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...

Where are we?

With so much conflicting news around at the moment, we thought it might be good to share the differing viewpoints from different freelancers. Below is a snapshot of what things feel like from an English, a Scottish and a Welsh perspective written before Monday's announcement confirming further easing of restrictions from July 19. There is more detail if you follow the links to the FMTW site but please read on and we hope this might make sense of some of the chaos! With huge apologies for the lack of a Northern Irish voice. If anyone would like to be in touch to share how things are there it would be great to share with the wider community….

A snap shot from Steffan Donnelly (Cultural Freelancers Wales)

Theatre and entertainment venues can host indoor regulated gatherings with up to 30 people inside in Wales at the moment and will be able to take groups of six people from six households. Some venues are planning small scale summer events, with the hope that this number will be raised. There’ll another review and update on 15 July. Many events are going to be taking place outdoors over summer, the rules for outdoor gatherings is up to 10,000 people sitting or 4,000 standing.

From a personal perspective, I’m directing an outdoor show for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru next month and confirming venues has been last minute because of uncertainty around numbers and how possible it will be to host events.

In terms of Government support, applications to the third round of Welsh Government’s Freelance Fund is being processed now, giving £2,500 directly to freelancers in need. it’s taking quite a while and that could be down to how much smaller this pot is, £4m, compared to the last two rounds which were more than double that. There are complaints from the sector that CRF2 is very slow in being rolled out.

Read more here.

In England Paule Constable has a different view:

My head is in my hands. We push and push for a clear date to open – but how can we be clear? We are in a pandemic and, if we have learnt nothing else it is that there is no such thing as certainty. And yet so much of the talk is of confidence, of shows opening, of work being made.

Why do I feel so under confident? I wake up daily with my heart in my mouth sharing none of these positive feelings. So much doesn’t add up –

The commercial producers are heading for a cliff edge. This is partly due to some foolish individuals demanding reopening dates in a very public way. But also the government policy of supporting only a tiny proportion of the commercial sector with the CRF (Cultural Recovery Fund) is contributing to this acceleration as it has left the commercial theatre – in the most part – to fend for itself. They have to put shows on to survive – a pressure further exacerbated by the theatre owners needing their tenants to return to paying full rents now.

And of course, the realities of keeping on producing theatre without insurance may well prove be catastrophic. Without insurance – if a commercial show has to shut down because of sickness amongst the cast or a local lockdown then – the likelihood is – it won’t reopen.

Meanwhile in the subsidised sector the terms tied to the Cultural Recovery Fund are forcing everyone to spend unwisely and quickly. Following on from Johnson’s 21 June announcement the previous deadline that all monies be spent by the end of June has been extended to the end of August, but the damage had already been done. The money is allocated and, in the most part and where it has actually been received, spent.  

There is not a huge amount of work, few of us are doing much and there is less resource to go around so only a handful of freelancers are benefitting from any of this money, this much hyped “return…” Financial offers are concerning, the stresses of the covid working world are immense, there is a shortage of staff and not enough work to go around in a situation that feels like walking on a knife edge – but we’re working right?

Well some are. Many aren’t. Feeling very excluded. Where does this empty rhetoric leave them other than feeling more marginalised?

Then we are seeing the end of Furlough and SEISS loom along with the end of the ACE funds thus adding more pressure to those of us freelancers for whom any support we could muster has been a life line. I feel as though I am on a slowly unfolding train wreck speeding towards a brick wall.

We are all feeling this pressure. But rather than turn it on ourselves I would plead that it is more important than ever for us to work together. Our fury should be aimed at the ineptitude of this government not at each other. I cannot help but feel that this careless attitude to the arts is part of something way more sinister around an active mistrust of the all of us. A healthy society will see art as a vehicle by which we can question the nature of our society – asking awkward questions, reflecting upon what is wrong, giving voice to those least heard, engaging with complexities. I cannot help but believe that this government wants to quash that voice. And for that reason alone we have to fight together. Because if we turn the fight inwards we will do the job of the Right wing for them.

Full England summary here.

From the Scottish Border, Emma Jayne Park adds another perspective:

‘For every person working or on the cusp of working we have to remember that there a a hundred who can’t’

I said this off the cuff in a meeting the other day, mid-flow speaking fully from my gut.

My whole body believes it. [Disclaimer, the numbers are not data based in any way!!].

Right now, at this moment, I am one who cannot work. My immune system has given up - again. The pressure, the pace and the seemingly empty promises of learning over the past year have taken their toll. I cannot work because the structures I am asked to work within are squeezing me. I see them squeezing my friends, my peers, my colleagues - both freelance and salaried. I am also squeezed by friends, peers and colleagues as the systems they have to work within squeeze them and, my greatest source of shame,, I know that I am squeezing those I work with too. In part, as the impacts of my illness mean someone has to pick up the load and in part the structures I have built for working have survived because they are complicit in a system that pretends we are making ends meet.

My body is sore with grief, my love for the art and the people never waning but my faith in the industry of it all fractured. I barely have the energy for rage. I share this not to spread despair but in the hope it reaches those who have left the industry for now, those numb to it all or those on the cusp of burning out so they know that it’s okay to be honest about all of the messiness of your humanity and for your inner dramaturg to be totally lost right now.

A small glimmer of hope is that when I realised I couldn’t surpass my current grief state to collate a summary of the current data for Scotland, that I could reach out to someone else with this skill, who did not hesitate to share what they know.. Fiona Sturgeon Shea’s (Federation of Scottish Theatre) generosity with information reminds me that although everything feels difficult the industry’s recovery still has time to be a fulfilling collaboration.

The snapshot looks like this, for a full briefing from 25th June please see here.


Technically, theatres can re-open now and have been able to since 17 May, but with strict 2m social distancing measures and capacity limits in place. The capacity limits vary between the different ‘levels’ in which local authority areas in Scotland sit. A few areas (mostly island communities) are in level 0; roughly half of Scotland is in level one (mostly outside of the central belt); with the remainder (mostly central belt) in level 2. The plan sets out that on 19

July, when the whole of the country is expected to be moved to level 0, the need for physical distancing will be no longer be required outdoors and physical distancing indoors will be reduced to 1m for all public settings. The Scottish Government are looking to remove the majority of restrictions at 9 August, including the removal of event caps, but there will continue to be a need for baseline protective mitigations going forward. We’re awaiting further updates to the guidance for the performing arts and venues sector.


Without any kind of Government-backed insurance scheme, there’s a real issue about how the sector manages cancellations and ongoing uncertainty. The second round of the PAVR funding (which just closed to applications 24th June) is welcome, yet it’s short-term and there are serious concerns about what happens beyond September. There is still a lack of clarity around what this means for freelancers. Many non-venue based organisations haven’t been eligible for recovery/crisis funding because they weren’t at risk of immediate closure, they’re now reaching a difficult stage having continued to work and often increased output throughout the pandemic.

Funding for Individuals

Creative Scotland have announced the dates for the simplified Open Fund for individuals which will be open from 10 h August.

Skills Retention

Skills Development Scotland have indications of a large number of formerly employed and freelance practitioners leaving the performing arts sector. This will potentially leave a large skills gap of experienced craftspeople that we cannot afford to lose.

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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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