September 2021: The Curse of the Muggle Job
By Tiffany Rhodes
If you aren’t a creative/artist/full time pretender like I am, you may not have heard of the term ‘in between job’ or ‘muggle job’. A muggle job is the income 90% of artists need to have in order to fund their passion, which more often than not, doesn’t provide enough income to survive.
I have at least 2 of these jobs, employed in two separate companies. They are invaluable for earning regular income to pay rent and being able to live financially independently, whilst also having flexible hours that allow me to take time off for the many exciting opportunities that being a theatre maker and actor allows me.
Throughout my career and during my studies (be it laymen or other artists) there is still a sense of snobbery around the concept of having to rely on these jobs, or even having these jobs at all. There is an idea that you will only ‘make it’ as an artist is until it is your sole source of income. This idea frustrates me.
I remember a few years ago there was media buzz over a former Eastenders actor becoming a security guard after leaving the show. The framing of the articles were mostly people believing she had fallen from grace and her career was officially over, some of the vitriol was about how she must have done something to deserve the ‘punishment’ of being a creative in a normal job. This is a concept that I am saddened, but not surprised by.
There have been many times in my life when I introduce myself as an actor or theatre maker to a person, and when I mention that I waitress and teach on the side, they will then add later to my description that I am ‘an aspiring actor’ or that ‘she wants to be an actor’. At first this upset me, especially just after graduating when I already felt disjointed from the career I was emerging into. I am less affected by these words now, but the idea that only the financially stable can give themselves a title irks me.
The creative arts has never been about capitalism, money or anything else. I sound like a sap when I write this, but the creative arts is there to nourish our souls. Sharing stories, ideas and feelings to fellow humans has been done since the dawn of humanity’s and is integral to our lives whether or not it makes any money.
Adding the concept of ‘only being official once the money rolls in’ into an artists life is reductive and hinders a lot of artists confidence. I have many friends who despite doing fantastic work for years they still put themselves down, and say that they ‘aren’t really a ___ yet anyway’
We are also in a time of late stage capitalism that means many people have several jobs in order to make a living, and all jobs are valid. The gig economy should include those that perform in literal gigs. (See what I did there). I am also painfully aware that this snobbery further dissuades artists that come from low income backgrounds (that our industry desperately needs more voices of), as the Benedict Cumberbatch’s of the world that can afford to throw their entire lives into auditioning via the bank of mum and dad come out on top.
My fellow creatives - I declare this to the world:
You are whatever you say you are. You act and make nothing? You’re an actor. You produced a one person show that didn’t sell any tickets? You are still a theatre maker. You’re Etsy shop not selling well? You’re still an artist.
This way of living is tricky to manoeuvre at the best of times, and financially crippling at worst. Let’s take pride in our work, because thats what it is - work.