FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK
WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES
09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 05 February 2021
Chair: Peter McKintosh
Minutes: Kelsie Acton and Emma Jayne Park
Attendees: Peter McKintosh, Kelsie Acton, Ben Arkell, Nikki Edmonds, Vicki Mortimer, Anne McNulty, Alistair Cope, Leigh Toney, Sally Beck Wippman, Prema Mehta, Laura Meaton, Arran Pallan, Jake Orr, Beth Steel, Sita Thomas, John McCann, Shanko Chaudhuri, Tamykha Patterson, Andy Whyment, Adele Thomas, Paule Constable, Emma Jayne Park, Titas Halder, Susan Kempster, Steven Hogget, Matt Humphrey, Ella Taylor, Tom Piper, Athena Stevens, Jess Murrain, Leo Wan, Beth Sitek, Freddie Crossley, Kat Rose-Martin, Anna Fleischle, Bill Bankes-Jones, Alister Lownie, Sunita Hinduja
‘We are a laboratory of proper collaborative questioning ’
– Vicki Mortimer
– Image by Vicki Mortimer
The FMTW story
- In early May there was a lack of information for freelancers and a lack of financial resources
- FMTW was started to direct freelancers to resources and to respond to the quickly changing situation created by the pandemic
- There was also a hope using this moment to address systemic issues in the sector
- FMTW is trying hard to question and not to replicate the existing structures
- Digital manager(DM) has the only paid role for his creation and upkeep of the website and social media. In any other capacity they are a volunteer.
- We are currently recruiting for a paid administrative post.
- Internal Communication Tools used: Zoom, Slack, WhatsApp, GDrive, Calendar
They are used to try to make communication manageable as we recognise people have other things going on and we are volunteering.
- External Communications: Email address, website, social media (Twitter, Instagram)
- DM currently handles the external email inbox and coordinates with people on Slack (this will move to the administrative position)
- We have a regular Friday meeting but also have other meetings throughout the week to work on different projects
- Slack: you can choose to be part of whichever channels work for you.
- Keeping comms organised is a joint responsibility, as a means to be kind to each other by trying to avoid overwhelm.
- If in doubt, ask DM!!
- We send out a newsletter every week
- Eventually the newsletter is posted on our website
- Newsletter is varied – could be about current events, personal experiences, etc.
Website/Social/Merch/Our News –
- We have a lot of followers on various social media
- We have a merchandise store on the website
- We also publish news about the sector and news about FMTW
- DM is generally the person who manages the relationship with the outside world
The FMTW Post-It wall –
This is a tool to enable us to keep track of what is happening and make sure the workload is manageable. It is a live resource, on the platform Miro.
- The post-it wall (on the miro board) is the way we visualise our current work
- Generally everything is organised into weekly activities, projects, reactive work
- All of the notes link to a document that explains the project
- The post-it notes are colour coded to show the current status of the project and who is working on it.
- Volunteer access co-ordinator (AC) is eager to ensure that our access commitments are consistent.
- AC facilitated an Access Training session for the team. Notes are available here.
- The FMTW Access Commitments can be found here.
- AC is always there for questions and conversations.
- Podcasts meet 4pm BST on Tuesday
- The podcast tells the stories of freelancers to a wider audience of theatre lovers
- Looking for lead storytellers, or ‘stage managers’ for the podcast
- Ongoing Activities created to recognise loss of social activity and collaborative opportunities.
- Online resources are collated as an easy to access place.
- Spa Days were a collective in person gathering (movement, voice and coaching) for theatre professionals, piloted at The Globe. They were intended for a national roll out. An online version took place. These were paused due to Covid but will be resumed when possible.
- Picnics were in person gatherings that were paused due to the gathering rule of six
- Online there is the Dawn Chorus, Tea Breaks for purely social time, Boxing and stage combat, including session for kids and families, and now funky Friday dance sessions
- Long term thinking, we hope to touch on long standing issues and to work with many people who have been in touch with us. This includes ideas such as on site freelance supervision during contracts.
