FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK
WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES
09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 05 March
Introductions including ‘what we are looking forward to’
Anti-racism training for volunteers: dates to be during April – doodle poll underway for sign-up
Board reform: a discussion around the idea of setting up an informal ‘tea-break style’ meeting place for freelance theatre-workers already on theatre boards. To begin to work out how to de-mystify and open up the workings of boards. Perhaps following up at a later date with a board-mutual-support network and resource, with the sustained agenda that freelancers understand governance processes better and join boards when interested to do so.
Some contributions from the volunteers – where is the list of current freelancers on boards, and is it comprehensive… how can we build that list? Suggestion of a sub-group initiative, where freelancers can participate in governance without join gin boards. Is there a way of capturing case studies of positive action/pilots of new methods?
Equity New Green Deal – need to link this to COP26 and Creative Carbon Scotland’s ‘Culture for Climate – possible route through one of the FMTW volunteers from Scotland. Discussion of the forthcoming Green Handbook, and the ambition to make this a joined-up, collective effort. …. Questions from the access group about whether the Handbook has involved disability-rights voices in the consultation: this is to be followed up.
Core values: ongoing work for the group – highlighted by the process of writing the administrator job pack. A suggestion that the Brainchild Festival values/manifesto can offer a model of ‘on the ground’ values; straight-talking and true to the voice, so that we can communicate the actual nature of the group and how it works – not be drawn into corporate or formal language. https://brainchildfestival.co.uk/about-us/
Into this conversation came ‘post-Brexit hostility’ and the observation by some FMTW volunteers of a changed culture since January. We talk about the idea of a 5th Nation; the importance of avoiding binaries; and how we can draw on our own backgrounds.
Two questions to help the next phase: “What are the values that make this space work? What are the values that would make this space better?”
AAPTLE nothereallyear campaign – info for the group to share.
Post-COVID fees and contracts – a wide-ranging conversation starting from discussing the practical action of drafting a letter to shine a light on the need to work against exploitative contracts – there have already been multiple examples of contracts where the freelance experience in the last 12 months is entirely misunderstood. Where the commissioning body is arguing for shared austerity, without recognising the pre-existing tightrope that sector freelancers were walking, nor the absolute lack of financial support during COVID.
Are there examples of best practice? Do we look at something like the Black Opera Alliance traffic light system? https://www.blackoperaalliance.org/ How do we gather factual stats about contracts? Does this letter relate to the FMTW/AAPTLE letter about returning to work conditions last year?
Is a letter the right format/ How do people use it, and where does it lead back to? How do we keep bodies accountable in a period of less work and less money – what leverage do we have? Has FMTW’s previous “opportunity to do better/benefit of the doubt” approach worked well before, does there need to be a change of tone now?
This felt like a crucial and urgent piece of work.
There was much frustration, grief and anger among the group as we look ahead to what seems to be an intractable model, where those from working-class backgrounds have even less chance of access to, or survival in the sector. Where exploitation seems inevitable. Sitting with this as a group.
“If We Don’t Work, We Don’t Stay”
To be moved to the next meeting:
Freelancer demands – concrete bullet points for a campaign?
New members for the volunteer group – what’s the plan?
Progress on the Town Hall/parish notices idea
Funding for FMTW?
Response from the Stage to FMTW enquiries about Future Theatre panels
More progress on The Big Freelancer Report