FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK
WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES
09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 14th AUGUST
Present: Bill Bankes-Jones, Siobhán Barbour, Sally Beck Wippman, Nafeesah Butt, Paule Constable, Freddie Crossley*, Anna Flieschle*, Sunita Hinduja, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith*, Hazel Holder, Jack Hudson, Matt Humphrey, Susan Kempster, Peter McKintosh, Vicki Mortimer, Chinonyerem Odimbo, Arran Pallan, Tom Piper, Ella Taylor, Adele Thomas, Rachel Bagshaw. (* first attendance)
Guest speaker: Claire Cordeaux, Director of BAPAM
BAPAM is a charity delivering specialist healthcare to performing artists in the UK.
The majority of people who work in theatre will have some form of health problem, physical or mental. Mental health issues have unsurprisingly gone up during this period. BAPAM seek to raise awareness of problems and offer support, or links to other services, for individuals with health issues.
BAPAM look at health risk factors, both personal and external, such as environment, equipment, financial, and work pressures. We all have some form of responsibility and can do something about improving the health of people in our area. Many people are reluctant to report problems, in part because of the competitive nature of the industry, so will try to keep working through it, which can lead to worse outcomes.
There is a risk assessment template for freelancers on their website alongside a number of other resources, including health assessments, guides to preventing injuries, mental health advice, and a healthy practice diary. They are currently running a community drop in with guest experts and a number of free webinars covering a mental health, preventing injury and vocal work.
Phone: 020 7404 8444 Facebook: /PerformingArtsMedicine
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @ukbapam
There was a suggestion from the group for theatres to get BAPAM in the rehearsal room, either actively or via stage managers, at the beginning of rehearsal to provide this information to the company. Similarly training organisations should be providing these resources to students and graduates and employers should share with workers such as costume assistants.
In other industries, organisations have a responsibility to support and sign employees back into work after they have taken time off for health problems, which is far from standard practice in theatre. We need to make sure that this does not get ignored as the industry restarts.
We will include this information in next week’s newsletter.
Guest speaker: Mark Leipacher, AD of The Faction
On behalf of the Future Theatre Group, Mark is proposing a joint effort between arts campaign groups to organise some form of collective action focussing on representations for the Comprehensive Spending Review (for which the deadline for submissions is 24 September). He is currently working with a number of groups including All of Us, Can You hear The People Sing, Culture Needs Diversity, the Freelance Task Force, the Public Campaign for the Arts, Scene/Change, and We Shall Not Be Removed and open to more. They are keen to find out if FMTW is already discussing plans for the comprehensive spending review, what would be the main thrust of our activity and do we think a mass action would be a good idea.
The advice we have received is that documents like the Routes to Recovery results might be useful in influencing the comprehensive spending review and that whilst the temptation might be to aim for a grand new mechanism for arts funding this would require a huge amount of input from a number of organisations, for which there is not time, and could result in infighting. If we are going to engage with it then our aims should be to keep the focus on freelancers and to keep pressure on supportive MPS to put pressure on the government. In terms of a mass response, it would be great to do something, creative and provocative without being aggressive.
There was a general agreement that if we are going to collectively organise some kind of action we should use what we’re good at – the visual and creative messaging around why people want the arts, in the mould of Scene/Change’s tape or the WeMakeEvents Light It In Red event.
There was also a suggestion that our messaging needs to offer some sort of solutions or alignment with the aims of the spending review, which include establishing world-beating industries, “levelling up” economic opportunity and building jobs and skills.
Ideas included projecting information onto buildings that is currently only being presented in an insular fashion; making use of audio (perhaps via mobile phones) to create installations in empty spaces; striking (though there was an acknowledgement that this adversely hurts freelancers); using the portrait campaign to illustrate the 1 in 3 freelancers likely to leave the industry; a video PR campaign highlighting all elements of life created by artists; a 24 hour culture blackout.
If we are going to do something then we are going to have to dedicate time to writing it. We can get the data we need and we can get it proofed or checked externally but it is a big project for which we would have to pull a group together.
- Our crediting request received a good response and changes have been made. We will follow up with a thanks and create a template letter for similar situations in the future.
- We are in touch with the OneVoice campaign who have asked for someone to represent FMTW at their weekly meeting.
- Thoughts on a possible event hosted by FMTW at Southwark Playhouse are ongoing.
- We have now received the offer of financial support from an individual.
- We are unfortunately unable to join the fundraiser that is happening this weekend.
We are continuing to attend the weekly meeting. A big topic of discussion this week was the relationship between the associations and the unions. There is a move to invite unions to the meetings once a month, which we are supportive of. Time has been made in next week’s meeting to talk about diversity and representation.
