Artists' Union England celebrate their first birthday
Launched on 1st May 2014, Artist Union England started with 12 founding members. It now has over 500, and represents and provides support to visual and applied artists and artists with socially engaged practices. Their aim is to present artists at a strategic decision-making level, and to positively influence the role artists play within society.
As AUE are celebrating their first birthday this week, we spoke with Theresa Easton, one of the founding members, to ask her more about the organisation and how it aims to help artists across the country.
What are the aims of Artists' Union England?
Founded in response to the economic inequalities in the art world, Artist Union England seeks to negotiate fair pay and better working conditions for artists. We aim to challenge the these inequalities by working with other unions, arts organisations, government bodies and cultural institutions whilst remaining both independent and transparent.
We do this through consensus decision-making, an active grass roots membership, and involvement over a wide geographical spread.
For instance, out first birthday celebration builds on the successful Hustings event at Chelsea College of Art, which highlighted MPs disengagement and lack of understanding of the livelihoods of artists.
How was Artists' Union England founded?
There is an evident lack of accountable, democratic, independent representation for artists in England. In September 2013, a group of artists decided to form the union in order to rectify these issues, and worked to set up the infrastructure and networks in preparation for the launch.
The founding members were: Angela Kennedy, Sally Sheinman, Katriona Beales, Theresa Easton, Chris Cudlip, Vanessa Maurice-Williams, Hayley Hare, Margareta Kern, Mary Vettise, Bridget Harvey, Donna Cheshire and Linda Sgoluppi.
What does Artists' Union England do for artists?
Arts organisations, local authorities, galleries, and publicly funded bodies are operating with less money due to funding cuts, which, in turn, means that artists are being paid less money for doing more work. We believe that this employment practice is unethical, unprofessional, damaging and restricts the growth of the creative sector.
We provide much needed representation for artists in England, as well as an accountable, democratic, and independent voice for artists in order to lobby for and instigate change.
Since a trade union is not an arts organisation, we can represent individual artists in the workplace as well as collectively. As a trade union we are a democratic and independent body, and are independent of employers and those that engage us.
As the majority of artists operate as sole traders, Artists Union England has worked hard to establish a larger support network for our members by negotiating automatic membership within the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) and a potential affiliation to the Trades Union Congress (TUC). These trade union alliances enable us to support one another significantly across professions and across trades.
What are your plans for the future?
Our immediate plans are to obtain full certification in order to affiliate with the TUC and General Federation of Trades Unions. We are also working to gain recognition from Arts Council England and build on current links and connections with sister trade unions. We are hoping to build on our current membership as well as introducing student membership so that we engage with and support artists from the beginning of their careers.
Our members have also devised a "rates of pay" document, which we distribute to Artists’ Union England members so that they can negotiate payment from a position of knowledge.
How can artists get involved with Artists’ Union England?
There are many ways you can get involved with and support AUE.
To join just complete our online application form at http://www.artistsunionengland.org.uk/category/join/.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about local members and events in your area. AUE members meet informally at numerous events around the country.
Demonstrate your support by downloading the AUE broadside (http://www.artistsunionengland.org.uk/aue-1st-birthday-celebrations-1st-may-2015/) to use in selfies or group photos on twitter and Facebook. These photos will be shared and distributed around the country and with sister trade unions.
Find out more about Artists' Union England at http://www.artistsunionengland.org.uk or like / follow them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artistsunionengland) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ArtistsUnionE).
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