s been a big gift to me personally and to the company to have this other revenue stream – in fact, it basically paid for me to do The Learning Lottery as a performer for free back in February. And it’s been a lot of fun.
We were able to diversify what the company does because of two things:
- The nature of our playable theatre work means it’s easy to shade into other things, like game projects
- We have a strong network of relationships, built up over many years, with people who trust us. Which means that when I say Upstart can do something, they know we (almost certainly) can get that thing done.
Something that’s worth thinking about for every artist and company out there right now is – what’s the thing you can do that’s unique, that people and businesses might pay you to do, that will support you as you continue to make art in these difficult times? Stick ideas in the comments if you like, and we can have a chat about it.