Opinion with Eleanor Pead

Eleanor Pead
Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Why don't we teach financial management as part of our arts education?

Adobe Stock

Between the ages of four and 24, I was almost continuously in some form of artistic education, whether it was extracurricular clubs, A Level Drama or an MA at drama school. In that time, I can probably count on one hand the amount of financial education I received. The limited budgeting experience I had was during my time in a theatre society at university.

While I've had many opportunities to write lengthy essays on the characters of Blood Wedding, nobody ever sat me down and explained how to create a budget for a show or how Arts Council funding works. Baffling.

While a massive overhaul to the education system would be helpful, there are several simple additions that could be made to the current structures to help support our young arts students. For instance, our GCSE or A Level students could submit a hypothetical budget as part of their devised pieces of coursework. We don't need to throw money at them, but instilling the knowledge of what goes into making and financing a piece of theatre could be incredibly useful to students at a younger age. Budgeting is a vital life skill, so it would still be beneficial for those students who aren't seeking a career in the arts. With a workforce more heavily populated with freelancers than ever before, we should be teaching our young people how to complete a tax return and balance multiple income streams.

While it's clear that most people in the arts aren't doing it for the money, finances are a key part of the industry and can often cripple individuals and projects – now so more than ever. Although we have guidance from organisations like Equity and ITC, there's a huge problem with creatives being underpaid. There's certainly an art to negotiating and understanding one's worth, so why aren't we teaching it?

Then there's applying for funding. Whether you are applying on behalf of your one-woman fringe show or a large organisation, you'll need to dance with the Arts Council or find a way to privately finance your work. Why aren't we talking about it? Imagine a world where educational packs from largescale shows contained information on their costs or give you a rough idea of where the budget goes.

This idea is not radical. Communal knowledge is a vital part of the arts. We learn by shadowing, sharing our lived experience, finding mentors and consultants. I'm just proposing we start the process earlier and equip young creatives, so it becomes part of their practice from the beginning, giving them a stronger foundation on which to build their careers.

SAMUEL BLACK© Samuel Black

- Eleanor Pead