Freelance Task Force
- The Task Force is coming to an end in roughly two weeks – there have been suggestions of it merging with FMTW. We will continue linking up with satellite activity via individuals.
- There has been an offer of collaboration on a mental health project if anyone is able to join.
- There is also a desire to support the Public Campaign For The Arts.
- We continue to look for opportunities to join individuals up with campaigns and activity in both directions and invite people into this group.
Data From Buildings
It would be useful to have data on how much of different organisations budgets are spent on freelancers, which nobody is collecting. Is there an opportunity to combine our data with the task force’s relationships with organisations to gather this information in order to reinforce the scale of freelance work in the cultural sector? This might be something that arts councils could do in the future but they are not currently. We need to establish what exactly we are asking and will set up a separate discussion.
NI Town Halls
Conversations are still in the early stages but an invitation have been sent for input from ADs/execs which has had a promising response. This will hopefully be picked up next week.
A group of directors set up by Natalie Abrahami that meet regularly are having discussions that feel pertinent to idea for the Future Labs – heading towards a series of criteria for directors to present to organisations at contractual stage. Suggestions include opening up conversations around transparency, working practices, access and a range of other things tapping into the same idea of de-infantilizing freelancers. It is currently developing as a document and this might be a good moment to link the two projects.
A similar conversation is being had with theatres about the point of contact with buildings which is perhaps leading towards creating some kind of guiding principles (especially around diversity) and encouraging buildings to be more front-footed about their values. It was noted that this sounds complimentary to the work Stage Sight do and that it would be worth including them in any conversations.
In a similar fashion, one individual always starts work with set of principles which is provided to the theatre and company before the meet and greet, which they are happy to share with the group.
We are still working on getting more disabled people in to our group and discussions. An organisation’s furloughed inclusion manager has offered to help with access to meetings and projects and we are exploring funding options specifically for access to events.
A short brief for the general idea is currently being worked up, which will feed in to our funding application for projects. The broad idea is to bringing focus back to listening and giving freelancers a change to connect.
Separately, we have been offered access to space by a theatre in London, which we could potentially use for some kind of distanced events. There is a meeting on 27th August if anyone is keen to join. There was a suggestion that if we do anything then we should do something that is actually theatrical and plays to our strengths. It was later suggested that this might be an opportunity to host the podcast discussions in a live setting.
This week’s newsletter will report on the success of the crediting request, BAPAM and gather together examples of good programmes or practices that organisations have already undertaken. Please email any you are aware of before Sunday.
There was a suggestion for a future looking piece, which could potentially be used as an intro to the future labs.
Conversations have moved forward this week with the idea for the future labs events. We chatted to some ADs at the beginning of this week to get the ball rolling on the idea. We are currently imagining each discussion would be 10-12 people (split 50/50 organisations and freelancers) with 2 chairs (one of each).
We need to nail down the first one or two events, which would have a focus on short-term topics. There is a rough proposal for an ongoing discursive format (e.g. an initial discussion, breaking up into smaller conversations, coming back together to present conclusions) which would allow community input at multiple stages (e.g. selecting the topics, being on panels, responding to conclusions).
The current suggestion for the first topic is around organisations finding ways to engage and support without money. In particular there is a desire to start a conversation about immediate actions that could be taken. The language used for the events needs to be solutions driven (such as “constructive intentions” for topics) and must not put the onus on freelancers for solving things.
We need to establish who (in general) would be on each ‘panel’ and how they would be formed. The guiding principle for this should always be assembling appropriate people around each topic and including (and supporting) people who feel like they do not usually get heard. It is important to open this process up so it is not replicating closed rooms, and ensuring that there are other ways for the whole community to engage.
Organisations are currently busy with their rescue package applications, giving us time to plan the next stage. One suggested plan is that we split into teams to work on each topic. Modelling everything will take a solid amount of time so we will arrange a meeting for early next week.
Action Points and Deadlines
- Draft template letter for future crediting campaigns
- Explore mental health collaboration with Task Force freelancers
- Join discussion about gathering organisational data on spending on freelancers
- Discuss possible theatre venue activity prior to meeting on 27th August
- Pass on any examples of work being done by organisations to support freelancers
- Arrange the next Future Labs meeting for early next week
Dates and times for next meetings
- Future Labs – early next week (TBC)
- Regular Advocacy and Campaigns meeting – Wednesday 19th August, 12pm (1hr)
- Regular team meeting – Friday 21st August, 9:30am (2hrs) (Chair: Adele Thomas)
- We will pick up planning outdoor social gatherings for freelancers, with a suggested date of Friday 21st or Saturday 22nd August.