Should I get a proper job? By Ruth E Cockburn

Love Letters from Blackpool - Image Claire Griffiths

As we head into winter and the prospect of all the Christmas gigs and theatre shows and Pantos not happening I start to wonder. Should I get a proper job?

But what is a proper job? I have worked in the arts in all its wonderful forms for over 15 years now and I have never been so concerned as I am now.

To control a nation first you must control their form of expression. If art is seen as unnecessary then it is easier to patronise and take for granted.

In the courts of old, the only person that could disagree with the King was the fool. Silencing the fool seems a little dangerous to me.

Now I’m not saying that a telling joke or singing a song is kin to working in A&E. Although if anyone has done a gig to a room full of Hens Do’s on a Saturday night would say A&E might be more soothing, and I’m not saying artists should be put on payroll like Social Workers or hospital cleaners.

But I am saying that diminishing it is dangerous. Patronising people’s work is a very harmful thing to be doing.

For better or for worse, there are very few ‘proper jobs’ left in this country. Gone are the days when a whole village was employed by the mine, or the factory, or the ‘insert local industry here’! Everyone has had to diversify.

Most of the jobs I have done over the years were not jobs that my career advisor told me about. Most jobs have been things I didn’t even know existed until I was either asked to do it or forced to devise them.

My first job in the arts was at 17, leading creative workshops in schools and performing short scenes that gave young people an opportunity to discuss sex and relationship in a fun and safe environment. It’s not working on TV but it’s a creative job that doesn’t exist now after years of cuts to the education budget.

Over the years I have worked for KPMG accountancy firm, writing corporate away day activities for their team-building exercises. I’ve written plays for flash mob performances.  I’ve performed in comedy clubs, Pantos, theatres, libraries, day centres, even breweries. Entertaining people, educating people in fun ways, and bringing communities together for a few hours, and I feel very lucky to have been doing it for all this time.

Even during the lockdown, I have done my best to organise Zoom theatre shows, post funny clips, and contact people that want to share their stories, either on the phone or on video calls.

To say that working in the arts is ‘not a proper job’ is foolhardy. We are a country that thrives on its culture and entertainment. It would be like France saying that wine production is just a hobby. And we all know that during the lockdown, Wine has been essential!

Also, saying to people that they should ‘retrain’, suggests that there are jobs available.

That we are being lazy for choosing the arts as a career.

Now if you go by the artists I know, you could never say that they are lazy. Choosing to work all hours you can manage, being asked to work for free for ‘exposure’, whilst being told, “You know what you should do! Get on the TV/Exhibit at the Tate/Photograph celebrities.”

To say that working in the arts is ‘not a proper job’ is foolhardy. We are a country that thrives on its culture and entertainment.
It would be like France saying that wine production is just a hobby. 
Ruth Cockburn photographed performing Love Letters from Blackpool - Image Claire Griffiths
Performing Love Letters from Blackpool

I am good at my job., and I know that I will never be able to code. I have come to terms with that. Code, long division, and deep-sea fishing will never be my forte. I also don’t reckon I’ll be a career criminal, a formula one driver, or Princess, but never say never!

But I do know that the work that I do makes the world a better place and I’m proud to say I’m an artist, a comedian, and a writer.

As, my local hero, Les Dawson once said:

“Comedy will always survive. Comedy booms in a recession. People will always need a laugh.”

We know that Fatima will continue to dance, Steve Royle will continue to juggle and Tom Jones will continue to sing because people will always want to be entertained. We just need to work out how we will pay for it.

However, I have faith that we will survive and come out of this stronger. We need to stick together and try and smile. The future is uncertain… but one thing is very certain politicians will certainly continue to get things wrong.



Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
  • Show Comments (1)

  • Mark Simpson

    But you’ve got a proper job – making people happy. 🙂

    Although at the moment if there’s a quick course for giving Covid jabs, might be worth taking it. Think of them less as patients and more as potential audience members.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You May Also Like

Houdini at Blackpool Grand Theatre

“I want to do a scene with Stuart, he’s full of ideas this kid!” ...

Mark Bruce Company Macbeth

Preview: Mark Bruce Company’s Macbeth

Having studied Macbeth (or ‘the Scottish play’ if you are a superstitious actor like ...

The Taming of the Shrew

Preview: The Taming of the Shrew

The Grand Theatre have announced that The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will be presenting their ‘First ...