By Jack Hudson
As of this week, we are halfway through the Future Labs series, which was launched last month as a means to open the dialogue between freelancers and organisations in search of ways to support freelancers through the current crisis, get as many as possible back to work and improve the industry as we move beyond this moment. By the end of the series we will have hosted solutions-focussed discussions with over a hundred participants, divided equally between representatives from theatres around the United Kingdom and freelancers from across a spectrum of backgrounds and disciplines all paid to participate.
The reports from the first three of these discussions are now available to read on our website, focussing on topics drawn from the responses to the Big Freelancer Survey. In the first lab, panellists met to discuss solutions for immediate, possible and inclusive activity, including collaborative new forms of performance, utilising freelance skills and the role of digital theatre in making work. In the second lab, panellists explored ways to engage and invest in freelancers while traditional routes are affected, discussing activity happening right now, the pervading perception of us vs them between freelancers and organisations, and how we might share our resources. In the third, panellists discussed how to progress and develop work on diversity and inclusion that was started prior to the pandemic, focussing on how organisations can pave the way to creative roles and positions of artistic leadership whilst not losing sight of those most at risk of leaving the industry right now.
Unsurprisingly, the imbalance of power, which has left freelancers out of the decision-making process, has been the focus of much of the discussion so far (there has yet to be a panel that haven’t at some point landed on the thorny topic of boards) but, despite this, the conversation in all of these sessions has been conducted in a spirit of collaboration, empathy and understanding and it has been truly inspiring to hear so many ideas, provocations and honest requests for help from both sides of the discussion. Even in the search for practical solutions, it is hard to have any of these conversations without reflecting on the nature of theatre in the absence of collective gatherings, and our mutual desperation to share spaces with each other and with audiences. It has been particularly poignant to unpack the role of buildings in this relationship - formerly the focal point of performance, now barriers to it by virtue of restriction.
As in the creative process, we know the best ideas often come during the time between meetings. In this spirit, panellists from across these Labs are being collectively invited to follow up sessions to report back from their discussions, revisit their conversations, and present any concluding ideas, commitments or challenges. To lift the tedium of yet another Zoom, these final thoughts are being recorded during the discussion in graphic notes by illustrator Julie Miranda, the first of which are up now on the website.
We hope to be able to share more content from these sessions going forward.