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...

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you’ve managed to find some kind of respite over the break.

Next week, on 13 January 2021, we’ll be publishing our report, Interdependence: Freelancers and Organisations, 2020. This follows the Routes to Recovery report that we published in June of last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to precipitate a crisis in the performing arts. Throughout this crisis, the government has failed to understand the ecosystem of our sector. That failure was evident in the announcement of a Cultural Recovery Fund which made no provision for freelance theatre workers. Behind the headline figure of a £1.57 billion investment were some very troubling shortcomings. To date, in England, only £123.5 million has been distributed in grants to the theatre sector; however these funds are not designed to - nor can they - provide direct support for the freelance workforce.

More worryingly, our industry itself has struggled to lobby effectively on the behalf of freelancers because we have lacked the data to do so. Beyond the oft-repeated statistic that 71% of the performing arts workforce is freelance or self-employed, it has been a challenge to clearly explain the interdependence of freelancers and organisations in our sector without the data to back those claims.

We hope that our report will go some way towards remedying that. Between August and December 2020, we conducted a survey to gather data from almost a hundred performing arts organisations across the UK. The aim of the survey was to elucidate the relationship between freelancers and organisations - to make it clear in hard data that both parties are dependent upon one another and that a future recovery for organisations will rely upon the immediate security of freelancers.

Ahead of the publication of the full report, we want to share the key findings with you:

  • Prior to COVID-19, performing arts organisations spent 39.4% of their annual turnover on freelancers.
  • 80.6% of the workforce on a typical production were freelancers.
  • 91.8% of organisations reported that they are extremely or very concerned about the contraction of the freelance workforce.
  • 77.6% of organisations reported that they are extremely concerned about sustaining and developing a diverse freelance workforce.
  • 91.8% of organisations reported that they are extremely or very concerned about the loss of freelance experience and leadership.
  • 83.7% of organisations reported that freelancers are essential to their organisations starting to make work again.
  • 80.6% of organisations reported that freelancers are essential to their organisations’ long-term recovery plans.

We intend our report to be a useful and unifying tool for all - freelancers, organisations, funders, campaigns and the public. We’re producing it in the expectation that lobbying efforts will need to continue into the new year. We hope it is useful to anyone who is making the case for our sector and for freelance theatre workers.

We’ll make the report available on our website on 13 January and publicise it on Twitter - please do share it widely.

Leo Wan x

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