Pay the writer. Or the artist. Or any creative type, really. It’s an argument as old as … well, as old as art probably (I have always imagined that whoever did the Lascaux Cave Paintings grumbled about being expected to draw pictures of bulls for no compensation.) In more recent times there have been several instances of artists shaming corporations when asked to work for free. There was a famous “F*ck You, Pay Me” speech from designer Mike Monteiro, an open letter to Spike Lee concerning posters for Oldboy, and a notorious expletive-filled rant by writer Harlan Ellison. Now author Philip Pullman has joined the cause, resigning as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival.
Pullman’s argument is much the same as Ellison’s (though with fewer F-bombs): “The principle is very simple: a festival pays the people who supply the marquees, it pays the printers who print the brochure, it pays the rent for the lecture halls and other places, it pays the people who run the administration and the publicity, it pays for the electricity it uses, it pays for the drinks and dinners it lays on: why is it that the authors, the very people at the centre of the whole thing, the only reason customers come along and buy their tickets in the first place, are the only ones who are expected to work for nothing?” Since Pullman’s announcement, over 30 well-known writers have signed an open letter calling for a boycott on literary events that don’t pay fees. The Oxford Literary Festival announced today that beginning in 2017 it is planning to pay appearance fees.