Creative Employment

Tools of the Trade

Last spring’s call for (part-time, unpaid) interns from the Marina Abramovic Institute elicited some creative responses – and some more cautious comments.


Internships are commonly understood to be short-term practical work experiences, and should ideally be a win-win situation: the intern gains experience, skills, contacts and a general sense of their chosen industry; the employer gets an enthusiastic and committed assistant, perhaps even a future collaborator.

The problem when they’re not paid is that they create an unfair playing field, as Intern Aware – a UK-based campaign against unpaid internships – explains in this video:

On the Huffington Post UK, unpaid internships are blamed for widening the ‘elitist gap’ and likened to a form of modern day slavery; the BBC is reporting that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is targeting 200 employers who recently advertised internships to ensure they are paying the minimum wage; and the Guardian is regularly reporting on sectorial practices around unpaid internships and the culture of privilege they reproduce.

On the militant front, Internship Anonymous features some rather revolting personal stories, and the Internship Manifesto for the creative industries (by Toronto-based Sam Johnstone) is making some powerful points with its Intern Charter of Rights + Freedom, of which I’ll quote the last two ones (click to read the full manifesto):


Practices and regulations differ for each industry and country, but rules on compensation are not always enforced and are too easily circumvented by playing on the blurry frontier between volunteer and intern. Intern Aware addresses this issue:

If you’ve got set hours, tasks and responsibilities then you almost certainly count as a ‘worker’ and have a right to be paid. There are a few exemptions, for charities and people who are interning as part of their study.

In the cultural sector, there are now other ways to get one’s foot on the career ladder. The three initiatives featured below are helping out young people and emerging art workers to explore and gain experience in their dream career; they also support arts organisations by enabling them to expand their capacity; and they benefit the ecology of the sector at large, by nurturing the next generation and ensuring that skills and knowledge are continuously shared and improved.

Creative Employment Programme

The Creative Employment Programme is a £15m fund to support the creation of traineeships, formal apprenticeship and paid internship opportunities in England for young unemployed people aged 16-24 wishing to pursue a career in the arts and cultural sector.

It provides part-wage grants to employers who apply through a formal competitive process, with a rolling deadline every 5 weeks. The grants are provided up to the following amounts:

  1. Up to £2500 per paid internship based on a minimum of 26 weeks of employment at 30 hours per week. Wages must be paid at National Minimum Wage or above.

  2. Up to £1500 per Apprenticeship based on a minimum of 12 months at 30 hours per week. This is if the employer chooses to pay National Minimum Wage for Apprenticeships (£2.68 an hour).

  3. Up to £2000 per Apprenticeship based on a minimum of 12 months at 30 hours per week. This is if the employer chooses to pay National Minimum Wage or above for the age of the apprentice.

The scheme is funded by Arts Council England until March 2015 and run by Creative and Cultural Skills. The two organisations have co-published a “Guide to Internships in the Arts” clearly stating that “interns” that fall under the ‘worker’ status must be paid at least the minimum wage. And if interns “have a clear set of objectives, a specific role and formal duties, and (are) expected to help the arts organisation to achieve its aims”, then they are quite likely into this category.

The scheme also promotes a chart of Fair Access Principle, developed in collaboration with The Creative Society (see below), that articulates the difference between Volunteers, Work Experience, Internships and Apprenticeships, and encourages employers to commit to the following general Recruitment Practices:

We commit to advertising all opportunities fairly, openly and transparently. We will publicise details openly and in a range of relevant places including the National Apprenticeships Service Vacancy Service and Jobcentre Plus, where appropriate.

We also commit not to request that applicants possess qualifications that are not relevant.

The Creative Society

Formerly known as New Deal of the Mind, the Creative Society is “an arts employment charity that helps young people into jobs in the creative and cultural industries”. It all started with an article in The New Statesman by founder and CEO Martin Bright, considering the effects of the cultural programmes of the American New Deal, such as:

The Federal Art Project conducted classes attended by 60,000 people a week and produced 234,000 works of art; the Federal Music Project gave 4,400 musical performances a month, with an average monthly attendance of three million people, and the Federal Theatre put on 1,813 plays. The Federal Writers’ Project produced guidebooks to the American states and nearly 200 books and pamphlets.

