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...

One year on

Last Saturday marked a year since the first Freelancers Make Theatre Work gathering, and a few of the team have reflected on a year of FMTW and what it has meant to them both personally and politically. 

A collage of square photos from the Freelancers Make theatre Work campaign. Each square includes a member of the theatre industry holding up a sign in front of them stating the job they do within theatre. In the centre of the collage is the red and white Freelancers Make Theatre Work logo.

The value and impact that freelancers can have (even during torrid times) is incredible. Together, we bring a wealth of knowledge and experience and can play a major part in influencing much needed change in the sector. Our voices are heard, when we speak together, and speak up to support each other.

-Prema Mehta


FMTW has introduced me to an amazing group of people I now consider friends. Their unwavering commitment to change and activism has been inspiring to watch and I believe/hope I’ve taken some of those thoughts and practices into my own life. A particular shout out has to go to #TeamAccess, whose space is always safe and welcoming, and who have taught me so much.

- Ella Taylor


This past year, FMTW has personally given me emotional strength, fresh perspectives and beautiful new friendships.

The care and generosity of each and every FMTW volunteer has given a vast network of freelance theatre workers a louder voice during a year where we were at risk of being forgotten.

- FMTW volunteer


A sense of community, thinking space, and solidarity.

- Steffan Donnelly 


Personally: meeting wonderful people across the freelance theatre sector who I’d probably never have met in real life! 

Politically: HOPE.

- Mimi Doulton


It’s easy to forget the unseen things - the Whatsapp birthday messages, the asking how you got on at the dentists, the late night phone calls from someone who noticed you weren’t quite yourself, the laughing together when you catch each other’s eye across a Zoom meeting, the bonding over epic TV finales, the curious questions as you inevitably reveal more of yourself through a year of living in each other’s homes via tiny squares.

And yet, so much of being part of the freelance community is the unseen (very few of us stay in it for the money, right??!).

As much as I take huge pride in the lobbying, the likes, the projects and the platforms, my heart swells most when I remember the unseen moments FMTW has created.  The Tea Breaks community doing a bagel making session, having comrades to message during intense meetings, receiving emails with books to read to my nephews.  Space to be, space to belong and space to remember that we are all far more than our job titles or outputs ever suggest.

- Emma Jayne Park


Sometimes touching just a few people directly is just as important as the bigger more public steps. The in-person Spa sessions at the Globe, to see those people come in slightly apprehensive and leave glowing was just wonderful. And the online stuff - the online spas, the boxing, the tea breaks, the dawn chorus. These have maybe only reached a small number of people, but those who've gotten involved have been really appreciative - for some it's been a lifeline.

- FMTW volunteer 


Personally, it has been an opportunity to work with some phenomenal people representing an incredible breadth of theatre experiences. Politically – finding ways to reach, communicate with and ultimately hold accountable those whose responsibility it is to support the industry and its freelance workforce.

- Peter McKintosh 


I remember that FMTW began as a response to the reality that freelancers (a huge cosmos of hard-working and extraordinary individuals) were missing out on conversations which were determining their futures in a pandemic… it seems it has evolved into an ambitious advocacy for freelancer recognition and systemic change. I suppose, at the beginning, there was a kind of disbelief – that the vital role of freelancers could be so evidently misunderstood, unseen and side-lined. Surely those inhabiting the infrastructure could see that freelancers were those without whom there could be… no scripts, no music, no choreography, no words spoken, no sets, no costumes, no lighting design, no sound-scores, no prompt-copies – no actual content… nothing to fill those empty spaces? Surely freelancers were part of a… family….? So in this year of looking around me, and seeing the cool reality, I have felt… wonder at the people who have generously lent their perspective and their time, their creativity and their fury on behalf of the freelance community. I have felt grief at the damage done to the possibilities for people with skills, talents and graft. I have felt despair at my own fallibility. And I have felt constantly lifted-up by the volunteers who have done their work around me – it’s been an incredible classroom: challenging and open. I am lucky to take that collective discomfort with me wherever I go now: it’s a kind of shared responsibility which can’t be un-learnt, and which might just contribute to something better, bit by bit.

- Vicki Mortimer


FMTW has opened up the channels of communication with companies and artistic directors to raise the issues around freelance employment. We have brought our voice into the zooms /rooms which had otherwise been dominated by the concerns of buildings. The Future Labs and The Big Freelancer Report that they helped inform have rightly set out positive actions for change, highlighted existing best practices and begun the process of empowering freelancers to be part of the dialogue around the future of the industry!  

- Tom Piper


The Big Freelancer Report - though it brought the harsh and brutal reality to light, also was the final affirmation of an entire ecology of artists working under the freelance title. Never before have we known ourselves in this way so the report, though often bleak, was essentially the link and the view we always suspected but never had before.

The year ahead is one where I personally believe that FMTW can engage with what was once an uninformed and harsh workspace. One where the notion of being afforded the right to live and work creatively automatically incurred huge cost in terms of rights and pay grade and lifestyle. It is exciting to know that the very existence of FMTW means there is another way forward and that we now have a sense of how to achieve a future in which every one of us has the opportunity to genuinely consider a creative career, one that does not come with all the historical traps, restrictions, unnecessary pressures and both work and lifestyle concessions.

- FMTW volunteer 


Create a sense of community and connection for Freelancers, offer support to the Freelance community, provide information and advocate for change. The Future Labs have helped begin to open doors that were previously closed, and the push to get Freelancers voices heard has been felt in many different places. Articles in newspapers and reports on the telly, the world has become aware of the 70% of Freelancers who make up the theatre, events and performing arts work force. Contribution to the recognition for systemic change, for a fairer, more equitable, diverse and actively anti-racist industry. The presence of FMTW along with sister groups has enabled the beginning of a shift for deep change.

- FMTW volunteer


A year of FMTW and a year on from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, let's acknowledge this. Let's name it. Let's remember. A year on too from the loss of so many lives lost to COVID-19. To refer back to Kelsie Acton's newsletter last week 'there is not one way to make theatre' and I share that nor is there one way to grieve. Nor is there one way to push for change. There is not one way to seek a transformative kind of justice and one person's justice will not look the same as another's. But a Year of FMTW also marks the year of extraordinary reckoning. An extraordinary amount of fight, pain and loss. But here at FMTW and amongst so many other grass roots working collectives - people are pushing tirelessly for a radical and transformative shift forward, a coming together of minds who want to work towards a world that is more equal, and an industry that is fair, equal, inclusive, loving and kind. This awful pandemic has shone light on what injustice already pervades our societies, nations and communities.  To quote Arundhati Roy; it has bought ‘the engine of capitalism to a juddering halt. Temporarily perhaps, but at least long enough for us to examine its parts, make an assessment and decide whether we want to help fix it, or look for a better engine.' Here at FMTW we are searching for a better engine.  #BlackLivesMatter. #TheatreCanChange 

- Jess Murrain

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A collage of square photos from the Freelancers Make theatre Work campaign. Each square includes a member of the theatre industry holding up a sign in front of them stating the job they do within theatre. In the centre of the collage is the red and white Freelancers Make Theatre Work logo.
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