There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall
One strand of the Perambulator project (a really important one) addresses how I can, as an artist, continue to make work now that I have children. This quote, from the writer Cyril Connolly’s 1938 book ‘Enemies of Promise’ sums up my fears pretty neatly.
The nature of my (any?) art practice means that income is sporadic, and there’s a lot of work that can’t be pegged directly against income – making it really hard to justify paid-for childcare to do it. When I do get paid directly it’s often at a rate that won’t cover childcare costs (though these days I do turn down work that only comes with a ‘token’ fee – which I define as being below the London living wage).
I’m writing this with one hand as baby Ruby is on the other arm, and Ernest is watching Abney and Teal (curses on the slow internet that keeps making it pause). So yes, a key point of Perambulator is that it’s a project I can work on, make, and deliver, with my children – they are essential to it (well at least one of them at a time).
Others before me have responded to this quote more extensively, the group ‘Enemies of Good Art’ who ‘seek to investigate the possibilities of combining art practice and family commitments. In particular it seeks to encourage participation by parents and their children in a series of public discussions and art based events.’
and the Theatre Company ‘Prams in the Hall’ who say ‘in our experience, the group that seems most likely to stop or change their careers in order to look after children are mothers working in the arts. Prams In The Hall has therefore been mainly working with female artists who are also mothers, in order to support and enable each other.’
Interestingly Connolly wasn’t just referring to mothers and the toll that children take on their creative work, his book is a long justification of his (self defined) failure to achieve his potential as a writer. Frank Cottrell Boyce (father of seven) writes an interesting defence of fatherhood in relation to working in the arts in a 2010 Guardian article entitled ‘The parent trap: art after children’.
Perambulator, whilst taking its inspiration from my experience as a mother pushing a pram, actively welcomes and embraces all and any users of prams, pushchairs and buggies.