Let Artists Be Artists

2.5 years' paid employment to develop your practice // Apply by 18 July 2023

Applications for Stage 1 have now closed. You can still read over the information on this page for reference but the deadline for expressions of interest has now passed. Thanks for your interest!

Listen to an audio version of this page

What if we paid artists to just…be artists?

2.5 years' paid employment //
£30k per year (pro rata) //
Shape a possible new way of working //
"This changes who can be an artist" - Flo Espeut-Nickless //

Deadline: 18 July 2023
» Apply now

"We're looking for 3 UK artists who'd be excited about making brilliant contemporary theatre, dance, performance in Gloucester to be employed for 2.5 years as our 'Let Artists Be Artists' (LABA) intake 2023-2025. It's an experiment in changing the way artists are supported: we want to show what can happen when someone has the freedom to develop their practice & share their voice from a place of greater security & backing".
– Emma-Jane Benning, Co-Artistic Director, Strike A Light

We know there's lots of text on this page – because we want to be upfront and clear. We've split it into sections with summary sentences to hopefully make things easier.

Jump to contents ↓

What is this scheme?

Can I apply?

Apply now

What is this scheme?

Literally what is it – what will happen?

We will employ 3 artists – 1 full-time and 2 part-time – on a salary of £30k per year (pro rata) for 2.5 years to just…be artists.

We will provide support as you shape your work over the 2.5 years but what you do in that time is up to you. It’s about your creative practice, what you want to explore and develop. There is no pressure to create specific projects or shows. It is not an artist-in-residence role – you don’t have to deliver on Strike A Light programmes or work to particular themes.

What would happen or change if you were employed for 2.5 years – if you could get off the project treadmill for a bit and pursue your artistic curiosity with more security and less pressure? If you were trusted to lead your own creative work – with paid time to think, have conversations and create?

These roles will be PAYE, so will include paid holiday, sick pay, pension, Christmas party – all the benefits that someone normally employed through an organisation would have.

Start date: to be agreed with the artists, but from November 2023 onwards.

gif of a dog on a treadmill

What's the goal? Why are you doing this?

We want to change the arts industry, to make it closer to a world we want to see: where people can create with more security and less pressure, and where systems are fair, adventurous and open to everyone.

This isn't about producing a particular piece or event at the end of the funding period. Rather, we're looking for new ways of working.

For too long, there have been massive inequalities in terms of who benefits from ‘The Arts’ – both as audiences and professionals. Artists go underpaid, under-heard and under-supported. And it’s not truly open to everyone. We want to change that.

This approach has been shaped by what we’ve been hearing from artists themselves – both directly in conversation with us, and through things like Louise Blackwell’s fantastic research into independent workers in the creative industries during lockdown.

Now we want to build on what we learnt in the initial pilot year and deepen support for artists.

What's the catch?

Ideally, none! We're trying hard to make this an initiative that works for artists, on their terms.

That goes right from the application process, through the employment period itself, and then on to 'leaving well' at the end of the 2.5 years.

We want to counter and reduce exploitative work patterns in our sector. We've worked with artists from the beginning to try and understand the best ways to make that a reality.

There will be some selection criteria involved in the application process (we're not just picking names at random) – but we will try to be as upfront and transparent as possible about what those are all the way through. No secrets, no surprises.

And we won't get everything right, of course – this is still an experiment and we're learning as much as anyone as we go. But we will make every effort to be sincere in our failures, to own them and to do what we can to make sure the weight of them rests with us, not the artists.

I have more questions…

You can watch a recording of a question and answer session from our online info sessions:

We've tried to provide as much info as we can on this page. You can also read more about how this idea has developed and the previous LABA process elsewhere on our website.

If there are things you wanted to know that we haven't covered, talk to us! You can email us on info@strikealightfestival.org.uk or book into one of our informal info sessions about LABA.

We held 4 informal, online information sessions over 2 dates:

These info sessions, which took place via Zoom, gave people an opportunity to find out more and ask any questions they wanted to. These sessions were recorded so if you weren't able to join on the day, you can still watch a recording of the Q&A session.

Can I apply?

If you're interested in working with people in Gloucester to make exciting contemporary performance, then YES you absolutely can.

Please note: you must live in the UK to apply for this opportunity

Who is this scheme for? What are you looking for?

Exciting artists – people making contemporary theatre, dance, performance – who are excited about working with community members in Gloucester as part of the development of their own work.

