FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK
WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES
09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 21st AUGUST
Present: Esi Acquaah-Harrison*, Rachel Bagshaw, Bill Bankes-Jones, Sally Beck Wippman, Nafeesah Butt, Paule Constable, Alistair Cope, Freddie Crossley, Anna Fleischle, Andrew French, Sunita Hinduja, Hazel Holder, Jack Hudson, Susan Kampster, Peter McKintosh, Vicki Mortimer, Prema Mehta, Arran Pallan, Gweneth Rand, Athena Stevens*, Ella Taylor, Adele Thomas, Leo Wan*, Kelsie Acton* (* first attendance)
Catch-ups and check ins:
- We have connected with a representative from the ALD to link up on similar-sounding projects
- Two Destination Language have produced a book [link] of conversations with artists and organisations – we will connect with them to see if they have any advice for our series.
- Inc Arts have shared their #BameOver campaign with us – which we will share on our platforms as well as identifying how we can engage with the conversation.
- We have been asked about organising marches – we feel that whilst social distancing is still in effect and causes like Black Lives Matter and the student protests are organising marches, this is not the moment for us to do the same. We need social distancing to be effective for us to return to work. We are however happy to share activity that other similar groups are organising.
The Comprehensive Spending Review
The campaign discussed last week regarding the CSR has two focusses – pitching to the review and organising public action. We are feel like the former would be a better use of our efforts and there are a number of groups who are similarly interested in doing so (What Next, Public Campaign for the Arts) but it needs a couple of days to talk about it. Is this something we could be doing alongside the other campaign?
As noted last week, the CSR has 3 aims that we could easily fulfil: world-beating industries, “levelling up” economic opportunity, and building jobs and skills.
There was a suggestion that if we are really going to pursue influencing the comprehensive spending review, it would need to be in the context wider structural problems with all freelance workers and the gig economy.
It is possible that the budget for the arts has already been settled but there might be room for manoeuvre with local authority/government spending. We should perhaps be wary about focussing on this because local authorities have made it clear how much financial pressure they are under. In Ireland the effective strategy has been clearly briefing local MPs so that they can speak for the arts in their constituencies and parliament.
At least one arts body has decided to ignore the CSR and instead focus on campaigning for a further recovery packages.
We will start a separate conversation about a lobbying project this week, which will perhaps involve a new MPs letter, and pursue linking activity up with other groups.
The Freelancer Picnics are happening on Monday and several local hosts have already made arrangements, including London, Edinburgh, Cornwall, Coventry and Cardiff.
We will share with Scene/Change to see if anyone from their group can host in other areas.
Send through any new hosts or spaces to link up with on social media. We are not worrying too much about keep the social media content consistent for individual areas but letting them do their own thing.
Hosting does not require anything more than identifying a location and being there yourself. There is no campaigning agenda to these events beyond facilitating spaces for freelancers to connect and socialise.
A dedicated page has been set up on the website: https://freelancersmaketheatrework.com/picnics
AD Data Survey
We are continuing to contribute to a piece of work attempting to articulate theatre-making’s dependence on freelancers. We are currently working on gathering proper data on how much buildings depend on freelancers (not just in terms of spending) through a survey.
We are linking up with some organisations and advisers to finalise the survey. There is a meeting later today to finalise the details if anyone wants to join. Otherwise there will be an opportunity to give feedback on Slack.
We are meeting with a venue next week to propose the idea of hosting recorded one-on-one conversations between theatre-workers.
We will create a new channel on Slack to put forward and discuss ideas for the meeting.
The conversations will not be subject-based, but personal discussions between two people from different areas, possibly who have worked together before. If various venues were available it could be linked with the idea of reclaiming empty spaces.
- There was a suggestion that we try to link up with the Association of Sound Designers to help with the technical aspects
- Rather than waiting for funding we could do a limited batch (~5) and follow up with a funding application on the back.
- We will consult on access elements when editing
- We don’t necessarily need the venue to get this ball rolling – they can be recorded remotely
- but they should have a regional element and it would be really nice to use theatre spaces
It has been suggested that we should invite someone to talk to us who we might not naturally align with – such as someone from a commercial background. We would have to establish what we want to learn from the conversation and assure them that it would be a welcoming discussion.
It was also suggested that it might be useful to hear from a production manager who is working on putting on shows at the moment.
We will continue to discuss by email.
To strengthen our connections with other groups, we will add an affiliations/alliances list to website.
New Adventures have created a video with a strong and positive message in support of freelancers – could we invite buildings and other companies to do something similar? Potentially in collaboration with Scene/Change?
It should be noted that the people in the video were almost exclusively white and that anything we produced or encouraged must be representative of the whole theatre industry and wider population.
We will continue to consider this as a possible project.
This week’s newsletter will focus on ideas of collaboration and how we work together as a group and as theatre-makers.
We were reminded that the newsletter is not our only opportunity to write up experiences and that we can always submit pieces for the website’s newsfeed, anything from a couple of lines to a whole essay. We will add a trip to see Jesus Christ Superstar at Regents Park and going into a rehearsal room to sing for the first time since lockdown.
We will also continue collating examples of organisations supporting freelancers during this time and include new ones in each newsletter.
We now how a proposal for the format of the first discussion, which is on the shared drive. We need to draft an invite and copy and identify some panellists.
A question has been raised about the first topic focussing on solutions without money because of issues around freelancers not being paid or working for free. It might be better to focus on solutions without productions or with little money, or to pose a question about how we can help each other find “solutions for immediate, possible and inclusive action.”
The panellists from organisations should include a mix of those who have already put good ideas into practice and those who need help. Some organisations could potentially present examples to the panel instead of or alongside being on the panel.
We will share the funding application on Slack.
We need to loop access requirements into the conversation, which needs a bit more time, and link into conversation about access funding. We will also create a dedicated Access channel in slack.
We will meet on Wednesday (12pm) to focus solely on the Future Labs and finalise the details.
In the meantime we will write to the ADs we have been talking to and update them.
The proposed date is possibly too soon (especially with schools returning) and a new aim for 21 September has been proposed.
Action points and deadlines
- Set up CSR working group and draft a new MPs letter
- Do a call out for Picnic hosts and share details (name and location)
- Continue work on AD Data Survey (feedback by Monday)
- Share ideas for podcast conversations (before Thursday’s meeting)
- Suggest more challenging guest speakers
- Create a list of affiliated groups on the website
- Consider a video project in collaboration with organisations (suggestion)
- Submit any experiences for the newsfeed (ongoing)
- Meet to finalise the Future Labs details (Wednesday, 12pm)
- Write to the ADs updating them on the project
- Create Podcast and Access Slack channels and update the list
Dates and times of next meetings
Advocacy and Campaigns: Future Labs – Wednesday 26th August, 12 pm
Podcast meeting with venue – Thursday 27th August
Regular team meeting – Friday 28th August, 9.30 – 11.30 am (chair: Adele Thomas)
People Make It Work have asked for representation from a non-white freelancer to help with a paid project.
There has been a suggestion that we should link up with Exclude and other groups in the OneVoice campaign.