When I returned to the UK from Japan, penniless and with two small children to look after by myself, the care and protection of the British Welfare State was both humbling and welcome. It was a big step down in living standards for us, and hardly over generous, but it put food on the table whilst I looked around for what else I could do. I qualified as a teacher, but realised being a full time teacher was beyond me. I taught Adult Education, but the government cut that back.
Now I model for art classes. I started because I was skint, and I discovered I was okay at it and that people will be happy to draw pictures of me. It’s not my dream job, but I like how much pleasure people get out of drawing, and I like that I’m able to assist in that, even if just by standing there.
I’ve worked hard to try and get life drawing classes started around Cumbria, and I’ve also helped seven or eight people get started as life models themselves, so they can also earn a few quid. Unlike many parts of the country, I haven’t charged any model a single penny for helping them out. I’ve never charged a class for helping them find a model either. I do it because when you’re skint, you have to help others out, or you can’t expect any help yourself.
I never enquire of models why they do the job, but a lot of us do start because we’re needing the cash. We’re single parents, or out of work, the sort of people the current government is demonising as feckless scroungers. Channel Four’s Benefit Street would love us, as they could tut away about our morals in showing off our nakedness, whilst also showing more boobs, bums and willies on telly. It’s a win-win for the curtain twitching morality brigade.
Fairer people, and I still believe most people are fair, might see people doing the best they can to get by. The vast majority of benefit claimants (and I despise the Americanisation of calling it ‘Welfare’!) are the working poor, claiming Tax Credits because wages are so low in this country, and Housing Benefit, because rents are so high. Channel Four would have you believe we’re shoplifters. No, we have to claim benefits so we don’t have to shoplift.