A career in the arts is rarely linear. But everything you do can help build confidence and skills, says Jeremy Spafford.

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I’d invest in relationships

Make yourself available to help others out with their projects and over time you’ll get the benefit of a virtuous circle. I often find myself doing things I’ve never done before and the first thing I do is contact someone I know to give me advice. I’ve been accumulating helpful friends and networks for many years and it’s what sees me through.

I’d see lots of work

The more you see, the more discerning you’ll be and the better idea you’ll have about what excites you. It can be very expensive of course, so be a volunteer usher at venues and festivals to see shows for free.

I’d take money seriously

It is very difficult to earn a decent living in the arts. I spent years working in lots of different fields before working in arts management. Effective arts professionals have great project management and people skills, which you can learn in unrelated (and satisfying) jobs and then transfer into the sector. 

I’d go the extra mile

Working in the arts may not pay well but it is great fun and hugely rewarding. Much of this is because the people involved are passionate about what they do and go above and beyond. Whether a project goes well or not, you can always learn from it. You never want to be in the position of wishing you’d tried harder. So, if you believe in the project, commit.

I’d hold on to optimism

We are lucky to be in a sector that is preoccupied with enjoyment and meaning. And, at a time when the world is confusing, art and culture become even more important. We have a crucial job to do in bringing people together and in provoking debate. What a privilege!

So, however difficult it may seem at times, hold onto the potential, get support where you can and keep focused on why it all matters so much.

Jeremy Spafford is Director of Arts at the Old Fire Station.
Tw: @ArtsatOFS

Jeremy is co-producing the Offbeat Festival, which runs from 23 June to 2 July.

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Photo of Jeremy Spafford