Our Coalition Government or: How I Got My Car Towed and Ranted to My MP

I had quite a day on Tuesday. But to tell you about Tuesday I have to go back to last week…

Last week I was down in Devon visiting my parents and some friends. It was a lovely week. I’ve been plotting and scheming about things that I won’t go into here, drinking and generally enjoying some well-earned time off.

When I got back from Devon on Thursday night I had a stack of mail that I didn’t open until Friday. One of the letters was sent to my old address and must’ve been popped through my door by my old landlord. It was a final notice to renew my road tax. Joy. Straight away I tried to renew it online but I couldn’t. It turned out that my car needed its MOT. (For those of you that don’t drive, you can’t get road tax without an MOT.) Being Friday before Bank Holiday weekend, I couldn’t get my car booked in anywhere for an MOT until Tuesday. I figured I’d be able to hold off until then, get my car its MOT and its tax and the whole thing would be sorted by Tuesday. I was wrong.

On Tuesday, before heading to get my car MOTed, I worked from home and also emailed my MP about the cuts in arts funding which I’d been meaning to do while I was away. I packed my laptop, thinking that I’d sit in Starbucks on wifi or something and continue working while I waited, and walked out of my house to my car. Except my car wasn’t there. I walked up and down the street, wondering if I’d parked it somewhere unusual and hadn’t remembered. No. It was gone. Stolen? No. Towed? I thought so.

To cut a long story short, they’d towed my car that morning and I had to get to White Hart Lane to the DVLA impoundheadshot to reclaim it. Oh – and I had to have all my documentation with me and £260. So off I go, traipsing across north London to reclaim my car. Tottenham is only 10 or 20 minutes away by car. By public transport it’s an hour. Finchley Central to Kings Cross on the Northern Line, Kings Cross to Seven Sisters on the Victoria Line and then a train to White Hart Lane. I have an iPhone so obviously I was putting the time I was above ground to good use: checking my email and updating Facebook. But mostly I was tweeting. In fact, I was tweeting so much that I went straight past White Hart Lane by three or four stops. Bugger. I jumped off the train, crossed the platform and discovered that I had 25 minutes until the next train back in the other direction. Bugger. By this time I’d received a response from my MP, Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green.

I would be grateful if you would detail the specific cuts you oppose. To date I have not seen any announcements on specific funding streams.

I was pleased that he’d replied so promptly but, I’m sorry? You haven’t seen an announcement about cuts on funding streams? I replied and apparently this helped him remember the cuts. You know, the ones that were heavily reported recently in the news (like this one).

Dear Mr Cohen

The effectiveness of the Film Council is debatable and was it really the attractor of investment or was it the tax breaks offered (which I believe remain). A 3% reduction is minor compared to the level of savings other parts of the public sector are facing. I am sure the Arts Council will be able to manage on 97% funding, if only by a pay freeze/recruitment freeze and being more selective where it spends public money.

sincerely

Mike Freer MP

Now, he may have a point about the UK Film Council. I don’t know about the finer details of it. I do believe that regardless of whether it was an “attractor of investment” or was simply effective because of  tax breaks, it was effective and beneficial to the UK’s film industry. I’m quite the film fan and there have been some truly excellent British films that were made possible by the UKFC.

TIME OUT! POP QUIZ EVERYONE!

Who remembers the following films:

Bend it like Beckham

The Constant Gardener

Gosford Park

Happy-Go-Lucky

Man on Wire [Circus themed Academy Award winner – Best Documentary Picture]

This is England

Touching the Void

Fish Tank

Yes, you guessed it! They were all funded by the UKFC.

Now, back to the original point.

I am sure the Arts Council will be able to manage on 97% funding, if only by a pay freeze/recruitment freeze and being more selective where it spends public money.

Now hang on a minute… Not only are the arts in the UK (film included) one of the best things we’ve got going for us, but you’re seriously saying that the Arts Council should just be more selective about where it spends its money?! This needed a proper reply.

I appreciate your thoughts but as a practitioner in the arts industry, the effects of the cuts have already been felt. Three of my friends have been made redundant from Circus Space, the de facto national circus school, as Circus Space’s Arts Council funding (as a regularly funded organisation) was axed completely*.

