FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK

WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES

09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 08 January 2021

Present: Esi Acquaah-Harrison, Kelsie Acton, Ben Arkell, Bill Bankes Jones, Sally Beck Wippman, Paule Constable, Alistair Cope, Freddie Crossley, Anna Fleischle, Jack Hudson, Emma Jayne Park, Susan Kempster, Peter McKintosh, Prema Mehta, Vicki Mortimer, Tom Piper, Athena Stevens, Ella Taylor, Leo Wan,

The meeting began with a round-up of what we individually feel FMTW achieved in 2021:

Sustained activity long-term, given freelancers a voice, achieved awareness and put freelancers on the ‘list’, created a conversation with buildings and artistic directors which has been genuinely positive, kept the light on in the house, carried the flame of hope, fostered a community of people and motivated people, created a brand that can be trusted, raised awareness of freelancers across the industry and the public, genuinely modelled a way of doing things that doesn’t centre individuals based on collective trust between people (and mugs), modelled the change that we would like to see, encouraged tangible change, put freelancers on the map and dispelling the perception that everyone in the arts is employed, brought freelancers together so that we don’t have to be islands, given us power and demanded for accountability from leaders (political and artistic); created a space for discourse.

During the week we held drop-in sessions to discuss how best to approach our activity moving forward. Some of the themes that came up were:

Calm down, be strategic, go slow, remember the importance of wellbeing, stop being asked to justify ourselves, organisation that allows us to do the difficult work, tune in more, small focussed projects, helping people with a fear of change, mutual aid group, information resources, encourage empowerment through lobbying and projects like the Future Labs, engage in long-term change through collating data, increasing visibility and thinking about alternative practices, be more transparent as a group and honest as individuals about what we can do, steady long-term planning balanced with reactive projects, education and access, be kind to ourselves and welcoming to newcomers, work in a way that is agile perhaps with smaller project groups, acknowledge and share responsibility.

In the immediate-term, we are pursuing funding for  administrative support in order to allow us to concentrate on the work in hand with shifting individual capacities. In order to bring new people into the organisational group we are going to first examine the current and upcoming projects and identify where we are most in need of support.

We will also change the structure of our Friday meetings so that every other one will be focussed on learning (next week’s meeting will focus on access) and have set up a rotating team of people to chair. We are still in need of a similar team of people to minute.

The group was asked to make suggestions for what they would like to see FMTW achieve in the next 6 months and the next 12 months, which were as follows:

Six months:

Sort out all the problems, for freelancers being invited to conversations being the status quo, to show organisations how they can take action themselves and not depend on us, to be actively working for systemic change (e.g. funding, voices, leaders), to support as many people as we can, continue to advocate for people across the spectrum of theatre and include more (especially those with connections), help to create a wider network and join up with other groups while staying true to our aims, to see some new faces in addition to the current ones, to reach out to more of the craft and technical roles in our work, having big conversations that we are in the midst of fixing and to see the things that we have already put in place continuing organically, to continue to provide support in response to whatever the unpredictable circumstances are, to have a clear sense of how we work (alongside our values), get our voice heard in ensuring funding reaches freelancers.

12 months:

For us to not (need to) exist, for the six month aims to have been realistically realised, for a group like this to be a funded integral part of the system, to be a force for improving working standards, to illustrate active changes, [hard to even conceive of a year’s time at the moment], represent the whole breadth of the creative industry, to stop having to ask and remind, reached a position of such equilibrium that we have a nation-wide network of physical spaces to support and facilitate freelancers, a series of training and mentoring schemes, being part of the fabric of the industry rather than on the outside, to have educated people in positions of power as well as inspired good will, enough stability and change that we understand what the fights are going to be and what structures will service those fights best, work continues of more inclusive workforces.

At this point the group divided into breakout rooms to discuss individual skills and how to best harness them. These conversations were not minutes.

The discussion concluded with suggestions for project we should focus on:

  • Engaging in how to amplify all of this work in the devolved nations.
  • Reaching deeper across the industry (e.g. backstage, dance, opera)
  • Separating lobbying and advocacy which looks at government and which looks at our own industry
  • An international presence around Europe and Brexit
  • Active involvement in setting up the Kickstart and other training schemes
  • Preserve and increase diversity within the group/sustain activity as people go back to work
  • Holistic health of the group
  • Continue to furnish resources on the website
  • Continue the Future Labs  and find ways to use the resource it has generated
  • Allow for individual check-ins in the Friday meetings

Recap actions

  • Form a group of people to share minuting the Friday meeting
  • Edit and share the list of future projects
  • Start to think about new participants, linked to the projects
  • Think about what groups/’rooms’ we want to be in and how/who can join them

AOB

  • We have drafted an article detailing 10 points that came out of the Future Labs, which is being submitted to Arts Pro toady.
  • Our letter to an event lacking freelance representation received a positive reply and an invite to join – which we will follow up next week.
  • It was agreed that we continue to minute the Friday catch up and posting them to the website but suggested that the new learning meetings be followed up with a more personal piece for the blog.
  • We have been contacted about a project looking at contracts, which will be picked up in Slack.

Scheduled meetings

Project Planning Meeting – Wednesday 13 Jan, 12:00 (chair: Paule Constable)

Learning Meeting (Access) – Friday 15 Jan, 09:30 – 11:30 (chair: Emma Jayne Park)

Regular Catch up Meeting – Friday 22 Jan 09:30 – 11:30 (chair: Ben Arkell)

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