Minutes compiled by Vicki Mortimer using the OtterAI transcript

 

JU reported back on a meeting in response to community contacts questioning FMTW’s approach to social media posts, especially in relation to support resources in the context of global conflicts.

The community contact has made clear the lack of a clear structure for decision-making within FMTW, as well as a gap in the organisation’s readiness to clearly respond to challenge from community freelancers. This challenge has revealed the urgent need for establishing a clear, transparent and accountable structure for both the FMTW paid team and the wider community.

In the meeting JU reported on, PC, AC, JU and SH were present. In this meeting the group discussed the capacity issues facing FMTW, and the effect this has had on FMTW’s anti-racism work, which although started, (particularly through the IncArts Unlocked toolkit), has been heavily neglected recently. SH offered to have a look at the IncArts commitments we had made and to help steer us in picking up this work.

PC responded on the useful clarity from the meeting that FMTW have been consistently backing away from challenge, rather than stepping into the space. The white fragility of this  reaction was recognised.

A future aim would be to acknowledge that we’ve got this wrong and move forward. It was agreed that otherwise FMTW risks doing nothing.

JU emphasised the need to make FMTW more diverse and inclusive – without which the purpose of the organisation will not be met. (This purpose is to listen, support and advocate for ALL freelancers in the arts).

PCJ pointed out that FMTW is not a membership organisation. In his view, FMTW …”have to be extremely careful about making any statement on behalf of freelancers …because there’s no accountability.” He said that FMTW can  signpost to resources to access help and support to freelancers who are pressure during times of conflict.

PCJ pointed out that the proliferation of conflicts is only likely to increase and provoke increasingly complex situations for freelancers in a wide variety of situations.

Returning to the subject of structural uncertainty, PCJ reinforced the need for a renewed/redefined governance system for FMTW

BBJ reiterated the governance structure as needing proper attention including a constitution and clear role for the board.

(VM arrived late to the meeting, and was given a recap by PC).

VM talked about the board having been reduced in number to ease the administrative process of charity application –  the challenges of being in the reduced board/trustees group, without adequate training, and with lack of clarity around legitimate decision-making.

There was a conversation following this, which explored the reasons why theatre freelancers may not naturally have the skills/abilities to participate in board responsibilities (without adequate preparation, and without a clear structure for context). It was acknowledged that in an attempt to retain horizontal structures (rather than top-down structures), FMTW is finding it hard to make progress, and be accountable for its actions. JU: “…the thing that is tricky is always about the entitlement to decision making, and how that comes about in an organisation which is based in voices on a horizontal ideal, where the sort of aspiration to be representative of a bit of an entire community means that the entitlement to make a decision feels really problematic without a kind of effective consultation.”

JU summarised like this: “What we as a group can do is we can very clearly articulate the things that need to be included in the FMTW mission. It’s just then now to sort of like tie it all together. We do have that direction. We are aiming to be an anti racist organisation. We are aiming to support freelancers via gathering data. We are aiming to support freelancers by signposting. We do know about ourselves as an organisation…what we’re struggling with is stringing it all together in a structured manner….

…we could just continue in the way that we are doing the survey, holding the website up, having the conversations we’re having and not worry about it. We can just go okay, we’re just not going to do that. But we know that racism is a big part of the struggles facing a lot of freelancers in the industry at the moment, and therefore we don’t want to do that. We don’t want to just go okay, well, we’re not worried about it because it’s too complicated. So that slowness is, in a way a positive thing.”

FC reminded the group that the attempt to simultaneously build and model an unconventional model has always been challenging for FMTW. He questioned whether this is the time to consider compromises.

PC described the closed loop of conversations with those outside the group sending the work back into the group. PC also described a reticence to ask for free help.

PCJ gave an analogy:  “you know when you buy a pair of scissors and that pair of scissors is inside a plastic vacuum pack. And to open the plastic vacuum pack, you need the pair of scissors – that’s where we are now. We’re trying to open a vacuum packed pair of scissors without a pair of scissors. So at some point, we’re gonna have to go make the purchases to get the actual pair of scissors that we want and then we can work with it”

 PCJ cont: “… the actuality of these [horizontal] structures [is that they’re] only empowering those that already feel they dont need to ask permission, … [it] ties into the question about diversity. Example from the survey of those earning 60k+, none of whom are from a low socio-economic background – why is this happening? There are barriers to access to get into the into the profession in the first place. But even once those people who haven’t had that boost up there, they are doubly punished because they never get beyond that there’s clearly a glass ceiling. I’d suggest in the absence of a defined vertical power structure what often happens is that the power ends up pooling in conventional places.”

MD pointed out that Arts Council England now require boards as organisations to set KPIs every quarter. “…if we were setting ourselves targets every three months or every 12 months, we might also feel like we’re moving forward… working out what those [targets] are in a way that suits us.”

The June meeting was scheduled for 9.30-11.30am Friday 5th June.

(VM and PC left the meeting)

Website updates:

A conflictsection is being built, which needs a more appropriate title. It will be on the FMTW website as a resource for people struggling with conflicts across the world, particularly freelancers in the UK.

A new section of the website about the climate crisis is also being built, which is similar to the Working in Europe section.

There was a discussion about FMTW signing the Culture Declares a Climate Emergency – no conclusion was reached pending a further conversation.

BAC Community Partner scheme:

JU – BAC applications are open for 24-26 community partner scheme. We have been invited to take a look https://bac.org.uk/community-partners

Freelance community reps going on next weeks agenda

Anti-racism:

SH has offered to help us go through the Inc Arts work that we have previously committed to as mentioned before.

CIISA

CIISA have offered to meet in early July.

PCJ remarked that it would be good to get a handle on how likely the scheme is to happen in reality.