Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Artists with benefits: could a future welfare system level the playing field for cultural workers?

Could the benefits system be harnessed to provide a more sustainable and more equitable creative economy?

This webinar features an invited panel responding to issues raised in the Artists With Benefits podcast – and to questions and comments from webinar participants.


Webinar: Artists with Benefits


Mags Patten (Arts Council England)

Mags Patten is Executive Director of Public Policy and Communication at Arts Council England. She is responsible for several areas of public policy, including diversity and skills development in the leadership and workforce across the arts, museums and libraries sector. She began her career in television and has been a director of communications at English National Opera and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.



Stephen Brown (Musicians Union)

Stephen Brown is the Regional Organiser for the Musicians Union in the Midlands. His responsibilities include overseeing employment and contract rights for MU members. He has spent over 30 years as an active trade unionist. His musical career began as a guitarist and singer songwriter and he has worked as a producer, tour manager and fanzine writer as well as performing in venues large and small.



Heidi Ashton (University of Warwick)

Dr Heidi Ashton is an Assistant Professor of Creative Industries at the University of Warwick Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies. Her research centres on the lived experience and employment conditions of freelance artists in the creative industries, especially the performing arts. Most recently she has been working closely with Freelancers Make Theatre Work and the Creative Recovery Group to identify ways out of the pandemic. Alongside her academic career, Heidi continues to work as a freelance dancer, choreographer and producer – and was recently assistant choreographer on the Netflix series Bridgerton.


Chaired by


Chris Bilton (University of Warwick)

Dr Chris Bilton will be chairing the panel and made the Artists with Benefits podcast. He is Reader in Creative Industries at University of Warwick Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies and creative industries lead on the Warwick GRP (Global Research Priority) on Productivity and the Futures of Work. He writes about creativity and management in the creative industries. His recent research has focused on precarious work in the creative industries. He is also a writer and performer with Balloonatics Theatre Company.

Podcast: Artists with Benefits

The Covid pandemic has exposed deep-rooted problems in our creative industries – in particular the precarity of work in the sector, especially for those working as freelancers or small business owners. This insecurity of work is linked to a second problem: the difficulty in embarking on a creative career for those who lack the material resources or social connections to survive on the fringes of the creative economy while waiting for the right doors to open.


Universal Basic Income is being floated as a possible solution to both of these challenges, with Ireland the latest country to announce a scheme directed specifically at artists. Meanwhile an older generation of successful creative workers began their careers with the help of a more generous and flexible benefits system, job creation schemes and free higher education Рcould we offer something similar for today’s gig economy generation?


The Artists With Benefits podcast discusses these issues with Martin Bright (founder and CEO of Creative Society), Bard Kleppe (Senior Researcher, Telemark Research Institute) and Simon Sharkey (founder and Associate Director of National Theatre of Scotland; founder and leader of The Necessary Space: a Theatre of Opportunity).



Episode 1 focuses on some of the current challenges facing freelance workers and young people seeking a career in the creative industries.
Episode 2 focuses on potential solutions, drawing on experiences in England, Scotland and Norway.
Episode 3 discusses the impact of UBI on creative work and policy