October 2011

Another long journey yesterday. On the train from Leeds a young cello-violinist called Alex Marshall came and sat on my table. She was on her way from Leeds College of Music to MC a youth music show at the Hawth. I should have gone but I was so, so tired when I got in.

Alex is definitely one to watch; bright, cute, able to take advice. She was going to write out her cue cards; I suggested she write them on her iMac and read them from there; and she really appreciated it as a usable idea, especially as she had a remote, which is something I must get for my own shows. She also declared me to be a hero for getting us on the train she needed for Three Bridges (although the only really heroic part was not going for beer at the Betjeman).

I got to Leeds via a 760 Keighley bus from Shipley. I wanted to see autumn in the Aire Valley, but sat on right side of the odd single-decker bus, at the back, so could only see out of one side, which was mostly semi-detached ribbon development with not even many good gardens.

I had time to buy some ‘in-ear’ headphones (£6 from Leeds’ Wilkinsons as opposed to £20 from W.H.Smiths in the station) and some beer from the Scarborough (very talkative barmaid who supply teaches, I don’t want to go back to teaching) and the Hop (first visit, good beer, no function room but still possible as a venue for a Pie & Priestley).


The below is part of an answer I wrote to Linda’s comment and questions about New Enterprise Allowance. I am putting it in a new post to raise it’s search engine profile, seeing it will probably be the best advice on the subject on the web.

Once you tell the jobcentre you want to investigate the possibility of seeking New Enterprise Allowance you fill in a form (which you should be able to do in a single signing) and they will send it to, and try and make you an appointment with, whichever company has been subcontracted to run the thing in your area. This could take months, as the Government has not committed much money and the contractors are creaming what is given, so there are not enough people being paid to to run the scheme to cope with the demand.

You need to push your Jobcentre if you want to get things moving quickly. You also have to be ‘actively seeking work’ and sign on until you actually start getting paid NEA.

I am told by Bradford Chamber of Commerce (the Bradford sub-contractors) I will be automatically entitled to Housing Benefit if I am granted NEA, but I do not believe them because Housing Benefit is a nightmare ratpit who will issue an automatic court summons if they or the Benefit Agency, make a mistake; and this scheme already has the Hallmarks of a modern British Government mistake.

Also be aware that the scheme can pay less than what some will be receiving on Income Based Jobseekers Allowance for 3 months, then a lot less for the next 3.

Having said that the scheme can allow you space to experiment with self employment and break the cycle of unemployment if you stick it out for 6 months.

Once you are interviewed by the subcontractor you have either 8 or 12 weeks to do a business plan. Once you submit one that passes you will get NEA very quickly.

You may not have to prove you will make money in the business, just that you have legitimate grounds to be allowed to research and develop a business.

You will be offered classes in self employment and writing a business plan if you need them.

You may be given a mentor, with whom you have to sign an agreement. This and attending any classes you agree to attend are, sort of, compulsory.

What you get will probably depend on who you get to talk to. I have been lucky with most of the advisors I have had, but some have been an utter waste of time, air and space.

I have written the below as part of the process of investigating New Enterprise Allowance funding. I have posted it here mostly for my own record. I may move it or take it off soon

From the early 1980’s: Created and published annual Walburgas cards, with original poems and illustrations. Collated and created a handmade book of the poetry and drawings: Walbrgas forgetting – forgiving, in 1997. Sold 70, including one to Kenneth Branagh.

2003: Wrote a business plan, got a business start-up grant, become self employed, and published Walburgas. Launched the book at the, then, National Museum of Film, Photography & Television. Have sold a total of around 500, including editions to the National Poetry Library.

2004: Produced and performed in my first one man: Walbrgas forgetting – forgiving show, in the West End of London. Included projected graphics and a bagpiper.

2005: Wrote and published The Wayne Jacobs Little Red Head Book – a book about read headed footballers and the mysteries of red hair. First as a hand made edition then published with advertising backing. Over 500 sold, including copies to international footballer John Aldridge, Ed Balls MP and Colin Firth.

2006: Was commissioned to work on the Stedders Football & Real Ale Guides. I was the cultural editor and also helped run the press campaign.

Earnings from all the above allowed me to sign off for 4 years.

2004 to date. I developed a web presence and own a range of URL’s, including bradwan.co.uk and .com. This included a fully functioning set of websites.

I have produced and performed in a series of shows:

Walburgas Day Show (annually).
∆ Pie & Priestley (annually).
∆ Curry & Kipling (annually plus, including commissions).
∆ The Little Britton Festival, celebrating Thomas Britton the musical coalman of Clerkenwell Green.
∆ The Old Rhyme Music Hall Shows (commissions).
∆ Bard of the Red Beard shows at national red headed festivals in Wales and Morley (commissions).
∆ The UK Hat Throwing Championship (annually for the last 3 years).
∆ Hayseed Dixie’s Loopallu Poet in Residence 2005 and 2006.

