As you may or may not know, a few months ago the wonderful creative community that is BLOCK T had to vacate their original premises which housed them for almost 6 years due to rising rents. You may also know that they have now found a new, albeit more modest premises in Dublin 8, which they are currently moving into and raising funds for. I called in a couple of weeks ago for a catch up and to see what it was like, and it’s got a huge amount of potential.
It’s safe to say that Ensemble wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for Laura, Grace, Nick, Dave, and everyone at BLOCK T’s support. We wouldn’t have got off to the great start we did, and arguably we wouldn’t now have the likes of Loah performing in New York and elsewhere, and we would never have released Conor Walsh‘s record, with more to come. But to explain why, first I’ve got to point out how little support there is for arts-based / creative companies in Ireland.
If you start a company that isn’t export-driven, or part of the latest business fad – i.e. tech, a bubble that will soon deflate if not burst completely – you are essentially on your own and have no state support in this country. For in the eyes of the Irish state, a “startup” can only mean a “tech startup” – somehow I missed that part in the definition of the word startup but apparently it’s in there somewhere.
For a new arts-based company, all there really is in terms of support is a decent little scheme called the “Back to Work Enterprise Allowance”, which allows you to collect the dole for 2 years if you start your own company, regardless of how much money you make. But of course, because this is Ireland and even a good idea by the State has to be implemented badly, you can only get onto this scheme if you’ve already been receiving social benefits for a year. *eyeroll*
Our government go on about how Ireland is the best small country in the world to do business, but by that he only means if you’re a big multinational company in tech, pharmaceuticals, etc. If you’re a small business whose focus is on the arts or something creative – yet still create jobs and work for people, appeal to tourists, export goods and services, etc. – forget about it.
Anyway, the point of this post isn’t to complain about how unsupportive the state is of businesses like ours, but to point out how supportive BLOCK T is. When we started Ensemble, they were immediately there for us, helping us with a business plan, our launch, finances, branding, making connections, and a whole lot more. And they looked for nothing in return. Where the state fails to support us and many others like us, they succeed. And needless to say they have almost no funding or state support themselves either.
There are others like them, but none are quite as successful or on the ball. They have made a huge difference to countless artists and arts organisations in Ireland, put on thousands of incredible events and exhibitions, created jobs, generated tourism, and contributed millions to the Irish economy. And yet they had to vacate their wonderful original home.
BUT they didn’t moan about it, as would be natural and understandable in their situation. They understand we live in a capitalist economy, and when the economy picks up rents will rise [not that that’s the way it should be]. Instead they’ve remained constructive, positive, and are looking forward to their next chapter, which we’re confident will be even greater and more impactful than their first.
So they’re running a crowdfunding campaign to help get said next chapter off the ground. I’m generally quite selective over the kind of crowdfunding campaigns I support. I strongly believe they should be used to “kickstart” a project [as was the original intention with them], not to fill a hole due to bad business practices, and especially not to keep a lagging business going. Usually, I would not be into the idea of using crowdfunding for a company or project that has been around for 6 years.
But this is different. This is a hugely successful, impactful, and supportive company, who due to no fault of their own have to start things over almost from scratch. If that doesn’t deserve some of your hard earned money, I don’t know what does, and I have no doubt they will be prove themselves to be very worthy of it in the coming years.
So please support our wonderful friends, collaborators, and mentors BLOCK T by donating to their crowdfunding campaign.
Insert money here >> www.gofundme.com/
Thank you Block T, we’d be nothin’ without you!
May 16, 2016