We are looking for artists who:

  • are excited about the possibility of developing their work in a fast-changing world – who embrace experimentation and would relish the chance to have 2.5 years to explore what works and what doesn’t
  • would be excited about making brilliant contemporary theatre, dance or performance
  • work in artforms that lend themselves well to a collaborative process, both in the creation and sharing
  • have an idea of who their work speaks to, is for or is created with. Artists who are interested in working with communities as part of their work. This can be communities of geography, interest or other common factors and how, when and why this engagement happens is decided by the artist.
  • want to base their work in Gloucester. This does not mean that the artists cannot work elsewhere or work nationally over the 2.5 years, but this opportunity is for artists who are excited about working in Gloucester and want to focus their work here
  • work in a self-directed way, create their own projects and have a clear creative vision and practice. This vision and practice can still be developing but the artistic work of the 2.5 years will be driven by the artist
  • have something to say, and particularly those who are under-heard and under-represented in the industry
  • are happy to share and articulate their experiences to support the research/documentation aspect of the process. (We are sharing this idea as it develops with the wider industry)
  • want to use this time to build things which can support the sustainability of their career in future
  • feel that Strike A Light’s 7 principles are a good fit with their own ethos, values and way of working

We are particularly interested in applications from Global Majority, Working Class, d/Disabled or LGBTQ+ people as these are currently underrepresented groups in our workforce.

Two important notes!

  1. You don’t have to fit a fixed mould to be the right person for this. Maybe you don't have loads of experience. Maybe you're used to being in a company and this setup seems scarily unfamiliar. Maybe you’ve been frustrated by a system that is stacked against you, or feel like no one has given you the backing to reach your potential. Please don't be scared off: YOU CAN APPLY.
  2. At the same time, we know that applying for jobs or funding can be a time-consuming and emotionally-draining process – so, for your sake, we don't want to cost you time and heartache applying for this if it's not realistically relevant. So if, for example, you don't like contemporary performance, or you're based a long way from the South West of the UK and don't want to work in Gloucester, please don't lose sleep over this opportunity! If it's not a good fit, we won't be able to support you in the way we'd want to – so please check what we're looking for carefully before applying.

It's likely that quite a lot of people will want to apply for this. Last time, we had about 400 Stage 1 Expressions of Interest, which became about 100 Stage 2 applications, leading to eight Stage 3 interviews.

How does the recruitment process work?

3 stages:
1. Expression of Interest
2. Full application
3. Final interviews

Stage 1 is a quick Expression of Interest (EOI). Please let us know:

  1. What is your work? What sort of art do you make?
  2. How do you work with community members to make your work? (Or how you'd like to do it more!)
  3. We'll also ask to see a quick example of your work

We want these answers to be short and conversational. So please no more than a few hundred words, or a 2 minute video or audio file. If this doesn’t work for you, please contact us to discuss another way of applying.

Stage 1 deadline: Tuesday 18 July 2023, 23:59

We will let you know by Wednesday 9 August if you have been invited on to Stage 2 of the application process.

* Please note, due to the volume of applications, we unfortunately won't be able to give personalised feedback on Stage 1 applications – although we will provide general feedback to all applicants.

Stage 2 will consist of online discussion workshops where you can ask questions and get to know us better – followed by a written, video or audio application.

Those who are shortlisted from this will move on to Stage 3. They will be paid for their time to plan and attend a final workshop/ interview, which they can design to suit them, in order to share their work comfortably.

Apply now

Stage 1: Expression of Interest

If you think you'd be a good fit for this and would like to apply, the first step is to complete an Expression of Interest.

We want to make this as simple as possible, so we just want to hear your answers to THREE questions (plus a couple of necessary admin ones):

  1. What is your work? What sort of art do you make?
  2. How do you work with community members to make your work?
  3. Please show us one quick example of your work

We really want you to be able to give short and unpressured answers – please just talk to us like you would in a conversation. (We've seen a lot of applications and we much prefer getting a genuine sense of someone's personality and passions – you don't need to strain to try and say 'the right thing'!)

If you'd prefer to apply via a different method, just get in touch with Jess: info@strikealightfestival.org.uk

Each Expression of Interest will be read by at least two people.

Look forward to hearing from you!


Huge thanks to Arts Council England and all our project partners for investing in this project and their support in making it possible.