Lobbying/MPs letters etc –
- MP’s letter is kept updated for people to download from the website and write to their MPs. This is one of the most effective ways of lobbying government
- Working to connect with specific MPs, funding bodies, trade unions, government departments and to have conversations with these people and groups to advocate for freelancers
- We are also always working on what our asks are
- This is sometimes reactive work (e.g. the EU and the travel situation)
- Open to anyone who is interested and has time
Future Labs –
- Brought freelancers and people from organisations and buildings into conversations
- Created a lot of findings that are informing our work now
- ACE have funded FMTW to deliver a research project (The Big Freelance Report) to collate all the research out there on freelancers and summarize the asks
- Governance was a big topic of conversation from Future Labs
- Launched board observership scheme with the Theatre Centre where freelancers are paid to attend boards, and thinking about rolling that out wider
- Possibly starting a network for freelancers on board
- Lots of potential for data gathering
- Meeting next Friday at noon to work on this – everyone who is interested is welcome
DCMS Select Committee call for Evidence re Post Brexit/EU Travel –
- DCMS has put out a call for evidence for those impacted by Brexit.
- FMTW have an opportunity to give oral evidence to the select committee on 16th February.
- Evidence should be from as wide a group as possible
- Will also accept written evidence in addition to the person speaking to them
- This includes everyone working in the EU
- Focus of evidence is ‘what difference will Brexit make?’ So both what is the impact right now and what the impact would be if we were not dealing with COVID
- Note that we are specifically collating information focussed on freelancers.
- We will also create a social media call out for evidence to share after this meeting
Contacting treasury : a group discussion regarding how best to proceed with campaigning for the extension of SEISS and support for excluded freelancers –
- We need to make a case to Treasury to keep SEISS payments going and to support the 3 million Excluded
- How do we support the people campaigning for this?
- Petitions have limited impact – MP letters campaigns are far more difficult
- We are asking for: Extension of SEISS until the theatres reopen; support for Excluded; what do we ask for for freelancers who are not being employed because of limited theatre capacity
- What do we do: petition, MP letter campaign, open letter to Sunak
- A volunteer is meeting with parliamentarians today to talk strategy
- We want to support the existing petition, not undermine that, generally the group is in favour of MP letter and a few meetings with folks we can get meetings with
- there are industry specific asks that we also need to consider
- Martin Lewis has had some interesting podcasts in this area.
- Need to advocate for future planning – the government has been consistently last minute. How do we avoid pushing their hand so they make announcements that ignore those already excluded?
- We want more people supported. Do we make sure that our ask is for a clear plan for the year, not just specific action?
- Europe letter model – specific letter to go on specific desks (treasury and DCMS), then adapt into an MPs letter.
- There are movements to get some money to the excluded – we should support these efforts
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
NI Arts Council Letter:
- Arts Council Northern Ireland is asking for 20 freelancer artists to interview without payment (https://theatreanddanceni.org/call-for-freelance-theatre-and-dance-practitioners-interested-in-a-new-model-of-independent-working/?fbclid=IwAR2M6OQMswWJJprOMRgH5wYwMpmcelaQmKYlcEvvgLH5WWHTA8z1hkqf7UE), we got connected to the Freelance Theatre Collective to check if they are supporting this (we don’t want to step on toes)
- Suggestions that we need a manifesto or a charter, maybe coming out of the Big Freelancer Report that asks for the broader issue of not paying freelancers as consultants mentioned.
- Training Opportunities (Fuel, NYT, RSC) are trying to pool resources to offer meaningful training to freelancers. The intention is to offer very broad training – not just creative roles
- Efforts to use the Kickstart scheme to have freelancers mentoring young people has changed because of the government approach.
- Question – how do we get out of being mentored/ trained to death as a freelancer and how do we request that training is part of a reciprocal idea that leads to structural change.