According to Britain’s leading expert on the New Deal, Professor Anthony Badger of Cambridge University:

The WPA was based on the principle that there was no point in putting unemployed writers to work digging roads. They were ridiculed at the time, and there were some ludicrous projects, but there were also some remarkable achievements.

The Creative Society conducts research and publishes guides and reports, campaigns for Fair Access to establish standards of recruitment,and runs event, projects and programmes, such as Right Futures, advising 16-19 interested in a career in music, film or design; Haringey Job Fund, subsidising jobs in the arts for 16-24 Haringey residents currently unemployed (and open to arts organisations based in any London borough); and This Is It!, a series of events across England for all paid interns and apprentices on the Creative Employment Programme.

The BBC Performing Arts Fund

The BBC Performing Arts Fund aims to seek out and support aspiring individuals and community groups who, for reasons of lack of existing support, personal background or circumstance, would not have been able to achieve their greatest potential without the Fund’s support or intervention.

Since its inception in 2003, the Fund has already awarded over £4m worth of grants, as well as offering mentoring and advice to help winners achieve their most ambitious goals. Previous winners have gone on to produce a Mercury Prize winning album, perform at the Glastonbury Festival, appear on Later with Jools Holland and land starring roles in the West End.

Each year the Fund’s work focuses on a different art form – music, dance or theatre – and grants are distributed via two schemes, one for individuals and one for community groups.

The charity is funded through revenue from the voting lines of BBC entertainment programmes such as Fame Academy, Over the Rainbow and The Voice.

The focus for 2013 is Community Theatre, and 19 Fellows and 58 community groups have just been selected to receive grants (£10,000 for individuals, £500 to 5,000 for groups). The Fellows are emerging artists, playwrights, producers and director from across the UK, placed for several months with a host organisation on a bespoke work experience programme. The community groups’ projects are equally varied, from Team Oasis in Liverpool who plans to “promote community togetherness, inclusion, integration; and above all, acceptance within the local Liverpool community” to the Duns Players who “want to improve their vocal and movement skills. These skills would be used with school children and older people in two new projects next year”. An ongoing blog provides information about working in the performing arts, updates on funding schemes and themes, and follow-up interviews and features on past winners.

Glasgow 2014: Volunteer Recruitment

Tools of the Trade

As I’m wrapping up my contract as Volunteer Coordinator for Luminato Festival, I’ve started a series of roundtables with volunteers willing to share their feedback and suggestions to improve the volunteer programme. One great comment amongst many was how volunteering allowed people to come closer to the artistic experience than mere audience members and to make them feel that they’re playing an integral part in the festival team.

With a tagline such as “It’s not just athletes at the heart of the Games”, Glasgow Commonweatlh Games 2014 Volunteer Programme is positioned along similar lines of contributing and belonging. They’re looking for 15,000 Games Time volunteers and 400 pre-Games “frontrunners”.

Registration opened on 5th November 2012, and, as early as 20th November 2012, over 20,000 candidates had registered their interest in volunteering, coming mainly from Glasgow, but also “from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Stirling and even London”.  In the words of a London 2012 volunteer: “London 2012 set the bar, but Glasgow 2014 can leap over it.”

(Update!) After connecting with Glasgow 2014’s Head of Marketing on Twitter, I discovered the following record figures:

Martin Reynaldo Tweets

The Volunteering section of Glasgow 2014’s website is remarkably well developed, obviously trying to be as comprehensive as possible, detailing processes, timelines and roles, and there are quite a few lessons in volunteer recruitment and management to be drawn from it. For example, the volunteer journey page clearly outlines the steps and timeframe that apply to all Games Time volunteers selected for an interview:

April – December 2013: Volunteer interviews (some specialist roles also interviewed in 2014)
October 2013 – July 2014: Response
March – July 2014: Training (3 sessions, 4 for leadership roles)
April – August 2014: Uniform and accreditation
April – August 2014: Details of Games-time shifts

Registration seems to be closed at this time; it was accepted in person at the Volunteer Centre, by phone or online through the Volunteer Portal.