Some of the above where granted loss guarantees by Bradford Council, but most of the non-commissioned ones were on either a split profit in lieu of hire, with the venue, or at my own risk.

I have been mentored by Tamar, Kenneth Branagh’s PA.

Plus points

I have strong branding, several USPs, and repeated proved that I can create and deliver original cultural projects.

I have developed a wide range of production, marketing and performance skills which have improved through producing, performing and marketing.

I have had wide press coverage, including a feature in the Daily Telegraph, Yorkshire Life, and in Wetherspoon’s News. I also have a reasonable relationship with Radio Leeds, who cover my Yorkshire events.

I run a blog which publishes to twitter, and a Facebook page.

Minus points

I have not made enough money to stay off the dole, and being on the dole makes it very hard for me to generate any kind of self employed business.

I am capable of doing so many things I have ended up doing too many things for each project (although experience is lessening the problem).

I have not been able to turn successes into repeat business.

While I have developed production and marketing tools I am still in a position where every new show involves me finding and negotiating for venue, funding, other performers and sometimes crew; and then marketing it. All this before I do anything about the show.

I have not been able to produce a show with the specific intention of inviting agents (a key aim suggested by Tamar).

I no longer have a web presence, and have not had time to reinstate any part of it.

I have film footage, photos, press clippings and more, but do not have showreels or general marketing packs and have only just started getting footage of shows on-line.

I have also not had time to focus on:
∆ Organising an exhibition of my work.
∆ Writing, producing and publishing new work.
∆ or developing the old books as editions for Kindle and apps stores.

The key question is:

Can New Enterprise Allowance support me in building myself further as a business?

I have spent a week drinking less. In the last 9 days I have had 17 units. I had two pints with Joe on Wednesday and half a bottle of beer when I got home; 5 pints when I went to see `Bev dance in Keighley with Rainbow Morris; and two glasses of wine yesterday.

The fact I have recorded that suggests it might be an issue, but one of the problems is that there is very little regularity to my life, apart from the big one of injections and eating to control my diabetes. I cannot say that I have felt better or worse for not drinking almost every day; but I can say that I was not enjoying beer a fortnight ago.

Getting more pattern in my life has been a theme of making a go of my business. I do an awful lot for the things I do do, and can do them very well; but having to do everything in a show is stressful and makes the show harder to do well; and once the show is over I do too little with the result.

The next blog will be be about this, and is something I have written prior to the possible new business plan, but the core issue is the same as it was when I wrote the first poet, writer and showman business plan nearly a decade ago:

I cannot sell my works unless I am famous – I will not be famous unless I sell my work

It is blindingly obvious, but ways of breaking that cycle are not obvious or simple.

Walking to get the bus home from Baildon I stopped to stroke a black cat, who jumped on the wall around the mill pond to get a deeper scratch. I noticed a wasp in a plant growing on the wall (the cat did not, Bev’s would have, and eaten it). It was looked like it was on its last legs, it was big so probably a queen, and it should have found somewhere to hibernate by now.

I gave her a bit of glucose tablet, incase it was starving. She tucked in, and I discovered wasps have tongues; so if she was dying of something else it will at least die full of energy. She did perk up but in the time I stayed showed no signs of being able to fly off.

Queen wasp near winter with glucose tablet, in Baildon

Queen wasp near winter with glucose tablet, in Baildon

I think I have got rid of the fleas. It is almost a week since I saw one, and that one was boviously sick and doddery before I sent it to the great sleeping cat in the sky.

I went to the preliminary The New Enterprise Allowance interview today. I will be a shoe-in if I go for it, I only need to write a business plan, and I have done that before: but I am not sure about it. If I get it I will have a quid a week less than dole for 3 months and 36 chess for a further 3, but am free to earn without losing benefit.

This would have been brilliant 14 months ago, when I had 4 shows in three weeks. Now I could use the breathing space to do all the marketing and creating I have not yet done well enough, but I have no projects. My feeling is that I need to think (and work) on this before deciding if I am going for it.

I cannot post videos on this wordpress blog without buying a 40 odd pound bit of software, so I will not be posting any.

My current dentist reckons he is going to fit a crown on the remains of the broken tooth. Good if true, but seeing he and the previous one both said there was not enough tooth left for a crown (it was nearly all filling) I will not be surprised if it ends up being yanked out.

My mate Joe Ogden has filmed a lot of my shows. I am trying to learn how to download them to the computer he uses for his own editing, then select clips, then code the selected clips to a transferable media, then upload and recode to my computer; where I can edit it. It is a steep learning curve, and a bloody long job. The download and two recordings are in real time! So getting the all the seven hours of footage on to the office machine will take seven hours, and getting it all on my machine will take at least 14 more hours hours.

I have one 5 minute clip so far. I have edited and added titles using iMovie, but it is fiddly (the Adobe Premier on the office computer is just better). I will try and upload it to here soon.

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