Freelancers Make Theatre Work is run by a small voluntary group of freelancers. The group is not fixed but fluid and welcomes participants who are willing to give time. Each week, a different member of the team writes the newsletter...

Every tiny action counts

By Rachel Bagshaw

It’s been another busy couple of weeks in FMTW world. And whilst government regulations changed and our worlds started shrinking back indoors, my own world got a little bit bigger briefly as we connected with theatre workers in both Zoom rooms and real life with the launch of Future Labs and the very first Freelancer Spa Sessions at Shakespeare’s globe. Being involved in both projects got me thinking about why FMTW is here and what we can do - and what it is that any of us can do right now.

The first three Future Labs - focusing on immediate responses, supporting freelancers whilst traditional theatre are affected and ensuring the work on equity, diversity and inclusion continues - were rich, vibrant and energising events. So many brilliant ideas and examples of work were shared, seeds of new projects sown and promises of action made. It was clear that there is a hunger for radical change - yes, for the long-term, but that there is an urgent need for it too.

As chair of one panel and a panellist on another, I was struck by the level of commitment and energy that everyone brought to these spaces. And we’re going to need them; as was pointed out many times, there is going to be a very long journey back to a fully functioning industry of any kind.   To see meaningful change in the sector then that journey will require the boldness, strength and tenacity we experienced from our panellists.

Sandwiched in between two Future Labs, FMTW held two ‘spa sessions’: workshops for freelancers of any theatre persuasion to come and have a move, breathe and think. We were delighted to be at the Globe for these; it was one of the first times they had theatre workers there, and for many attending it was their first visit to a theatre, since the start of lockdown. The morning was a total joy for us all; freelancers, facilitators and Globe staff alike moved and laughed together, filling the Yard with distanced bodies and voices. Within the parameters we had, it was the closest I’ve come in months to feeling the liveness of making theatre again.

And it’s that idea of parameters I’ve been struck by. One of the Future Labs panellists asked the brilliant question - What can you do within the parameters you’re working in right now? We’re all living very different experiences in the midst of this. Some of us might have endless energy for Zoom calls, live demos and reinventing the artform, others are surviving the day to day. Our capacity for action and engagement is as different as we are. The micro actions just as important as the macro. 

And we need it all - the small and the large scale, the individual and the collective, the Spa Sessions and the Future Labs.   As Paule and Beth wrote last week, we’ve got a lot to fight for right now - the democracy of the arts is now under attack. If we are to maintain our artform and a workforce which is representative of society, then we need acts of compassionate radicalism (to quote James Baldwin via Chino Odimba!). Moving together in a space is as vital as Zoom debates on our collective futures. If we’re going to achieve that genuine, meaningful change, then every tiny action counts as a nudge towards it. In the final Future Labs, I made my own promise to myself: to undertake one small action per day towards that radical reimagining of our industry. Size doesn’t matter - it’s what you do with activism that counts.

The week before last we had a trial run of our Freelancer Spa project, an initiative that came about in recognition of the huge impact Covid-19 has had on so many of the freelancers working in theatre and the performing arts. With the loss of jobs there’s also the loss of the professional communities, the people who come together to work on projects and often share more than the job at hand. The impact on mental health is immeasurable, and the end is still not in sight. 

We held two sessions at The Globe, catering to 20 freelancers in each session for a socially distanced event offering short movement, voice and coaching sessions. Moving together, making sound together and supporting each other for a couple of hours, in the real world, felt absolutely glorious. Many commented that they felt reminded of who they are, and the transformation on the faces after sharing that space just for a couple of hours, was priceless.  

We want to do more of these sessions. We’d like to see them happening across the UK. If you know of a place with sufficient space, or would like to facilitate and share a skill do let us know. At the moment we have no budget for these. This first one was all done for the love of it, in service to freelancers and with the generous support from The Globe, but if you know of any organisations that might offer funds to this initiative, or if you have a venue that can do socially distanced sessions and has a budget to offer something to cover fees for the freelancers delivering sessions, then we’d love to hear from you. 

Read more here. 

The Freelancers Make Theatre Work Merchandise Store

Last week we launched the FMTW Merchandise Store thanks to the generosity of Promotional Warehouse

For those who are fortunate enough to have returned or are returning to work, & for those who want to support Theatre Freelancers, this is for you.

Help us continue to fight and raise awareness of the plight of freelancers in our industry.

The funds will be used to enable fair pay for more theatre practitioners to run FMTW initiatives around the UK as well as support our continued lobbying of government and championing of Freelancers in The Arts.

Due to Covid restrictions, please allow extra time for delivery of your items.

Come and join us in our virtual Green Room for a coffee and a chin-wag.

THURSDAYS 11am

No agenda, no pressure. Just a chance to meet up with your extended Theatre family in a safe space a mug of the good stuff (and a cheeky slice of cake).

Find out more here.

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