Wednesday 8 February 2012

Freelance. Freelancer. Freelancing.

Freelance life rotates around the axis of the 'commission' and/or 'contract'. This is in effect the legal statement of your position in relation to whatever it is you do. So you might grovel to get a commission, you might be approached and offered a commission. You might ask for a contract, someone might offer you a contract, you might seek to change your contract. Everything rotates around it.

Bizarre goings on around this centre-point include failing to deliver the commission (naughty), having the commission delayed by the commissioner (it's not happening after all, we couldn't get the funding), the empty commission (yes, you're commissioned but we can't pay you), and the unfulfilled offer (we love what you do, please do it. Four years later, you're still waiting to hear from them), the broken commissioning (yes, it's been great, you've been doing a great job, but we're restructuring and won't be doing it quite that way again) etc etc.

To make this a little more concrete - one or two scenes from commission-land that I amuse myself with. Two women ask to see me from 'the ballet'. (I can't remember which ballet. Not-remembering is a key feature of commission-land. Things blur). They say that they really like my work. They want to work with me. We talk. It goes well. They have ballet legs. This sounds intriguing. They go. I never see them ever again.

A commissioned project is going really well. It involves collaboration. Tremendous excitement builds up. Hundreds of people are involved, cross fertilisation between art-forms takes place. Materials are produced. People of a wide range of abilities produce great work. It is public. It supports work that others do. It enriches. It draws in people of a wide range of creative capacity all overlapping and interfusing. I'm excited by it. So are others. A new management comes in. I go to a meeting. At the meeting the new management appear to not know anything about it even though it seems to be 'on their patch'. I have a strange sense of being at the wrong end of a corridor. Pieces of paper are passing around on the table. I feel that I'm having to justify something that justified itself. The new management say that they are incorporating everything and re-building and re-structuring and re-working and re-configuring. I never hear from them ever again. The project is killed stone dead. No reason ever given.

Similar - much smaller scale but with a national reach. Three of us establish a production that seems to be much appreciated. We are constantly 'upskilling', adapting, improving. It's much scrutinized. Anything deemed to have not-worked is looked at very closely so that that mistake won't be made again. Ihave a sense of a body of expertise building. There is an audience building too because the expectation is there. Regularity and certainty are important too. New management comes in. One person. He says that it's not suitable. Not the right thing. He doesn't want it. Plonk. It's gone.One stroke. No comeback. A few months later - plonk - he's gone. Out of sight. Gone. A few  years later I'm on the tube, looking up at the lights, staring at the reflections in the window, enjoying the way I appear to be travelling outside the train, suspended outside the window. Hello,says someone. Hello, I say. He says his name. Ah, it's the manager who closed it down. The same bloke. He seems to think that I'll be pleased to see him. What a strange idea. I say hello to him as if through cold tea. He is a pleased man. We part. I never see him again.

This is the city. In the city, more and more people rotate round the commission. We work in spurts. We wait. We try to set things up. Sometimes others set things up and call. Hi. Sometimes things just collapse. Sometimes you do a runner. You can't face it. Sometimes Mr NewBroom comes in and knows better and the village is flooded with his bullshit. You are afloat in curiousville. What's going on, you say. Dunno. Hi. Hi. How you doing? Great. Good. Coffee? Great. Have you ever? Yeah. Mmm. Good.

I had a dream today that I would play Falstaff. Or Toby Belch. Or Justice Shallow....'We have heard the chimes at midnight, Sir John....' It would be amateur.  Utterly, utterly amateur. A way of not rotating. Be a weevil, weevilling away inside Toby Belch. A plague upon these pickled herring. Tilly-vally lady. People would hate me because whenever they tried to talk to me, I would say, tilly-vally lady.