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To bail on this commitment - need to make a decision urgently!

(52 Posts)
notheretoargue Mon 09-Oct-17 10:03:59

I work in the arts. A few months ago I responded to a call out for people to give a talk about their work to people who want to break into the field. I was then put in touch over email with a theatre company that runs an evening course for learning disabled adults, and we arranged a date when I would come in to give my talk. The date is tomorrow.

Last Wednesday I spoke to the person running the course and found out that he doesn't know anything about my work, hadn't even googled me, and that the course is about acting (my work has nothing to do with acting).

I emailed him the talk I was planning to give, to see what he thought. He said it wasn't suitable and could I 'show some videos' and then do a practical exercise for an hour. I don't have any videos to show, and he said the practical exercise I suggested wouldn't be suitable because it's about language, and most of the students are not comfortable with reading or writing.

The thing is, my entire job and field is about writing. So I don't know what else to do.

I suggested over email that I was the wrong person to do this session. I asked if there was anyone else to step in. The man emailed back saying he was sure I'd be fine and he could meet me an hour early to talk it through if I liked.

My dilemma is:
I feel really strongly that I don't want to do it. I hadn't planned to spend hours preparing something completely new, and will have to turn down paid work to do it tomorrow. I don't have time to turn up an hour early because of childcare commitments. I don't think the students are going to benefit from me giving a talk about my work, or, quite honestly, from my trying to cobble together something else at short notice. And I just don't feel like I signed up for this. While I want to help people break into the industry, one of the reasons it's so hard to break into is because there's a culture of people working for free!

But I know if I don't do it I am going to mess up the course. I will definitely be letting them down. And may well gain a reputation within the wider industry for being difficult/ selfish/ flakey, which is very difficult if you're a freelancer.

If i'm going to say no, I have to do it asap. Like, give them a call this morning.

AIBU to bail? What would you do?

Allthebestnamesareused Mon 09-Oct-17 10:09:52

I think you should just say no as gently as possible.

Explain you can do the course that is relevant to your type of work but actually you would be doing them and yourself a disservice to try to muddle through something as "expert" when you are not.

If the man can give you an hour before hand to tell you what he wants then he too could run the event himself!

I would suggest either the event you had planned or nothing.

It would be worse if you got a reputation for doing something badly than not at all!

MarthaArthur Mon 09-Oct-17 10:12:52

Say no thats not appropriate. Its bad planning and just not on. To ask someone they knew nothing about to give a talk in a different area to their speciality is just a joke.

AlternativeTentacle Mon 09-Oct-17 10:18:53

'Hi. I am very sorry but I responded in good faith to your request, and you haven't even researched what I do and you have booked the wrong person. I have turned down paid work to do this, cannot rewrite my talk at this stage and will have to pay for childcare, for a talk that you don't even want. So regretfully, I will have to pull out of this talk.'

AlternativeTentacle Mon 09-Oct-17 10:20:12

Having said that, although I don't work in the arts, that's the sort of talk I would relish! I love a practical activity with people with SEN as they start with a base activity and you can take it anywhere they want. Great fun.

notheretoargue Mon 09-Oct-17 10:22:26

Ok, thank you all. it's good to hear I'm not overreacting. Alternative, I will try that approach. It looks great. Do you think it's ok to do it over email?

I tried to say no last week, but then he said many of his students "work with text". But on the phone he said that some of them (others, persumably) are not comfortable with reading or writing at all. So I feel like he will try to persuade me. So I have to be as clear as possible.

Gimmeareason Mon 09-Oct-17 10:23:43

Im quite surprised because you dont sound at all creative for someone meant to be working in the arts.

There are loads of different ways you could play around with the structure and content to fit the brief.

I think the bottom line is you resent not making some cash and cant be bothered.

I think you're BU.

notheretoargue Mon 09-Oct-17 10:24:50

Alternative well that's another thing - I love working with disabled adults, and do often, but the workshop should take into account their access requirements. I think that's why I'm reluctant to just turn up and do something that is not tailored to them at all. I think it could be counter productive. Or a I being disablist?

guilty100 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:26:13

Be firm. You can't be portrayed as flakey if you are clear.

"Dear X,

I am terribly sorry, I think there has been some terrible miscommunication here. I am an expert in X, and I really know nothing about acting. I've prepared a talk in good faith on my area, in response to a call that was explicitly about opportunities for new starters looking to break into the field (see <insert URL or email below>).

However, it sounds as though what you really need is a practical acting course. That's not my area - I am completely unqualified to lead such a session and it would be inappropriate for me to attempt to do so, and I suspect any attempt on my part to do so would be unsatisfactory for your students too.

I'm not sure how this has happened, but I feel I have no choice but to pull out of this session. I am really sorry to do this at the last minute; I pride myself on being professional and not letting others down, but I am simply unable to deliver the type of session you clearly require."