Volunteer Criteria

Volunteers are expected to be responsible for their travel and accommodation, attend training and volunteer at least 8 days during Games time (23 July 2014 – 3 August 2014), with shifts lasting between 8 and 12 hours. Break length (at least 30 minutes per 8 hours) and rest between shifts (a minimum of eleven hours rest between eight-hour shifts) are clearly stated.

Volunteers must be aged over 16, be eligible to work in the UK and speak and read English or British Sign Language.

They are also expected to take responsibility for their own uniform and accreditation and to be flexible about their role and the venue where they are based.

Security checks are part of the selection process, and for jobseekers, “time spent volunteering can also count towards up to 50% of (their) weekly job search commitments”.

Volunteer support

Financial and practical support is available to potential volunteers who wouldn’t be able to participate otherwise, thanks to £500,000 worth of funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government, to assist with the following needs (Scottish residents only):

  • Travel and accommodation costs for people on low incomes who live outside Glasgow
  • Additional costs of personal care for people with disabilities
  • Respite care costs to allow carers to be confident their caring responsibilities are being met
  • Additional childcare costs


Pre-Games volunteers, or frontrunners, assist with planning and delivering a range of activities between 2012 and 2014:

  • Volunteer Management (recruitment and scheduling), Training (around 50,000 training sessions and 250,000 hours delivered before the Games), Uniforms (17,500 Games Time uniform kits designed, produced and delivered to to volunteers, paid staff, technical officials and medal bearers).
  • The Queen’s Baton Relay  (from Buckingham Palace to the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony), Games Family Relations & Protocol (supporting the 71 Commonwealth Games Associations and athletes, team officials and wider Games Family).
  • EngagementDigital MediaMedia Communications & Broadcasting.
  • Venue OperationsCatering, Cleaning & Waste ManagementTransport (400 buses and 1,500 fleet vehicles).

Another page on pre-Games volunteers states that all frontrunners will be assigned a mentor from the department they’re working with, and that “previous Games volunteers have described their experience as life-changing and people who give up their time to volunteer for Glasgow 2014 can expect a wide range of personal and developmental benefits”.

Volunteer Interviews

With thousands of applicants, interviews are are huge undertaking for the Games staff, assisted by frontrunners. It’s also a potentially stressful time for would-be volunteers, and the Guide to Volunteer Interviews section of the website gets into a high level of details to cover all grounds and minimise anxiety.

A “Volunteer Interview Guide” video with frontrunner Robbie shows other pre-Games volunteers conducting 1-to-1 interviews in the Volunteer Centre:

Volunteer Roles 

Volunteers will assist in many different ‘functional areas’ (too many to list here!), ranging from frontline customer service to volunteer and staff support, First Aid, anti-doping tests, “brand protection” and more.

Every single one of these functional areas is presented in a way that helps applicants assess the scope of the role and evaluate their suitability, as per the example below.

Spectator Services

Your Role:

You will be the face of the Games and among the first and last people spectators and guests see during their Games experience. You’ll provide a variety of services, inside and outside our venues, to visitors from all over the world, from giving directions to monitoring access.

Role Highlights:

You’ll have a truly authentic Glasgow 2014 experience. You’ll be part of the team of friendly faces who shape the experience of everyone who comes to see Glasgow 2014.

You’ll be on the ground with a smile and good cheer, interacting directly with spectators and other volunteers.

Is This You?

You will possess excellent communication skills, have a strong focus on customer service and most importantly a positive attitude. Some roles will also require leadership skills.

Please note roles in Spectator Services start from 21 July 2014.

Your Impact on Glasgow 2014

As part of the Spectator Services team you will be in a position to shape the atmosphere of Glasgow 2014. Your good humour and friendly service will be one of the things that will stand out in the memory of everyone who comes to the Games.

