Stratford East and Freelancers – Lily Einhorn
‘The pandemic, as has been made abundantly clear, has exacerbated the power imbalances at play in the theatre sector. Everyone knows that for long term sustainability freelancers need financial stability, better working conditions and an equitable share of resources and power. But this collective act of isolation also showed that they needed the things our salaried colleagues are often provided with: community (a green room), updated skills, (CPD), creative fuel (tickets and invites). These workers are earning less, living in financial precarity, and having to pay more for access to the things which keep their work relevant and their ideas fresh.
Stratford East, after consulting their own pool of freelancers, decided to fund an East London Freelancers Network in late 2020 and I have had the privilege of managing and curating it. Members now number over 200. The theatre gave me a budget and free reign, to programme what I as a freelancer thought was best for the freelance community rather than the organisation’s idea of what we needed. It was an act of generosity and trust which has created the opportunity for a diverse and eclectic range of activities. I programmed creative writing workshops and bid writing workshops, workshops on podcasting and workshops on filling in tax returns. We had talks on the neurology of power and how to hold difficult conversations, anti-racism and anti-ableism trainings, a speed date to meet potential new collaborators, a group coaching course, some specialist workshops from the Loss Project on how to cope with grief and loss of all kinds. All longside monthly general meetings.
I tried to find something for everyone: training / workshops / talks to get your brain buzzing / a space to think about wellbeing. I wanted to make something communal, something relaxed and informal, a place where people could meet and chat and drink coffee and breastfeed and be interrupted by children isolating, and cats, and fire alarms. A green room on Zoom. I think, together, we have done that. Because alongside the long term changes freelancers need to see, we need community, opportunities to train and update our skills, creative inspiration. Or we will be left behind. And there won’t be anyone left to fill the gaps.’
The Stratford East Freelancers’ network has been an invaluable support during the extended uncertainty of the pandemic.
This online provision has allowed for new, exciting collaborations to emerge, often in original and unforeseen ways, no doubt as a direct result of the support and innovation of Lily in leading the group.
As a result, a wide-ranging interdisciplinary group has been encouraged to develop a truly broad range of interests and skills.
This network is a great example of why theatres should be thinking laterally about what their creative communities mean to them. Creative industries should indeed be creative, in thinking as creatively as possible about their support for the very people that not only enrich but fundamentally sustain them.
– Tobias Wright – Stratford East freelancer