The Something for Nothing Culture in the UK


Not for the first time have I written about my reluctance to work for free but given the ’Something for Nothing Culture’ in the UK now, I really can’t see how anyone from the Prime Minister and business leaders down, can talk about an enterprising culture and private enterprise, when those very same people encourage people working for nothing.

Look at The Olympics. A perfect example.  This is an enterprise where over 400 million GBP has been siphoned off via Government to fund this extravaganza, at the expense of many people who rely on help via charitable organisations who have lost this funding due to The Olympics.  And yet despite the billions in revenue that will be generated, the Organisers have recruited volunteers to ‘help’.  Help!?  For God’s Sake!  We are in a recession, we have millions of people out of work in this Country and instead of providing paid employment for those unemployed, it is felt better to let those running things and their friends, rake in the profits at the expense of putting people back to work.  In London at least, we are going to have endure The Olympics and The Paralympics for two months.  Two months of possible employment that is not going happen.  Better to have people work for nothing. And the story goes on!  I cannot imagine the LA in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996 using volunteers.  Private enterprise financed and ran those Olympics with no Government cash I might add.  But in the British case it was not 400 million of Government cash but cash from the National Lottery for good causes but of course, The Government likes to think it can just stick its hand into the cash register, take the cash and do what it likes with it.  About time there was a Law against that kind of abuse but don’t hold your breath on that happening anytime soon, if ever.

I have not been immune from this kind of exploitation.  As an Actor, I have worked on Film and in Theatre for no pay on the understanding something would come out doing so.  To be honest, nothing has ever come out it and I am certainly no better off for taking a chance.  So I have stopped taking chances and allowing people to take the proverbial and laid down my own law which pretty much says: ‘If you can’t pay or are not willing to pay me for my services, then that tells me everything I need to know.  Sorry (no I am not,) can’t help you’.

From the picture below, you can see a letter from a music professor chastising the author of an article which more or less says that musicians should be grateful to showcase their talents at The Olympics for free.  Indeed they should be grateful to showcase their skills and talents to a global audience but they should be paid for the privilege of doing so.  After all they have spent many years, time, dedication and sacrifice in becoming the skilled musicians they are.  Why should they not be paid for to perform? And to a global audience no less?

And so it should be for actors too.  Outside of the voluntary sector which is just that and does some excellent work, I can’t think of another area of work or sector where you can train for years or work for years and people treat you with such distain?  The Sun does not shine out of my backside but when people pull down my efforts, without even walking a mile in my shoes, I take exception to that. I really do.  Yes, I know criticism comes with the territory but one thing my fiercest critic was right about was that no one respects you when you work for nothing.  Performing in front of a theatre audience of four people gains you nothing.  And you know what?  She was right.  I give her that much credit, if nothing else.

When an artist (or anyone else outside of the Voluntary Sector,) works for nothing, it is never appreciated.  There is no good exposure when you work for nothing.  Only bad exposure.  When you work for nothing, you don’t value yourself, or your worth.  Certainly the people you work for don’t value your worth.  Why would they?  They are getting you for nothing.  I have encountered this situation time and time again.  It gets no better.  The disrespect gets worse.  Well I have had enough of that kind of treatment and behaviour.

No one quits this Business.  “This Business retires you, sometimes after the first film,” as Sir Michael Canine once said in a television interview.  And he is right.  I feel as if I am retired.  In my cause, I have done work on more than twenty-five films and God knows how many television productions – I have lost count to be honest.  So if I never work again as an Actor, at least I can say I made a real effort but only went so far.  The question I am faced with is “Should I continue to pursue a career where (in the UK at least,) I am at a distinct disadvantage because (like every other actor of coIour,) have a five percent genetic difference that puts me at a distinct disadvantage with casting directors.  Ridiculous.  Absolutely ridiculous!  But there you have it.  There is no such thing as talent.  All that matters is whether you have the right looks (no mention of acting ability,) in many cases or whether you are so desperate, you are willing to work for nothing.  Well, I may not have ‘the right look’ nor am I willing to work for nothing because to be honest, I am no longer that desperate, nor was I ever.   I just wanted to carve out a career for myself by doing the best job I possibly could. It gets harder to do that when it is not appreciated.  All I have or had was my hard working class ethic, ability, knowledge, talent and acting ability.  Very rarely if ever appreciated.  Hard to think that is so given my work history but there you go.  That is the reality.

Time to move on do something different.



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