Misguided visionaries and rigid minds

From My Life is the most ambitious Regular Marvel so far, and it is already testing some aspects of the model. The issue, as so often in the arts, is money. My other projects have averaged about £10,000 including production costs, though Where we Dream cost more. It was possible because there was just me and the artist: I couldn’t pay either of us much, but the work’s interest (and ties of friendship) made people generous with their time when I couldn’t be with cash. The independence and freedom this brought has been central to the whole idea and more than compensated for the rocky parts of the road.

But From My Life is conceived on a much larger scale. It involves musicians, composers and other artists who need to be paid the normal rates (though they aren’t much to get excited about). Working between London, the Midlands and rural Aberdeenshire imposes unavoidable costs. So the budget is about £30,000, and, for the first time with a Regular Marvel, I’ve had to apply for funding. Three applications were submitted and now all have been refused. Of course, the lack of interest is disappointing, but it raises larger questions about From My Life and the Regular Marvels concept itself.

Without feedback, I can only wonder why three different bodies concerned with funding classical music saw no value in an idea that everyone I’ve spoken to about it has thought original and worthwhile. It is in the nature of artistic innovation to believe in the importance of what you’re doing, just as it is to be expected that others may not recognise that importance precisely because it is new. The problem is that you can’t tell whose judgement is right. Do you press forward in the face of indifference or opposition? Or do you listen and change tack? There are far, far more artists who have doggedly stuck to their vision and been proved wrong than there are visionaries, like Van Gogh, whose worth has finally been recognised. It’s just that no one has heard of the millions who thought they were the next Van Gogh, but weren’t.

I still love the ideas that From My Life explores. Like most people, I’d prefer to do what I believe in even if no one else does, than cut my ideas to suit the fashion of the times (especially these times). But I might need to rethink how I work on them and find a way that’s not so dependent on external funding.

Food for thought, but while I think, The Light Ships is progressing well: its dedicated website will launch on 1 May. So here’s a May Day painting in anticipation…

Whitelands College May Day Procession, 1902 by Anna Richards Brewster
Whitelands College May Day Procession, 1902
by Anna Richards Brewster



    1. Thanks Mik – a very nice idea, though I’m not yet consigning this to the cast-offs pile. It just might take longer and be a different shape, but that’s true of all the Regular Marvels.

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