In just under a week our new event COMM/ON will take place in the Black Box. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about for years and it has evolved and changed quite a bit even since we announced the date back in October, but the central idea is the same - freelancing is different, brilliantly different.
In 2015 I’d been thinking about the idea for a while and run it past loads of freelancers in the run up to CNB15. The night after while drinking with a fellow freelancer at the Hit the North closing party I explained it like this - ‘If I’m a big business all I care about is money, by law I must prioritise the financial interests of my shareholders. If I’m a small business or sole trader I want to make money sure, I want to put food on my children’s table BUT I also want to contribute to building a better community for my children to grow up in…. God that’s good actually, that’s exactly what its about. I bet I forget about this in the morning’
By some miracle I didn’t forget and this central idea that freelancers ADD value to society while big business EXTRACT value is what has driven COMM/ON and the need to make it happen.
At this point I also have to give a bit shout to Phil Harrison who has been our partner in this event for the last year or so and who came up with the name and the logo, (and who sadly can’t make this event now cause he’s at something called South Bye?). Perhaps most importantly though, again more pub conversations here, Phil really pushed me to think of this event as much more than a networking event but as something political.
The system is set up to define everything as either profit making or charitable, there is no space in the middle, it’s black and white. For my particular circumstances, working in the arts is problematic because of this binary approach. For example, I cannot begin to tell you how many times people think that Seedhead Arts is a charity simply because we have the word Arts in our name. It’s as if it could not possibly be a business because it doesn’t fit that traditional mould, because arts can’t be a business right? You either have to be all about the bottom line and nothing else or the system has no box to put you in.
In short the system is rigged against us. And yet we love it right? Being you’re own boss. Starting work when you like. Not having to ask the boss if you want to try something completely new. And my favourite, working with the people you WANT to.
So COMM/ON will be a celebration of the outsider, the freedom of being a freelancer. It will be the start of a conversation about how the very act of just being freelance is political. It will ask how collectively we can have more impact and it will be an opportunity to meet other freelancers who are looking for people to collaborate with.
Sound good? Cool, see you on Wednesday 22nd March at the Black Box from 2-5 and the full line up is now on the event page… and please plan to hang back after for a drink.