Circus as an art form is in its infancy and had only had the support of Equity and the Arts Council very recently. If circus is to continue to grow and establish itself in the UK – which would be appropriate given it originated here – and become able to produce artists of the calibre and talent of other countries like France and Canada, who receive government funding by the way, we must put resources into circus and the arts not take them away. The arts – and circus in particular – receive very little funding as it is; only a tiny fraction of what is spent on health or defence. Perhaps we should stop sending our troops to purposeless wars and instead send some entertainment overseas?

Regardless of our differing positions, you should be aware of the opinions of your constituents whom you were elected to represent.

Kind regards

Adam Cohen

I didn’t receive another reply.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m politically active. I don’t know much about politics. Most of what I know I know from watching the West Wing. But I do know that my industry is facing a crisis. The economy has finally hit it; it took some time to filter down to us but people are feeling it now. I’ve even been recommended that I “get out now” and find something else to do. And Mr Mike Freer’s arrogant and belittling comment that the Arts Council should just be more selective about where it spends its money is truly disgusting.

I’m sure that Arts Council England will survive and be able to manage on 97% funding , Mr Freer. But will circus? Will the theatres? How many small arts companies won’t survive?

Anyway, in case you’re worried, I managed to get my car back, I got it MOTed, taxed and I managed to get £160 refunded. And them my friend, Andy cooked me beef and venison burgers for dinner.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. And I won’t be forgetting my road tax in a hurry either!

Have you had your car towed? Do you work in the arts? Do you receive funding? How will the cuts in arts funding affect you? Is road tax a con? Leave your comments below. I’ll respond to them all.

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*This isn’t actually true. Circus Space are facing cuts but they have not had their funding ‘axed completely’. That was me being somewhat arsey and trying to make my point.

I tweet as CircusBoy1.  Follow me. Or not.


Is Intelligence a Burden?

Recently I’ve been getting annoyed.

At people.

I seem to be having a lot of conversations recently in which people just don’t think. It’s not that they aren’t capable of intelligent thought, they just aren’t willing to suffer the pain of a bit of mental effort.

Without trying to sound like I’m bragging, I’m someone who’s not only smart (I have a pretty high IQ and also rate fairly highly in some of the other intelligences) but I’m also willing to suffer the pain of mental effort.

What does that mean? Well, this week I’ve been dealing with intellectual property and I wrote a letter of amendment for a work contract I have. I spent an hour writing one paragraph just to make sure that it was exactly right. There were no ‘yeah, buts’, ‘how ’bouts’ or ‘what ifs’ when I was done with it. It was clear. It said exactly (yes, that is underlined bold italics) what it needed to say, nothing more, nothing less.

I spent an hour writing that one paragraph.

And the response I got was: “X & I have read through the letter and we’re slightly confused with the paragraph that you’ve written.”

Now, it was a slightly wordy paragraph, I admit that. But it doesn’t take a genius to understand it (my dad read it once and got it straight away) – only the willingness to read, re-read, consider and think about what it said. That’s mental effort.

And it pisses me off when people don’t think.

A Circus Quandary

Recently I’ve been in a quandary.

I’ve been working on a couple of developmental circus projects at work and I’ve found myself holding back. Why? Because anything I say or write or create isn’t mine.

My employment contract states that anything I create or develop will be the exclusive property of my employer. That’s standard enough, and when I agreed to it it wasn’t an issue. However, with these two new projects, I feel I have a certain background and certain experiences that the rest of the development team do not. I want to give myself fully – my thoughts, my ideas, my designs, my opinions – and I want to create something exceptional – and I definitely do not want to delivery something that is rubbish – but I don’t want to give away ideas and designs that could potentially be my future.

Intellectual Property is an interesting thing. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, but you can own it and you can give it away. In fact, unless you say it or write it down it doesn’t even exist.

Today, I had a conversation with someone that has a lot of experience with dealing with intellectual property. It turns out that my current quandary is actually very simple.

I need to have a conversation.

I need to have a conversation about my intellectual property and the rights to my intellectual property. Because the fact of the matter is that I’m not going to give away what could potentially be a future business venture for me. I could be creating what I’m going to do over the next 20 or 30 years and I’m not going to hand it over without retaining the rights to what I create.

I need to have a conversation.

Thankfully, the people I need to have the conversation with are very open and willing to have this kind of conversation. And I expect that if I approach them we will be able to agree some kind of ‘royalty-free license’ so that we can both benefit from our work together.

So it turns out that my quandary is not a quandary after all. It was just a concern that I can resolve in a conversation.

Everything can be resolved in communication.