As many of you know, I taught at Knit Camp as a replacement for another tutor. I didn't get involved from the start as I had my own concerns after last years' event. My experience at UK Ravelry Day 2009 in Coventry wasn't particularly great; it wasn't awful and I did enjoy myself, but it certainly left me wary. I didn't speak up about it then as I didn't think it would do me any favours professionally to do so. Now I wish I had.
My workshop notes had been sent ahead (I only taught one workshop last year as it was a one day event) but they never materialised. There was confusion on the day about whether the workshop was sold out, and people were being turned away when they could have bought the remaining tickets. In hindsight though, a smaller class turned out to be a good thing, as my teaching space was double booked and I ended up teaching my workshop in the foyer. With no notes or samples or teaching equipment and despite the very public location and several interruptions, the workshop still went ahead, and the students were promised a partial refund (via PayPal) as way of an apology. I don't know if they ever got that refund, and I didn't really get an apology directly from the organiser either even though I let it be known I wasn't happy. My wages were paid in full within about 2 weeks and the organiser had paid for my travel and accommodation up front.
Fast forward to March this year, and I was asked to teach at Knit Camp as a replacement tutor. After much discussion with Tom, I agreed. Whenever I teach workshops I generally don't budget with the wages, yet the money being offered was pretty good. Basically, with a new home to build and refurbish, we couldn't afford to turn it down.
Leading up to the event, there was little communication. The communication I did receive was all very positive and the organiser was especially friendly, but I had virtually no idea what was going on. I emailed several times and asked about various aspects, including my hours, accommodation, travel and much more, and was always told they were sorting it out or it was on it's way. I have friends who were involved from the beginning and they'd received a draft contract via email but nothing was sent to me. I couldn't make any travel arrangements as I didn't know what day I was supposed to arrive. Basically, I was I kept pretty much in the dark.
The contract didn't arrive until 3 or 4 weeks before the event was due to start. We were literally about to hit the road with the book tour and there wasn't time to go over the contract too closely. I've since learnt that there were aspects to my 'job' that I didn't get paid for yet others did, which stings a bit. Even when the contract arrived, little other information was provided.
The organisers said they would print workshop notes but they needed to fit on 2 sides of A4. Having spent a fair amount of time preparing my notes, and knowing that my notes hadn't appeared the previous year, I decided to cover the cost of printing myself. I'm glad that I did, as the printing of workshop notes at the event didn't exactly go to plan.
2 weeks before the event, I asked again about travel arrangements and the organiser kindly offered to book and pay for my travel. Several emails later and it's clear that it's cheaper to fly to Glasgow from Stansted rather than go by train. I gently pointed out that I would need checked baggage with my ticket. The organisers were not keen to pay the extra £15 for checked baggage and I found the suggestion that a weeks' clothes to Scotland, as well as teaching materials and samples, camera, laptop etc should all fit in hand luggage a little ridiculous. It was then suggested that I arrange and pay for a courier to ship the items ahead of time. To get a courier cheaper than the £15 for checked baggage the items would need to have been sent a minimum of 5 working days ahead of the event, leaving me unable to do any other work in the meantime. Again, I didn't agree to this. Things went quiet again.
I heard no more from the organiser until less than a week before the start of the event, when I emailed again, still unaware of most details or even if I was going. On the Thursday before the event started, the flight was finally booked, with checked baggage. Unfortunately the cheaper and better timed flights were gone, and I was booked to arrive late Monday night after the festivities had started. I was assured that a lift would there to collect me from the airport.
By this time I suspected that I may not get paid but went ahead anyway; the students deserved that at least. I got on the plane with the full intention of making the most of the week.
My flight arrived at 10pm, 10 minutes ahead of schedule. There was no-one there to meet me as promised. It was too late for trains or buses; everywhere was closed. I honestly didn't know how I was going to get to the venue or whether I'd be spending the night in the airport. I managed to get hold of the organiser and after several phone calls back and forth, and my lift finally arrived at 12.20am, nearly 2 ½ hours after I had landed. I arrived in my room at 1.40am, by which time I was over tired and unable to sleep and pretty pissed off. No information pack, including details of teaching rooms or how to get breakfast, was left for me. I was due to teach the very next morning and managed 3 hours sleep. It didn't bode well for the week, and a full nights' sleep wasn't had until I got home.
Throughout the week, the attendees were amazing. They helped me find my way that first morning to where I could find breakfast and get the necessary information regarding my teaching room and classes - it wasn't their responsibility to guide me around but they did it anyway. They made the most of my workshops and kept me engaged. They sat and talked and shared stories over dinner or drinks. They didn't complain when the yarn promised for workshops ran out or when unexpected changes occurred. I did enjoy myself, and met so many amazing knitters, designers and teachers. But I still went home exhausted and worried.
Unlike many tutors, I did receive some communication after the event, but only 2 emails in the space of a month, and only in response to emails I had sent. Again, it was friendly but lacking in detail. I was told I would receive half of my wages via bank transfer and much to my surprise, I did, but only just within the agreed 30 days. I've been trying to understand why I received something towards my time when most of my colleagues are still out of pocket for their travel and flights, but rational thought and logic can't be applied here.
The remainder of my wages is still owed, and it's still a reasonable chunk of money. I'm not struggling as much financially as many are but things are still tight. Today I'm due to start proceedings through the small claims court; I'm not expecting to see any money I'm owed but it needs to be done to complete the paper trail and ensure my name gets added to the list of creditors.
I was hoping I wouldn't need to write this post, but here it is. This whole mess has left me feeling sad and angry and pretty fed up. It's consumed so much time and headspace it's unreal, and will continue to do so until we all get some sort of resolution. I still don't know if sharing this is the right thing to do but it needs to be done, to stop it all eating away inside, and help make sure something like this doesn't happen again. Going forward, I'm going to be very careful about what I agree to and will be standing my ground regards payment and terms. I've had enough of feeling undervalued.