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.