FMTW Meeting Minutes 21 Jan 2022

Chair: Leigh Toney

Minutes: Josie Underwood

Present: Leigh Toney, Josie Underwood, Paul Carey Jones, Vicki Mortimer, Alistair Cope, Freddie Crossley, Jake Orr, Kelsie Acton, Peter McKintosh, Nikki Edmonds, Mimi Doulton, Emma Jayne Park

Apologies: Bill Bankes-Jones, Paule Constable, Chino Odimba, Hazel Holder

 

Updates and reports

Big Freelancer Survey Internal feedback & next steps

JU: Have shared the survey internally and still encouraging people to fill it in and give feedback. Have also spoken to The Stage who will hopefully publish something about sharing the survey and something on the report.

PCJ: There is an option at the end to fill in feedback.

Action points:

  • Fill in feedback for Big Freelancer Survey – all

 

Calendar – input wellbeing

JU: With the new wellbeing schedule there is a bit more fluctuation in the wellbeing offerings, and I wondered if volunteers would like these sessions to be added to the FMTW shared calendar so that people can keep up to date with them.

Action points: 

  • Put a poll in slack to see if there is interest in wellbeing sessions being inputted into the shared calendar – JU

 

Skills workshops – producer proposal & next (FC/JO)

FC: We had an offer from Josie and Kelsie to take on the producer role for the workshops, but we voted on and were very happy with.

JO: We had discussion around external hiring vs internal hiring, this is a great opportunity for Josie to extend her skillset as a producer. We also spoke about the problems around hiring internally and the timeframe restrictions, and will be putting this into the evaluation process.

Had a conversation with ACE to discuss an extension but their timeframe makes this really difficult.

 

Freelancer Problem Solving

AC: First session and it was brilliant! 6 attendees, which was the right amount of people. It was a real mix of disciplines in the room, sharing and . Really good hour, really positive feedback. Encourage everyone to go, you don’t have to take park you can have your camera off and listen. Andrew (facilitator) is great!! Al and Andrew stayed on to feedback on the session and acknowledged that each session will be different. Josie, can you see if we can email the attendees for feedback?

JU: I will check.

AC: Next one is on a saturday. They will be fortnightly, wednesdays and saturdays.

PCJ: In terms of marketing, could there be some clarity on whether each session has a theme, or if people bring their own problems? Seems unclear on the website at the moment.

VM: Can we use some positive feedback to promote the event?

AC: Have already tweeted 

Action points:

  • Look into contacting the attendees via eventbrite – JU
  • Find clarity on the Freelance Problem Solving session promotion in terms of the problems/themes – AC/JU

 

SOLT / UK Theatre meeting

JU: After a poll shared with the group we have decided on Wed 26th 12-1pm to meet with Annie and Sebastian from UK Theatre. From the email from UK Theatre clarifying the topic of this conversation; “to discuss building trust between the freelance community and us/our members and how we can best recognise and give voice to the freelance community”

Action points:

  • Share details of SOLT / UK Theatre meeting – JU

 

DCMS regular meet ups

JU: DCMS have expressed interest in us doing regular meet ups with us.

EJ: To encourage anyone who is interested to come along, please feel welcome in the room, even if you are worried about ‘gov speak’. Let’s make it a space where anyone can join and represent the freelancers.

Action points:

  • Put a call out for anyone interested in attending this conversation with DCMS – JU

 

Open meeting meeting – PCA+ others

JU: After last weeks conversation with Jack Gamble we are hoping to have a meeting with him and others interested in participating in a monthly open meeting for industry networks. If you would like to join, or know of any orgs that should be in the room please let us know.

EJ: Freelance network who ended in Dec might be interested in joining.

Develop the monthly state of the industry newsletter with these partners so that the info we are sharing is really broad.

Action points:

  • Share details of the Open meeting meeting when we have them – JU

 

Agenda Points

 

Mask wearing – We Shall Not Be Removed

EJ: Full transparency, I am very biased about this issue. Very worried about the gov announcement saying that masks are no longer needed in theatres. SOLT announcement was quick off the bat and encouraging.

Can we make a statement, that we believe that the whole workforce is valuable and we encourage mask wearing so that our vulnerable colleagues are supported. Perhaps this could be in support of the SOLT statement?

PCJ: 100% support. Venues need to put their time, thought and resources into making places of work safe. It’s not good enough for venues to say ‘this has caught us off guard’, it has been going on for two years.

AC: Totally behind this too. Watching this unfold on SM was pleasantly surprising. The initial response from press ‘hooray theatre is saved’, was worrying, but the quick responses from SOLT etc was very positive. The freelancers that are the ones that are saying ‘please wear a mask’ – taking a lot of the vocal weight. Us as FMTW shows our continued support of freelancers.

In the past we  created a short statement, eg crediting the entire team, that will fit on a social quote card that can be shared. Distilling everything that has been said into a digestible, plain language version we can get that out asap.

NE: Is this now as per management 

Fully support this, from the costume world it causes the most anxiety. Productions are not managing this properly so this is something we need to tackle. ABTT health and safety conversation next week, majority venue management say that the pushback they get from the public and without a government mandate it is very difficult to enforce. What can we do to make it more impactful, have the answers before the pushback comes in. Health safety and wellfare is inclusive of everybody.

