A blog post I wrote on 8 February about the artist Stuart Semple owing me over a grand was viewed by more than 10,000 people. I didn’t ask one person to share that post – they did so of their own volition.
I’ve since been inundated with emails, comments on my blog, tweets and Facebook messages from people who also worked for Semple and weren’t paid. But not just that. People who’ve been exploited by other creatives have wanted to share their stories. This scenario, it seems, is depressingly common.
The Independent caught wind of Semple’s misdemeanours and published an article – see above or here – laying the facts bare. I hope that the artist Sarah Maple, who’s also owed money by Semple and is quoted in the article, is right: that she will eventually be paid. And that I, the three others I worked with, the two before us and at least another seven before that will be too.
My intention has always been to retrieve the money I’m owed. In the first of three ‘statements of truth’ (see here) Semple accused me of wanting to create drama – he’s wrong, I didn’t. If I’d been paid in 2012, or even after the court process, I’d have left it at that. I’m in my sixth month of pregnancy, I work full-time and like to spend my spare time productively – not relentlessly pursuing ex-employers who’ve failed to pay me for work I did nearly two years ago.
(And Stuart, an offer of £20 a month isn’t good enough. In fact, it’s offensive. It would take five and a half years and endless chasing to receive the full amount – let alone the additional 8% per year interest. That’s why the judge ordered you to pay the full amount in one go.)
Semple claimed he fell on hard times and that’s why he didn’t pay us. I would have sympathy but d’you know what? We ALL fell on hard times when the recession hit. That’s why it was so disappointing to be offered a job and then not paid for my hours.
There’s a simple lesson to be learnt here: if you don’t have any money, don’t employ anyone. If I don’t have money I don’t hire a painter to decorate my house, or go out to eat, or employ any services from anyone. Because to do so would be fraudulent and unethical. Imagine going into a coffee shop, ordering a coffee, drinking it and then saying you can’t pay. You just wouldn’t.
But also – when you’ve fucked up: admit it, apologise and work towards making it better. Don’t issue threats and engage in bullying behaviour to make it go away, because it won’t.
Now that the story has been published by the Independent I hope that at the very least Semple stops exploiting young people seeking work in the creative industries.
I feel sad for the guy because in order to dash so many people’s dreams, continually, he must be in a truly dark place. Life is not happy for people who are in huge amounts of debt and are being pursued by the courts to pay up. I hope that he finds a way to pull himself out of this huge mess and to then go on working in a more honest, positive way.
Thanks for your support.