By Steven Hoggett
I’ve often felt over the last ten months or so that there was always an assumed proficiency in the art of Zooming. Its arrival was so sudden and so total. I was reminded of the first few weeks of my driving lessons where the simple act of driving a car felt like something to overcome before being achieved, whilst around me everyone was sailing by, multi-tasking or, at very least, very calm. Zoom meetings are much the same to me. Everyone else seems to have assumed complete skill sets overnight whereas I still feel them tricky, bumpy, restrictive, full of faults, apologies, missed snatches of speech and then there are the people who seem to conduct their zoom meetings from the Milky Way.
So it’s no point of exaggeration that I had a big bag of apprehension down by my leg this last Friday morning when I joined the Freelancers Make Theatre Work online meeting for the first time. Knowing we were likely to spread over two pages (just), my alarm bells were ringing and my antacid tablets were at the ready. That the following two and a half hours flew by is both testament and indicator of what an extraordinary organisation it is. This is mainly due to the extraordinary members of the team. They really do represent not just a formidable cross section of our freelance industry but they are also those individuals that always gave a .
Not only that, but – and this is the really clever bit – it operates without hierarchy. On a purely sociological basis this shouldn’t be possible with the received wisdom stating that between four and six members are the most you can have to truly ensure some diversity in member resources so that everyone can participate. It’s a wonderful thing to behold and, under Peter McKintosh’s expert chairing skills, I found myself – finally – zooming. The dynamic is insistent, clear, people speak, get heard, are answered or countered or helped. Business got done. And not at the expense of mirth or giggles. So, I urge you to look at the meetings when they get posted up on here and just clock how much was achieved. For those of you that still feel Zoom anxiety then take heart. It is entirely possible.
My own personal takeaway after the meeting was that we, as freelancers, have a huge year ahead of us. Pushing for change whilst simultaneously quietly reminding those in power trying to engage with us as artists once again that things are not as they used to be. And that whilst the shape of that new-ness is not fully formed, we have the right to ask producers, governing bodies, governmental departments, MP’s and fellow artists not to resort to the old model. I feel that, for a while at least, we are proposing and defending an idea. A new way of thinking. And in some instances this will involve rejecting what is put in front of us. Without a hard alternative this can be hard to do but seeing the people working at FMTW has given me the confidence to do just that.
My other realisation is that FMTW are covering huge ground which by necessity needs lots of people to do their little bit. Paule Constable has been, as ever, the smartest and the kindest in informing me of this principle. The task is vast. Nobody is being asked to take on the entire task. But dammit there is nothing sexier at the start of this year than witnessing change being formulated. I look forward to my next Zoom. And that is a sentence I never thought I would type.
But there. I typed it.