Food & Travel

Jul 6, 2012

Do the arts need to dry out? An addictive cultural cocktail

If you drink and make art ... It's time for artists and the industry broadly to have a mature conversation about alcohol in our industry.

Ben Eltham — <em>Crikey</em> arts commentator

Ben Eltham

Crikey arts commentator

I went to a “networking event” for an arts company this week. It was a pleasant evening where I mingled with industry figures and exchanged pleasantries and gossip over a few drinks. A few business cards were handed out; a phone number and email address was exchanged.

It’s not important which company it was, because this is not an article about the value or tedium of “networking”. It’s about what I was doing while networking. I was drinking. So was everyone else. We were all drinking.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

11 thoughts on “Do the arts need to dry out? An addictive cultural cocktail

  1. Andrew Chalmers

    What a great article Ben. During my years as a theatre reviewer, I believe I developed a drinking problem with the accumulation of opening nights.

    (I know some people will scoff and say, ‘poor you’, at this stage).

    Theatre reviewing for most is a second job. A night at the theatre after a day at work, followed by writing in the early hours to meet deadlines can cause a lot of strain especially when you have kids and are attending up to four or five openings per week.

    Booze is readily available. And free. It’s easy for it to spiral out of control and I was getting drunk multiple times a week. Luckily I got out of the profession and my fatty liver is under control, but I know many who have aren’t as lucky – and most of them tend to be artists – people who can least afford health problems.

    You are right to bring this issue up. Very sensible.

  2. Eric Sykes

    Bloody excellent article Ben, so true, well said.

  3. [email protected]

    Good article Ben. But be careful because the cries of ‘wowser’ will be coming thick and fast. It is almost impossible to rationally discuss the issue of alcohol consumption in all its glory!

  4. Andrew McMillen

    Great read Ben, thanks.

  5. Mel Campbell

    Maybe if arts organisations were funded properly they wouldn’t have to subsidise themselves by becoming de facto bars.

    And maybe if I were paid a living wage for my reviews I would be happy paying for my drinks.

  6. Venise Alstergren

    BEN ELTHAM: An excellent article, timely and pertinent. It is to be hoped you’ve got serious health insurance. From the way the gambling industry has reacted at efforts to restrain them is any guide, the alcohol industry will crucify those who would restrain them even one centimetre.

    Once again, thank you for an excellent article.

  7. Fleur

    I completely agree. And one aspect of this that was not touched on is the Eurocentric culture and values that the alcohol culture represents. It’s not just that many Muslims are excluded from alcohol-serving venues. Plenty of Asian cultures don’t routinely scoff alcohol in the way that ‘Aussies’ do. The boozing culture can thus be quite off-putting and exclusionary.

  8. Venise Alstergren

    FLEUR: Unless they were wearing local gear, how would bar keeps know they were Muslim?

  9. velosophist

    Fleur: I agree that it’s an exclusionary practice, for anyone who’s not inclined to heavy (or any) drinking, for whatever reason.

    On a slight tangent, I’m generally sorry to see workplaces where the primary method of bonding with ones colleagues entails getting horribly drunk together.

    Naively, one hopes that one’s advancement at work would be linked to the ability to do one’s job – as opposed to one’s ability to booze with the higher-ups.

  10. andrew

    Yes thank you for your article. As a contemporary musician I find this is standard industry practice. The assumption we are happy to work for drinks, or partly for drinks ultimately devalues our work and can be understood as an insult to our work.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details