In September 2017 I was awarded Arts Council funding to do some R&D in East Brighton. You can keep up to date with that project here. Here's the first post from the journal.Read More
Shared at the Brighton Pecha Kucha on the 28th June 2017.
I am about to embark on a new phase of Beyond Work. I've discovered over the years of working on this project, that the most important question for me is 'how do we end up doing what we do?', and this comes back to something very personal and I think it's at the heart of this project for me.
It comes back to me wondering how I have come from a small post-war council estate on the outskirts of Brighton called Bristol Estate, leaving school with no qualifications and yet somehow I have managed to 'work' in fulfilling or interesting jobs for most of my life.
It makes me wonder what tiny moments, luck, conditions, people, chance, timing, skills I've had in my life that has brought me to this place in time. It makes me question the examples of work I grew up with that have maybe influenced the path I have taken.
How I have ended up here is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I have some hunches. A few things happened in my childhood that changed my path. I went from being a failing GCSE student to setting up radio stations, signing record deals, having music played by John Peel on Radio 1 and managing global music radio projects in the space of a few years.
It is possible those things would not have happened if a school teacher had not shown a real interest in supporting me outside of school. He mentored my twin brother and me, and this lead to us receiving a Princes Trust grant. There were a couple of other mentors along the way that helped, but that teacher was key.
So I want to create an intervention that would have helped the 15-year-old me.
The next phase of Beyond Work will see me going back to the place that I grew up to observe, photograph and unearth the needs of people there now. I want to see what it is like to be embarking in the world of work, to be looking for work or be in a job in a place that’s been unfairly stigmatised over the years. It turns out that if you are a man living in Whitehawk, your life expectancy drops by seven years compared to the average in Brighton. That needs to change.
Once I have done my observing and research, I am going to set up an alternative Job Centre. The alternative Job Centre will be very different to the one you find in the back alleys of the UK right now. It will take a long-term approach to work life instead of just being interested in getting people off benefits.
It will look to unearth latent talent in people and support them to make the most of that talent, and it will consider well-being, fulfilment, health, family life, dreams and other things outside of work.
It will look at all the new possibilities in the world of work that at the moment might be reserved for people with different backgrounds. And it will bring together a bunch of artists, mentors and teachers to inspire and make this happen.
I know it sounds slightly utopian at the moment, and it is early days for the project, but it is important for me to use the kind of work I do for good and to make some changes in areas that need it. Work and life are better when there is diversity, it opens up perspectives, challenges pre-conceived ideas and creates opportunities for amazing new things to happen.
This project is now being updated here.
An experiment in autoethnography - we have given a disposable camera to a Deliveroo worker to see how they document their own working life. We'll share the results, good or bad, once we get the camera back.
The latest worker is Emily Macaulay, Designer, and maker of mainly paper things. The zine will be available soon.
"I hate mornings, so when my alarm goes off I often just want five more minutes in bed. But after that I am a creature of habit, I work between 9-6, Monday to Friday. Most of the time I look forward to work, I run my own business so I should be enjoying it, if not I severely need to re-think things. My studio is in my house, so once I'm up I don't have to go far. I'm pretty disciplined. I've prided myself on that for years, but it's only been recently that I see it as a hang up from working in a shop for so many years. I run my own business so I shouldn't be so restricted. If it's sunny out I should be able to switch stuff around to be able to enjoy that, there is nothing stopping me. That is something to work on."
"Il lavoro nobilita l'uomo, ma lo rende simile alla bestia"
(Work makes people noble, but likens them to beasts).
"Our society is currently gripped by a pervasive ideology of work. It is continuously preached to us as the pinnacle of human virtue. If you’re not doing superhuman stints at the office then something is wrong with you. And don’t even mention the word unemployed … that’s blasphemy."
Read the full article
If you use the trains in the South East of England, you are probably already aware of the issues with the service over the past year or so. Today see's both the drivers and guards striking, which means Southern Rail won't be operating any services.
I went up to Brighton Station to interview some people about how this situation is affecting their work and home lives. I'm looking for a few more people to talk to, so if you fancy being interviewed over the next two days, please get in touch. I'm interested in hearing stories about the human impact this is having on people's lives, and these stories will be used in a special edition of my radio show.
Join Beyond Work founder Curtis James in conversation with workers, talking about working life. In show 3, Hannah
This months worker is John Prior, Actor and Santa Claus.
"My earliest memory of Santa Claus, I suppose is the same as every other child, you just get told it by your mother. I certainly wasn't taken to see Santa Claus because I was a baby in World War Two, visiting Santa wasn't something that you did, you know. I'm retired from my main business, I've been an actor in my time, I've been an Arts Council bureaucrat in my time and I could go on for a long time talking about what I'd been. But I'm a retired old man now and I do this at Christmas time." John Prior
I try to record sounds when I'm out photographing. Here's some sounds from my time at the rubbish depot in Halifax.
This is Gavin, photographed 30 years ago when he first became a binman in Halifax.
And this is him 28 years later, in 2014, when I photographed him on a snowy day over the Christmas holidays.
Check out his full photo essay here.