What I learnt from a Panel Discussion on Creative Entrepreneurship – Quarter @ TDC – Makeshift Ensemble at the Triskel, Cork.

Saturday afternoon Makeshift Ensemble and Theatre Development Centre (TDC) held "Quarter@TDC 1214" a day of creative events at the the Triskel Cork. It kicked off with a panel discussion on creative entrepreneurship. 

Lovely tea and cakes were laid on and a hanging installation by Pauline Gibbons definitely warmed the tone of the space. Eszter Nemethi, hostess of Makeshift Ensemble began by introducing the panel:

Colm O'Herlihy – Starter of the Mountain Dew festival Macroom (Coming to Cork this year)
Pat Kiernan – Artistic Director and founder of theatre company Corca Dorca
Emer Ní Chíobháin Sample Studios, Cork
Dave Calnan founder of the all-ages venue, The Kino
Rhona Flynn – Founder Cork Community Printshop

I was happy to feel a sense of a excitement about stuff happening in Cork. Spaces around city have become available to use. "Cork is amazing right now." (Colm). 

Question "What was the initial motivation for what you have done?" 
It seemed to be a general case of necessity after leaving college ... Colm spoke of organically starting off the Mountain Dew festival with his friends... Pat and Aoife needed a way to keep doing what they wanted to do by setting up collaborative resources ... Dave saw a lack of a venue for under-age music fans. Rhona is thinking strategically to maintain the long term sustainability of her own livelihood and practice. 

Much of the debate centred around making a living, the choices and issues around that.  The current options for practising artists are:

#1. Go on the the dole
PRO: no compromise to your work.
CON: you can't be seen to be in business or do commercial work without getting cut-off. Your long hours are not valued. 

#2. Get Funding :
PRO: an income.
CON:  you are vulnerable to changes in funding structures reactions of funding bodies and politicians to the work, you may have to change the work to maintain funding eligibility.

#3. Commercialise your work : PRO sell the work to get an income.
CON: adaptation or compromise of work.

#4. Teach / work a regular job : PRO: an income,
CON: some qualification requirements. Job scarcity. Current embargo in public sector. 

Funding is a generally accepted option but as Pat Kiernan said there is always only a certain amount and a far greater demand. 

Rhona asserted her support for funding but asked about long term sustainability – if someone is planning a family, house, school runs (a life)… how can you plan or depend on funding for that? 

Working for free – 14 to 16 hrs a day, there is no value on your time. You have to get paid. Self subsidisation is a false economy... People can't maintain that. There is a belief that the dole is an alternative arts council. A wage for artists? – Get to work!!!

How can you maintain an independent practice without compromising the work and making a living?

Option #5 – Be a creative entrepreneur :
PRO: long-term financial sustainability and producing work on your own terms.
CON: no guide book to hand, new terrain, requires diversifying your skills requires taking responsibility and risks. Hard work. 

Question: "So what is creative entrepreneurship?"

Dave Calnan's succinct response was: "Making stuff happen"

The panel agreed that we all need to move away from preconceptions of what an entrepreneur is (business suits briefcases, wheeling and dealing)…. It's more about sharing resources and setting up businesses using our artistic creative skills and ideas. Colm mentioned that this requires "diversification" of work and skills. 

Collaboration is the new way to work rather than competition of old. By building a network of mutual support we can create opportunities for each other. There is benefit of being in a group. The word "ecology" was mentioned which seemed to sum that up nicely.

The result is a cultivation of independence of your own work and empowering others to do the same. Rhona called for a responsibility for our ourselves, our futures and the sustainability of our practices.

Some advice:

Get off the dole:
Apply for the Back to work scheme and do a FÁS start your own business course. Check out the Workspace scheme from the arts council. 

Change the system
Petition politicians for legislative change. Check out the National Campaign for the Arts - the dole and artists practice.

Be clear about your aim
Rhona urged the room: paraphrasing her: "You have to be so so clear about what you want - to get things done especially through the hard times. Have a clear focus for what you want to get out of it. One of the things that stops people from taking action is that their aims are too general and not specific enough."

See the bigger picture
Create things to give back - provide things to make the things. Different kinds of audiences can have different finding streams. Question and brainstorm the potential and possibilities of your project.

I asked the crowd to define the value and worth of their work. Communicate to those outside of your knowledge circle. Widen the demand for the work by selling and persuading people on the value for them. 

Aoife from Artlink had the final word: Go beyond your own concerns and ask what you can do for others by listening to what is needed. 

Question "What stops people from doing this?" 
I didn't take notes for that … if you were there too maybe you could help fill in the rest? 

So afterwards a few of us camped at the roundy table in Gulp'd, talked art inspiration and invented ideas for schemes and dreams.

(Quarter is a tri-monthly mini arts festival by Makeshift Ensemble. The next event is on 03/05/14 @TDCcork  facebook.com/quartercork)

Leave a comment on what / how you heard this! It would be great to add further links to resources mentioned.