While it’s quite clear that Glasgow 2014 has put a lot of time and effort into their organisational structure and development, they haven’t neglected the more emotional side of the preparations, as this great video created for the 500 days countdown demonstrates. To the sound of “I Would Walk 500 Miles” by the Proclaimers, it’s complete with sweeping city sights, hundreds of cans of Irn-Bru, a community choir, construction work and even a cheerful lollipop woman. It’s a lovely celebration of the community involvement: volunteers, fans, local shopkeepers and workers who will, together, create the Games experience.

Additionally, although I’m not usually too keen on Olympic-type mascots, I want to mention the short animation film about Glasgow 2104’s Clyde Thistle, because it’s animated (always a bonus) and because it’s available in a subtitled and British Sign Language version.

Access Toolkit: Outdoor Events

Tools of the Trade

Now that we know all about organising a street party, courtesy of the several excellent resources I featured in a previous post, it’s time to make it fully accessible – and here again, help is available. The Independent Street Art Network offers a free Access Toolkit downloadable from their website with the goal of “making outdoor arts events accessible to all”. It’s co-produced with Attitude is Everything, a UK charity that works towards improving Deaf and disabled people’s access to live music, and it’s a London 2012 legacy project.

The Access Toolkit is a comprehensive guide to identify and remove barriers to access for all types of outdoor events. Practically, it can help outdoor festivals – from live music in a field to busy street carnivals – to meet the standards outlined in the Attitude is Everything’s Charter of Best Practice:


  • Accessible toilet(s)
  • Level access
  • An emergency evacuation plan
  • An accessible booking system
  • ‘2 for 1’ ticket scheme
  • Viewing area(s) / platform(s)
  • Staff can describe access
  • Accessible publicity and access information
  • Induction loop / infra red system
  • Accessible signage
  • Disability Equality Training for staff
  • Accessible Campsite (Festivals only)


  • Go beyond the legal minimum level of physical access
  • Have an early entrance option
  • Backstage/stage access
  • An accessible and diverse recruitment policy
  • An ‘Access Address Book’
  • Extend Disability Equality Training
  • Access to the performance
  • Extend access policies to partners


  • Become an Ambassador for Best Practice in Access
  • Long term commitment
  • Track effects of accessible recruitment and measure diversity


The Toolkit provides information, tips and checklists to help event organisers think thoroughly about barriers to access and how to remove them, in three main sections:

 Why: the many advantages of making an event truly inclusive and accessible, including complying with the legislation and reaping economic benefits. This can help

Before the event: this is perhaps where the biggest shift in attitude must occur. Inclusive marketing and efficient outreach will help attract more people; staff and volunteers recruitment and training are also crucial to the success of the inclusion efforts.

At the event: there are many adjustments that can be made for free or at a small cost. The toolkit is very practical, with clear recommendations, checklists and specialised suppliers contact details. Areas covered include:

  • information and communication, from steward training to signage and announcements;
  • accessible toilets, seating, viewing platforms;
  • crowd management for large street parties such as carnivals;
  • making performances accessible, through the use of sign language interpreters, captions or audio descriptions.

Several case studies conclude the toolkit, highlighting the importance of planning and training.

The Access Toolkit can be downloaded here, and Attitude is Everything provide further resources on their website, including a set of practical guides to improve communication, create a viewing platform or establishing a 2-for-1 ticket policy for disabled people and their Personal Assistant.

Volunteers and Donors: Facts & Figures

The Long Read

What festivals get from their volunteers seems fairly obvious – a sudden influx of enthusiastic people who take on a wide variety of roles, from handing out brochures to conducting audience research, cleaning the festival site and pretty much anything else they get asked to do. For a large festival, that’s hundreds of hours of work, sometimes highly skilled.

But what do volunteers get out of donating their time? What motivates them, what makes them feel truly rewarded? And would it be a very good or a very bad idea to ask them to contribute also financially to the organization that they support with their donated skills and times?