KA: Is there a way of getting theatres together on this? “If you want to go see theatre this is how you need to do it”

PM: Completely behind this. I think there will be enormous resistance, as they know that audience numbers are already dwindling and this would create kickback.

EJ: It is important that we put our cards on the table, so that freelancers realise that they can also take a stance. We should also make sure SOTL are standing by this.

Easy campaign; “love theatre, love your mask” (merch push) and reach out to clinically vulnerable people to ask for their support.

MD: Has anyone asked audiences?

NE: LW theatres box office reported a rise in calls of patrons to move their tickets to shows where they didn’t have to wear a mask. Are we going to have to do clinically vulnerable productions??

JU: Do the sums make any sense that productions get cancelled compete with dwindling audience numbers.

PM: What they will try to do more likely is to prepare for that eventuality.

NE: It is very controversial t….

KA: This is the access show experience, all your access audiences are very tired of attending performances only on thursday and tuesday nights. In some ways the number of audience members who are clinically vulnerable and need these performances is slightly higher than those that might need a relaxed performance or BSL 

EJ: To come back on NE’s point, it is really layered and complicated. There is a massive increase in medical anxiety. In the notes: A really shit starting point (just because we have to start somewhere!):
As theatre rebuilds, it must rebuild with all of our colleagues and audiences in mind.  As compulsory Covid restrictions have been lifted in England, we believe that theatres and venues must work hard to maintain the safety of our disabled and clinically vulnerable audiences and workers.  This includes asking everyone to continue wearing face coverings throughout our buildings (unless exempt).  The best way to watch theatre is for everyone to feel safe – it’s time to do your bit!!!

PM edit to above: The best way to watch theatre is for everyone to feel safe…

As theatre rebuilds,  it must rebuild with all of our colleagues and audiences in mind.  As compulsory Covid restrictions have been lifted in England, we believe that theatres and venues must work hard to maintain the safety of our disabled and clinically vulnerable audiences and workers.  This includes asking everyone to continue wearing face coverings throughout our buildings (unless exempt).  

We’re all in this together.

MD: It is not just audiences and workers, but also anyone who has clinically vulnerable or disbled friends and family.

AC: We should now share the statement with the wider group.

JO: Shall we assume that the wider group trusts us to agree on this.

Agreement.

Action points:

  • Share the mask safety statement – AC

 

State of the Industry monthly update

AC: Written originally by EJ and added to/edited by the group and gone out this week. How can we make this work as a monthly newsletter. A monthly literary version of the PCA daily briefings. Could we share the responsibility for this?

LT: Is there a doc in place that everyone can put running things throughout the month. So there is a place where all this information is collated so that the person at the end of the month can use this?

AC: This could become unwieldy and some info inputted at the beginning of the month may no longer be relevant. EJ has written a process for this to work, and can we all have eyes on the issues so that when we go out each month we are all focused on.

 

ACE/HMRC taxable grants

LT: Is it taxable, is it not taxable ACE grants? Discussion on Bat Signal.

JU: We wrote a letter and sent it. The latest was a response from ACE saying that they are working on it.

JO: Are we planning on releasing a statement? Are we pushing for accountability?

JU: Pushing for clarity on what the people who have already submitted their tax returns now need to do.

LT: This feels completely absurd from ACE and HMRC.

AC: Accountability is absolutely important and we can work on this in the next stages, but priority is clarity for all of the freelancers who are affected by this.

JO: Do we need to put a statement out saying that we are working on getting clarity.

PCJ: It would be interesting to see what DCMS come back with as this seems like an issue entirely of their own making. No credit to HMRC either as they are wrongly informed as well.

JU: I think a statement of clarity would be very reassuring for the freelancer community to have a statement from us at this point.

LT: Can we write a statement from an incredibly honest point of view, the conversation of confusion

In the chat JO: FMTW is urgently seeking clarification from HMRC, DCMS and ACE regarding whether ACE emergency support grants are taxable. We are in active discussions to ensure full and clear guidance is given to freelancers.

NE: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=470337234611649&id=103143834664326

Something in our statement that clarifies that we are not to be relied upon for tax advice. https://taxaid.org.uk/guides/informationan – there are tax charities we can point to.

LT: It feels uncomfortable to to advise people not to take their advice from twitter, as access to tax advice isn’t always accessible to anyone.

JU: I think reassuring the freelancers that this is a very confusing conversation and we will seek clarity for them on what to do next.

PCJ: Is from our point of view sign posting to the most reliable sources where people can get help. 

JU: Is the next step to put a statement out of reassurance to the freelancers, and then to find clarity and share.

AC: Set up a tweet ready to go clarifying 

Action points:

  • Send out a tweet clarify that we are searching for answers for the freelancers facing the tax problem – AC

ACTION POINTS RECAP

  • Fill in feedback for Big Freelancer Survey – all
  • Put a poll in slack to see if there is interest in wellbeing sessions being inputted into the shared calendar – JU
  • Look into contacting the attendees via eventbrite – JU
  • Find clarity on the Freelance Problem Solving session promotion in terms of the problems/themes – AC/JU
  • Share details of SOLT / UK Theatre meeting – JU
  • Put a call out for anyone interested in attending this conversation with DCMS – JU
  • Share details of the Open meeting meeting when we have them – JU
  • Share the mask safety statement – AC
  • Send out a tweet clarify that we are searching for answers for the freelancers facing the tax problem – AC