MarthaArthur Mon 09-Oct-17 10:27:41

You are not being didablist at all Op! Its quiet offensive for anyone to suggest its all easy and fun helping disabled adults fo a workshop type thing without having training or an understanding of what sort of activity is beneficial to them and engaging. Especially when acting is not your subject area. The arts is very broad.

notheretoargue Mon 09-Oct-17 10:29:05

It's not thatI couldn't do it Gimme it's that I dont have time. I had already prepared a talk based on the information I had. I found out last week that that wouldn't be right, and haven't got the time to prepare something new. In retrospect, we should have talked much earlier and then I would have been able to think of something. But I have other work I was planning to do tomorrow, and yes, thatI do need to do in order to pay the rent.

I don't resent not making money! That is really laughable to someone who works in my field where there is sooooo little money to be made!

emsyj37 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:31:06

I think you should have bailed out earlier, when it became clear that they simply had no idea what your work involves and that a talk about your work would be unsuitable for their purposes. At this late stage all you can do is tell them that this is the talk you have prepared, that you cannot pretend your work is something that it's not and they can either have what you have prepared or nothing. I do think tho that pulling out the day before is not on and makes you look like a flake. You should have dealt with this when you had the telephone conversation with the guy - that was the time to say 'look, I really don't think you understand what it is that I do and I am not the right person to deliver the talk that you want '.

Somerville Mon 09-Oct-17 10:32:57

When did you hear that your original talk wouldn't be suitable? It's a bit rum to pull it now, if you were given a heads up about that a few days ago.

Personally, I would offer to give a simplified version of the original talk/wing it a bit with a description of my job, parctical activty, and then take questions. But make it clear that I couldn't arrive early and it's too late to prepare a video.

Give us an idea of your field and someone will come up with a practical activity idea.

emsyj37 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:35:24

If you knew last week that the talk wasn't right, you should have either pulled out last week or used this past week to prepare the right talk!! Why volunteer if you don't want to do the work? Volunteering ALWAYS involves way more hassle and effort than the request suggests - no good deed goes unpunished and all that.

notheretoargue Mon 09-Oct-17 10:37:02

Yes., I feel really guilty about pulling out now. It was on Friday that he said that talk wouldn't be suitable. I emailed back immediately asking if anyone else could do it, and then got an email at 7.30pm on Friday night saying it would be fine and I could come in an hour earlier.

It's been playing on my mind all weekend and I've hardly slept.

I am a poet. Not a performance poet. Just a words on a page poet.

Ceto Mon 09-Oct-17 10:38:11

I don't really follow your point about tailoring the talk to the participants' access needs. Surely you checked up on these when you prepared your original talk?

ReanimatedSGB Mon 09-Oct-17 10:41:49

Sounds like the organisers are lazy, time-serving idiots who don't much care about what they offer TBH. I agree you should send one of the emails suggested above, making it clear that they have booked the wrong person and it will benefit no one for you to give a talk that is not suitable.

And ignore the idiots who say you are money-hungry. It's the people who not only want free labour but don't give a toss about what it is as long as it fills the schedule who are greedy, not you.

StaplesCorner Mon 09-Oct-17 10:42:16

not just send the e-mail as you have explained it to us. Say its a misunderstanding, which is obviously true, and you won't be doing it. Say NOW, otherwise it really will be too late.

notheretoargue Mon 09-Oct-17 10:42:18

Well, I assumed they knew what I do. So I knew it was a diploma for learning disabled adults and had devised a talk about my practice as well as an activity. But the session I worked on is all about language, because that's what I do.

So yes, I should have checked, and I'm kicking myself now because it never occurred to me that they wouldn't know that I'm a poet and that everything I do is about words. My website is on my email signature!

emsyj37 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:43:21

If you only found out on Friday then tell them NOW and then run!!!

StaplesCorner Mon 09-Oct-17 10:44:25

Although I wouldn't have put it quite as harshly as Reanimated, yes the organisers just want a talk and they are always "sure it will be ok". Its important to remember that; they are pretty desperate to fill a slot, also bearing in mind the audience, they may have the best of intentions or they may try to guilt trip you. Just say no and wish them all the best with finding an appropriate speaker next time.

emsyj37 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:44:32

And make sure you tell them how irritated you are that they seem to view you as just a warm body to fill their session and that they clearly haven't bothered researching what it is you actually do!!

SockEatingMonster Mon 09-Oct-17 10:45:36

What an awkward situation. Lots of crossed wires and misunderstandings.

I think your options are:
1. Do your original, unsuitable, talk
2. Set yourself a strict 30 minute window to cobble something together that won't be great but might be a little more suitable (probably involving lots of YouTube videos...)
3. Pull out

In your situation I would phone the organiser and offer them these 3 options.

justilou1 Mon 09-Oct-17 10:46:40

Absolutely do not do this... You will be uncomfortable and this can't end well. This man also needs to be educated about what is and is not appropriate to ask of people who donate their time for his purposes. I am a musician and am constantly having to explain why I charge for my services, and still have people expecting me to do them favours "for exposure" etc. It's not worth it. It ends up making you look cheap and unprofessional.

reflexfaith Mon 09-Oct-17 10:47:00

Sounds to me like you've been manoeuvred and manipulated into working for free

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