It's Easter Sunday and our crowdfunding campaign has just 46 hours left on the clock. We really want to try to get to £5,000 so that we can give the production it's best chance of telling the story of the Disappeared in a way in which it deserves to be told. Most of you who read my blog already know the story of how the show came to be in existence, but maybe one of the things that you know a little less about is what goes on behind the scenes in the creation of a show like this. So I thought I might use this opportunity to share with you my own experience of showmaking:
The Shame of #Crowdfunding
My first experience of crowdfunding was with Rhys Jennings, my collaborator on the new musical The Wicker Husband which just had it's first reading at The Other Palace last week. We had reached a point in the writing process where we just simply couldn't afford to continue to live and work on the show without paying ourselves and the people who we needed to work with. Rhys suggested the Crowdfund and whilst at first my little brain was reluctant to ask friends and family for their hard earned money, so that I could blow it all on wicker dreams. I soon discovered something different.
People were not only willing to support our project, but they were EAGER to do so. Some of them had been hearing about it for so long that for them it seemed like an opportunity to will something out of nothing. Which is essentially what (as creators of theatre) we do every day. That was a great first experience of crowdfunding for me. Rhys proved particularly adept at adapting himself to being a crowdfund master and really went full pelt. We successfullly raised over £5,000 for our project which has contributed immensely to the successful reading that we had last week.
So when I came to be involved in my second crowdfund for Paper Balloon's The Boy and the Mermaid, you would have thought I would have had less scruples than before about getting the word out to the people. But... as the build up to the crowdfund began, I found myself again wondering to myself "How dare you ask these people for their money. They've worked hard for it. And not only that... some of them have already supported your work. You can't ask them again."
But again, I stopped in my self-flagellating tracks when I found that not only were people happy to respond and give some cash, but that the people who had supported the previous crowdfund were supporting the new one as well, sometimes even more generously than they had before.
So, I started thinking about what it was that people are supporting when they give to a crowdfund. I have given money to a few myself, I would consider it far too hypocritical if I hadn't. And looking back at those projects I can see two different reasons for my donations:
1. I wanted to support the person's work, regardless of the project.
2. I wanted to support the project because I believed it to be important.
Looking at the people who have given money to my various projects, it's clear that there are some who support me primarily because they care about me and they want me to succeed in my endeavours (and in my mother's case, they don't want me to starve). Then there are others, who share on social media their own stories of the show that I am involved in and those people donate because they believe in the cause.
This led me to think a little about shame and vulnerability (I've been reading lots of self help books recently). It's interesting that I never feel shame when I am asking people to support a cause that I really believe in. For example, The Wicker Husband is a story about society pressure on people to look and conform to a certain "acceptable" norm of prettiness. The Boy and The Mermaid is a call to arms for small ones about the Syrian Refugeee Crisis, about how we should celebrate differences not vilify them. And my most recent crowdfund for These Trees Are Made of Blood is an important human rights story about state terror, disappearances and the power of indivduals to change society for the better in the face of incredible tyranny.
These projects I will talk about until the cows come home and I will never be ashamed of asking those around me to support them because I believe that the work is worth doing and important.
However, the problem with any work that you make in the creative industries is that it inevitably has a huge part of you inside it. And it's when I feel like I'm asking for money for people to support ME as a person that I feel shame.
For me, in this industry in particular, it grieves me to admit that alot of my self-worth is tied to money. I don't consider that to be my fault and I don't consider it to be unusual, having talked to many people about it. This is an asbolutely natural consequence of living in a capitalist society that rewards people with numbers in their bank. I am absolutely no exception to this. I really wish I was, but that river runs pretty deep.
This means that when I start asking people for money to support me, I feel immense shame that I am not good enough at what I do to be earning a living wage from it without their help. Of course that is simply just not true. I am good enough, I am a skilled musical theatre writer with plenty of experience but the fact remains that money is not always directly related to ability.
So in crowdfunding I have to split my personality in two. The part of me that feels shame that I am not succeeding I have to tell to "shut up and go and sit in the toilet and read a paper until it's all over." The part of me that believes in the project jumps into the fray with all guns blazing and demands to be heard.
I thought I would write about it here, not only because we are about £800 away from our minimum goal for our crowdfund and I'm shamelessly going to push it (Please donate whatever you can, it really means the world to us - note how in using "us" I am deflecting from the shame of using "me"!), but also because crowdfunding is here, it's here to stay and it's going to be a big part of our creative industries in the future and I believe that if we can get over ourselves, that can only be a good thing.
If you have a project that you are working on that needs to get the next step (despite our excellent reading for The Wicker Husband on Thursday we failed three times to get any funding from the Arts Council for it) then maybe go for a crowdfund. You've got to believe in the cause, in the story, but at the end of the day I've found belief in a cause will jump all over any shame you feel.
And if you so feel like it (and because I've currently locked my ego in the toilet) Please donate by clicking below. Either because you support me as an artist or because you believe in the work.