Hill Stratégies, an arts research consultancy based in Hamilton, Ontario, has recently published their updated version of  Volunteers and Donors in Arts and Culture Organizations in Canada in 2010. It’s the 40th report in their  Statistical Insights on the Arts series and it is based on statistics queried from Statistics Canada’s 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (CSGVP), a survey of more than 15,000 Canadians 15 or older.

It’s full of data on volunteer and donors in the arts, and also gives comparisons with volunteers in other nonprofit sectors.  As such, it’s a practical tool that can help arts organizations to understand the wider context and to make decisions, for example on their volunteer benefit structure or recruitment techniques.

Here are some snippets from the report about volunteers:

  • Arts and culture volunteers tend to stay with the same organization for a relatively long period of time: 42% of arts and culture volunteers were with the same organization for at least five years.
  • The top 10% of arts and culture volunteers (i.e., those who volunteered at least 286 hours) contributed 61% of total volunteer hours in arts and culture organizations. (…) The top 25% (who volunteered at least 110 hours) contributed 80% of total volunteer hours in arts and culture organizations.

A few more about individual donors:

  • The $108 million donated to arts and culture organizations represents, on average, $141 per donor.
  • The top 25% of donors, who contributed at least $125, accounted for 75% of total donations.

And about both:

  • While there are very similar numbers of arts and culture volunteers (764,000) and donors (760,000), there are relatively few people who do both. Roughly 87,000 people both volunteered and donated in arts and culture organizations in 2010.

The full report is available from Hill Stratégies website.

Volunteer Management: A Free Taster

Tools of the Trade

Volunteer management is often on my mind right now, and I find that it’s a component of the festival mix that’s not too difficult to get right. Fortunately, there are plenty of enthusiastic people out there who are happy to trade a bit of their time and skills for the satisfaction to create a memorable collective experience. That leaves us with three problems: recruiting, scheduling and communicating.

I’m preparing a presentation on ‘Recruitment, Recognition and Retention‘ with my colleague Saskia for a Volunteer Managers meeting at the Art Gallery of Ontario in April, so I’ll come back to this in a later post .

As for scheduling, the tricky part is not to figure out when volunteers are needed for which tasks, but rather to display them in a manageable way. If you have multiple sites, simultaneous activities, one-off necessities such as an airport run, it can quickly get messy to try to visualise them all at a glance. And without a dynamic system, it’s easy to forget to fill in a shift or to miss out on some volunteers when notifying them of changes. A spreadsheet and emails can go quite a long way, but they’ll cost a lot of time and frustration.

Enter technology, and even better, a totally free software. I’ve used a platform called VolunteerSpot for two different events now, Jane’s Walk and Toronto Design Offsite Festival, and even though it’s nothing like ‘proper’ volunteer management software such as Volunteer Squared, which I blogged about previously, or Volgistics, it’s a million light-years from the awkwardness of a painfully manual system.

A few features that will seem unbelievably sophisticated to anyone who’s never used such a software (i.e. me about a year ago):

    • You can create a custom link that take volunteers straight to your sign-up form.
    • Volunteers register online, with all the details that you want to collect, and they sign up themselves for shifts.
    • You can leave shifts open, with no sign-up limit, or lock them once they’ve reached desired capacity.
    • You can see at a glance any vacant spot.
    • You get a notification when volunteers cancel their shift.
    • Volunteers receive an automated email reminder before their shift.

It’s geared towards small nonprofit and volunteer-led organisations, so it’s suitable for a festival with fairly simple needs, maybe up to 60 volunteers.  Beyond that, it might be worth moving on to a more robust platform that gives you more options and support. After all, Volgistics costs as little as $380 per year for 200 active volunteer records, but that could be $380 that you need to buy volunteer T-shirts.

VolunteerSpot has 5 sample sign-ups to demonstrate its multiple uses and a few video tours. I should also mention that it has a premium version, but if you can afford to pay, then other softwares offer a smoother interface and more features.