FMTW Newsletter 3 – 6th July 2020

I woke this morning with a completely different sense of urgency. The announcement of government investment in culture has released me from an underlying despair which has coloured all the activity of the last months, keeping me awake at night. The announcement signals a definite declaration from the Government that culture has a serious and significant part to play to our social recovery.

But how quickly my thoughts returned to this community of freelancers. Those who took up the call to participate in the The Big Freelancer Survey. Those who have had no financial support throughout this period. Those who have already left the industry to find ways to support themselves elsewhere.

The Big Freelancer Survey has clearly been an extraordinary resource for lobbying and your collective contribution was vital to yesterday’s announcement. The survey was given to an analyst to process and the findings were made into a resource which was then used in negotiations and lobbying of the Government.  It articulated and detailed the scale and shape of the challenge faced by the freelance workforce as a result of Covid-19 in a way that Whitehall understands – Data.  I have been reassured to hear that our testimony has been read at ACE, DCMS and HM Treasury and has been taken very seriously in the conversations which led to last night’s statement of investment.

Personally, I’m not part of that lobbying, but it seems the ground is laid for our collective freelance voice to keep being heard.

How that works from here feels so important. The Treasury statement did not refer to freelancers directly. But… public statements made by industry figures overnight and this morning show that the freelance perspective is beginning to have significant visibility. Again, this is your doing, thank you for writing to your MPs and participating in the Social Media Campaign – both of those actions helped our collective voice to be heard.  I can feel myself racing to shout out again and again that recovery will depend on individuals as well as organisations. Any future plan has to include support for freelancers, and new mechanisms to make sure that a truly representative freelance voice is integrated sustainably into the future of live performance.

How does our place in lobbying continue to be strong as the spending is structured?

How do we ensure that freelancers have a seat at the table in all of the conversations going forward?

Right now, how do we capitalise on the new connections between the freelance community and decision-makers which was made possible by the size of the survey?

Volunteering with this group has taught me how different it feels to travel into these new conversations with the backup of friends and colleagues: never a single voice, as we dare to step into the space. Might one idea be some kind of freelance advisory board for each organisation or building, so that there can be a true, audited representation of our many viewpoints in dialogue about sustainable, inclusive innovation?

Practical utopias.

As for the huge financial hole left by the last months for many of us, apart from the Theatre Artists Fund and other theatrical charities, this is still unaddressed.

I’m not sure where to put that heavy load. I will take that into the days ahead. 

Vicki Mortimer – Freelance Set & Costume Designer