Minimum Wage for Spoken Word

More and more often I’m having to ask myself the question “What’s the least I would work for?” or “What’s the least I would ask for someone else to work for?”. I do okay. I’ve made a living as a freelance writer and performer for the past seven years. Usually earning more than I did when I was a radio journalist. But sometimes I find myself being offered less than I would want, or wanting to make a project happen and not having the money to do it without people’s goodwill.

Nonetheless- I expect that established funded venues (the Lyric Hammersmith) using youth creativity networks to promote their schemes (Ideastap) would at least make a stab at decent pay for young people they’re hoping to develop within the (professional) spoken word world.

18-25 year olds are being offered £30 to write, rehearse and perform a ten minute piece on censorship and creativity at the Lyric studio. (

Based on my own experience of writing and performing commissions I’ve broken that down as an hourly rate, using probably a quicker than average working pace:

Writing piece including drafts, redrafts and post-rehearsal rewrites: 8 hours.

Rehearsing piece (Including at offered space in the studio): 5 hours.

Time at venue on the night including performance: 4 hours.

So for 17 hours work one would receive the princely sum of £1.76!

(Not including travel expenses to venue (assuming Londoner) at a minimum £4 which would bring the rate down below £1.50).

What I would charge for a similar amount of work is very variable. I’ve done similar for a charity I believed in for either free or £100 (or very occasionally nowadays in order to promote a book or other project, though I generally believe that to be a slippery slope). A BBC rate (Say for doing a commission for Radio 3’s The Verb) would be around £350. An Arts Council funded projected recommended daily rate would be between £200-£300. A corporate daily rate (particularly for work at conferences- £1000). In all instances the projects are getting my experience, skills and time. Being able to develop as a professional writer and spoken word artist required venues to value more time at something above £1.50 an hour in order for me to progress.

Can the Lyric Hammersmith do better? Should they?


NB- I’m not talking about the rate for a platform in which to try out already written/rehearsed/gigged work. That’s a very different kettle of spoken fish.