Composer turns down Arts Council grant because she gets less than men

The Irish composer Siobhán Cleary has reportedly ‘turned down a large commission from two Arts Council-funded bodies because she was offered 20 per cent less than her male colleagues were in the last four years, for the same commission.’

This looks like a double first.

It may be the first time composer grants are judged on gender basis.

And it’s definitely the first time in my experience that any composer anywhere has sent back a juicy Arts Council cheque.

Read on here.

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  • One line of the article, which I read yesterday, stands out.

    “The panel that allocated Siobhán Cleary 20 per cent less than some of her male colleagues were earlier offered for similar work would have been as blind to that fact as they would have been had they offered her an increase of 20 per cent. ”

    So where is the gender bias exactly if the panel was blind to what others had received in the past?

    Michael Dervan’s weekly column in the Irish Times has grown increasingly strident in recent months. He has some good points about classical music in Ireland. This is not one of them.

    • There was a member of arts council staff present who was aware of the context and the rates of pay in other years. It was also ratified by the Arts Council. Also neither of the two organisations involved offered to make up the difference to make the pay equitable. The same commission for the same forces, same duration, same event. Not equal pay for equal work.

    • The structure of these schemes does nothing to enhance equality. Michael Dervan was right to call them out on this. There was a member of arts council staff present who would be aware of the context and the rates of pay in other years. It was also ratified by the Arts Council. At these points the pay discrepancy should have been addressed. Neither of the two arts council funded organisations involved, offered to make up the (€2000) difference to make the pay equitable. There is also a huge gender pay gap in all of the music awards, which normally is hard to quantity. In this case, it was the same commission for the same forces, same duration, same event. Not equal pay for equal work by any means.

  • This composer, Siobhán Cleary, should be grateful for getting the commission in the first place. Why is it that women always shout “sexism” when they don’t get paid as much as men?
    Perhaps this composer’s music isn’t as good as her male counterpart’s?
    She should just shut up and take the money.

    • “Why is it that women always shout “sexism” when they don’t get paid as much as men?”

      What an utterly stupid comment.

      WOMEN GETTING PAID LESS THAN MEN IS SEXISM.

      By turning down this commission, Siobhan Cleary has stood up for herself and underrepresented composers.

      • “Brainwashed” — how? “Nonsense” — in what way? Do challenges to sexism upset you that much, that any woman who speaks her mind sounds, to you, like a Banshee?

      • I don’t understand how looking at simple statistics dealing with financial compensation, noticing a clear distinction in gender, and demanding the powers-that-be to do better is at all brainwashed. However, I see how brainwashing could explain the only way someone is fragile enough to be presented with these facts plainly and respond by calling the fact-giver “feminist nonsense” and a “banshee” without considering the possibility of these facts being… you know… facts.

      • Sue, you are so remarkably stupid that it’s a wonder that you even know how to use a computer.
        Don’t you have pussies to grab? Or handicaped people to make fun of instead of making a fool of yourself here?

      • Sue, how is standing up for oneself and one’s principles — an act which could benefit many other women, and women composers, and underrepresented composers — victimhood? Let’s call it what it is — selfless courage!

        • Is anyone else wondering what she, he or it who announces herself as ‘Sue’ actually is? Their consistent and reactionary nastiness on this site suggests to me at least that they probably post incontinently supporting anything far right-wing regardless. So come on ‘Sue’, who are you, what is your philosophy (alt right?) or agenda and are you seeking therapy?

    • Wow, where does one start in answering a comment like this? Mate, get a grip, quickly. The pay gap is a real thing.

  • Who knows? It may be that the Arts Council of Ireland is having to be more frugal, like so many others, when reductions in grants and commissions seem to be commonplace nowadays.

    • There was an increase of 8% funding to the Arts Council of Ireland in 2017, and a further increase of 5% in 2018.

  • I must confess that I find some of these comments deeply shocking. That a composer would turn down a lucrative commission from “shameless self promotion” is an extraordinary fantasy. And ‘women shout “sexism” when they don’t get as much as men’ because it IS sexism. Finally, I can assure Mr Clayton that “this composer’s music” is every bit “as good as her male counterpart’s” (sic).

    • “I find some of these comments deeply shocking”

      Welcome to slippedisc, the Breitbart New Network of classical music

    • I’m shocked too; although I don’t honestly know why. Just another example of how sexism is alive and well in the arts. So much for being the realm of the liberal and enlightened.

      • Indeed…. It appears that many people who profess to love classical music have no clue what its meaning is, where it stands for. That is why SD is quite revealing.

  • Ms Cleary is one of the best composers, female or not, Irish or not, knocking around nowadays. Why should she be treated as someone second rate simply because she is a woman and I greatly admire her courage for refusing this grant. I hope she sets up a crowd funding page to compensate and that male composers follow her example.

    • Simply not true. She’s not a serious composer, but then, few in Ireland are. There’s Barry… and that’s about it.

  • I notice that according to the article, the largest historical payment listed for a choral commission went to Elaine Agnew (€12.000).

    Honestly, I have doubts that this is a gender issue and it might be that the methods
    of award need to be considered.

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