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'This is only my second year claiming and I wish I had done it earlier' - Artist Emma Hart on Payback

Emma Hart staring into camera
Emma Hart

Payback is a scheme which pays artists annual royalties when their artworks have been published in UK books, magazines or on TV.

Here, multidisciplinary artist Emma Hart explains what the scheme has meant to her.

I am an artist who predominantly makes ceramic sculptures. I’ve currently got a solo exhibition on display in Korea at Barakat Contemporary in Seoul, and later this year I will realise my first permanent sculpture for the public entrance of the UCL East Pool Street West building, at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

I’ve been working with ceramics for the last ten years - I like getting my hands dirty! However, before that I regularly used photography, film and video to produce artworks. As well as working across mediums, I’ve also tried out many formats. I’ve produced many exhibitions, but alongside this I’ve done performances, lectures and taken part in festivals. I’ve had a go at writing, curating, and over the years been part of a few artistic collaborations. I’ve done plenty of teaching and I’ve worked in gallery education too - I’ve had my fingers in loads of pies! This is only my second year claiming Payback and wish I had done it earlier.

But what put me off was all those pies. I’ve been making art for twenty years and felt overwhelmed at the prospect of applying for Payback, thinking I’ve got too much stuff (images, articles, works) and it’s all over the place. I felt daunted that it was going to be an enormous task to list it all, but I was wrong!

Firstly the DACS Payback website is simple and intuitive to use. Secondly, I didn’t have as much stuff as I thought (delusions of grandeur!) and thirdly I was more organised than I thought. I simply went through my CV and logged all the publications and articles mentioned in it. I probably haven’t captured all the articles I’ve been in over the years, but I’ve certainly made a solid start and that feels good. The process has helped me to feel a bit more in control of my sprawling personal archive and it also reminded me of all the things I have done and gave me a chance to reflect on them. Applying for Payback was a positive and useful experience which has left me feeling more organised, and of course got me a bit of dosh!

Much of the work I do as an artist unfortunately goes unpaid. For example studio visits, meetings and phone calls are all unrecognised labour. Virtual meetings on Zoom mean even more of my free time gets sucked up. Studio visits with people working for organisations, who are getting paid by the organisation to go on the studio visit seem especially unfair. On most projects, even big solo ones, I am one of the lowest paid people in the room or Zoom call. Press interviews are a good example too. I often get asked to promote shows with a “quick” (yeah right!) interview, or a “quick” chat with a writer and my time on this is never paid. So Payback is literally an opportunity to get some payback, and makes me feel like I’ve done something to try and redress the unfair unpaid labour of an artist.

My advice for anyone wavering about whether to apply for Payback is don’t feel put off by thinking it will be hard work to capture everything, even just doing some of it is worth doing and will help you feel more in control. It’s payback time!

About Payback

Has your work been published in a book, magazine or on TV? If so, you're probably eligible for Payback royalties, in addition to other copyright royalties you may have already received. That's because Payback covers secondary uses of your images, such as photocopying. Every year we collect a share of royalties which we pay to eligible artists who've signed up to the scheme. It’s worth it - thousands of artists claiming in 2021 received a share of £5.6 million with individual payments of up to £450 for books and magazines and up to £3000 when also claiming for TV.