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Rachel McCarthy, 50, mother to a grown-up daughter, once posed nude for Australian artist Ron Mueck. Her creased belly features in Tate’s permanent collection; along with the grey granny pants she wore for the job (not her choice).

Nowadays, Rachel spends most of her time campaigning for artists’ models in the UK to get better pay and working conditions. She works for the Register of Artists’ Models (RAM), which started off as five life models in a pub and now provides a global register of models, as well as jobs pages and guidelines for best practice.

According to RAM, average life modelling fees are:

  • London: £11.06 per hour
  • Rest of England: £9.77 per hour
  • Scotland: £8.48 per hour
  • Wales: £7.80

Adult education facilities are making cutbacks. Even if they’re lucky enough to be put on the payroll at a school or college, models are usually taxed at the emergency rate. They can claim this money back, but Rachel says a lot of models don’t.

Last month, French life models protested against the pittance they earn by stripping off outside the cultural department of the Paris town hall. However, effective strikes can’t be organised in Britain (or, indeed, in France) because there is no union for models. There is no cohesion. If a model puts his or her foot down over pay and the college or artist is unhappy, then that model will find themselves out of a job. Employers know there is a queue of models waiting to take their place.

Listen to what Rachel has been doing to promote better pay for models:

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