I don’t come from an ‘arty’ family. My Mum is still disappointed that her love of football hasn’t rubbed off on me, and when my Dad saw some contemporary dance once, he deduced that it must have been about soup. This is fine by me, sometimes I don’t get contemporary dance either, and that piece may well have been about soup for all I could tell you, however, it does make explaining what I do for a living a little difficult.
Nobody struggles with understanding what I do, more than my Nan. She is still waiting for me to pop up in Eastenders, or Coronation Street and until I do, she will remain suspicious, and continue to ask me if I’ve ‘found a proper job yet?’ I can hardly blame her though. If you don’t work in the arts, or have never really been involved in them, further than seeing your granddaughter in the community panto, then chances are the Arts as an industry remains a real mystery to you.
In many ways until I entered the world of work, the jobs that were open to me as a Theatre and English Literature Graduate were also a mystery. Something which deserves a whole blog post of it’s own, but today I’d rather focus on the positives of working in the arts. What is it like to have a job your Nan doesn’t understand?
Well first things first, you should probably warn your Nan, that you’re not necessarily going to be able to nip home for Sunday lunch every weekend. In my interview for this post, I was very politely warned ‘you may have to work some evenings and weekend’s, is that ok?’ to which my reply was ‘I wasn’t aware there were jobs where you didn’t have to work evenings and weekends!’ This is something which I think is becoming more and more common. Jobs these days are so rarely set office hours. My job is by no means 9-5, and this suits me to a T. I like being out hosting and attending exciting events on an evening, I would rather be doing that for a living than sat at my desk five days a week. Of course there are some weeks where I am glued to my very comfortable office chair, but generally speaking, there is no such thing as average working hours.
Average in general is not something that applies to my job. ‘What does your average day look like?’ Well, erm…
By far the best thing about my job, is the sheer variety of STUFF I get to do. From teaching a primary school one afternoon, to meetings with bus companies the next, and finishing the week off, with a spot of juggling and interviews on the radio. No one day is ever the same. This means not only do I never get bored (something I suspect would happen very quickly if I ever did get one of those pesky ‘real’ jobs) but it also means every week, I learn something new, meet new people, begin new projects, and have new thoughts and conversations about the world and the role theatre and art play in it. Basically every week is a bit like starting a new job, but without the scary first day, the fear that you might not like your colleagues, or having to spend a morning reading and signing health and safety documents and contracts.
In conclusion, my Nan doesn’t necessarily understand what I do, but that doesn’t matter, I don’t have the type of job where I can give a stock answer when she asks, so while the conversation may always start the same ‘But what do you actually do?’ Each week I get to give a different answer. It’s no wonder my Nan doesn’t ever feel like she has got to grips with my job, sometimes, I find it hard to believe that this is what I wake up in a morning and do! So while she may never understand why I’m the person that picks which shows go on, or why it is such an important skill to be able to make a puppet out of a wooden spoon, she does understand that I love my job, and when it comes down to it, that is what is really important, not only for working in the arts but for pursuing any type of career.
So if you ever are faced with a relative who just doesn’t seem to get it, I know it can be infuriating, just remember it isn’t what you do, but why you do it that really matters.
Thanks for reading, and if you’re a Nan that understands arts jobs perfectly, if you could give mine a ring, it would be greatly appreciated!