Arts festival accused of exploitation over '£6 per day' internship

Tumble Circus perform in Belmont Park during the 2013 festival
Amanda Ferguson

A BELFAST arts festival has been accused of "exploitation" after advertising two posts for interns paying just £6 a day.

The Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival (BIAF) - formely the Belfast Festival at Queens - is seeking two full time workers for two months "to assist with the planning and delivery of the festival" which will feature more than 100 world class arts and cultural events from October 11 – 29.

Belfast-based artist and curator Daniel Jewesbury said he believed the internships amounted "to exploitation of free labour" as they "involve really substantial amounts of work, which should involve a proper fee".

"I'm curating a visual arts festival in Galway in November, and I wouldn't be at all happy with someone being asked to do this amount of work for free while I'm being paid a proper fee," he added.

"Unless the festival reconsiders, people should think hard about whether they want to support it this year. "

Facebook users reacted angrily to the festival advert, branding the renumeration of £6 per day for travel expenses, as "slave labour" and "disgraceful".

Sarah Wright wrote online: "£6 daily to cover travel expenses, expecting full time labour for zero pay? Jog on.

"You're automatically excluding any applicants who have, I dunno, bills to pay. Or disabled people, who's travel expenses far exceed £25 a week, or anyone with caring responsibilities.

"If you can't afford to hire people, don't decide to exploit them instead all in the name of 'gaining experience'.

"Experience can and is gained throughout someone's education, part time work, volunteering etc."

Festival director Richard Wakely defended the arrangement, saying the positions offer a "valuable insight into the world of arts and event management".

"The Belfast International Arts Festival has an ongoing commitment to developing and encouraging young people in our city," he said.

"Our internship programme provides practical experience of the arts workplace for students and recent graduates, thereby helping to bridge the gap between academic and working life.

"Specifically, they offer a valuable insight into the world of arts and event management, for which opportunities are understandably limited in Northern Ireland.

"These are flexible, short term voluntary arrangements that in no way are meant to replace paid employed positions."

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