Chair: Anna Fleischle
Minutes: Josie Underwood
Present: Anna Fleischle, Paul Carey Jones, Jake Orr, Bill Bankes-Jones, Athena Stevens, Alistair Cope, Vicki Mortimer, Paule Constable, Ben Arkell, Sunita Hinduja, Leigh Toney, Peter McKintosh, Ella Taylor Arran Palan, Kelsie Acton, Nikki Edmonds, Emma Jayne Park, Ben Arkel
Apologies: Steffan Donnelly, Beth Steel, Andy Whyment, Susan Kempster, Tom Piper, Jess Murrain, John McCann, Prema Mehta
Leaving early: Athena Stevens, Leigh Toney, Jake Orr
Athena had a meeting with Equity following a tweet that went viral after the death of Sarah Everard, which mentioned an unnamed man in the theatre industry who has been serially harassing women for a long time. It was noticed with increasing alarm that Equity had been doing nothing about these claims. Athena (amongst many others) tweeted “How many complaints need to be made about a single person before they are investigated?” which garnered attention from equity and led to a meeting with Ian Manborde and Kelly Burke (head of women’s committee at equity). The issue identified was an Equity PR problem; no responses are given when complaints are made, and the action they are taking is unseen by members. Some reasoning for this lack of communication was identified and reduced to two main points;
- Equity are limited by law; if accusations are brought forward but they are found not guilty then Equity is at risk of liable if they say anything to the contrary.
- Evidence is deleted because victims want to clear it from their mind, not realising that a paper trail is what is needed to convict (e.g. they have incriminating texts from the accused harasser that make them uncomfortable and therefore delete the text from their phone.)
This makes it incredibly difficult to convict abusers, and therefore for Equity to speak out about them, but there is a conversation we as FMTW can have to encourage victims to keep a paper trail which will hopefully lead to more convictions. Our industry has an issue with inappropriate behaviour and blurred lines, and empowering people to know when to speak out and to keep a paper trail is a way that we can help with this issue.
It was mentioned that a number of other conversations are happening on this issue, notably Scene Change with Women and Theatre, and the Musicians Union Safe Space Initiative and Stella Quines.
ACTION POINT: Arrange a meeting to discuss the ‘encourage paper trails’ point further.
What’s Next for FMTW Survey
Small number of us at the conversation last week led to a drafted questionnaire for the ‘What’s Next for FMTW’ survey. This will be shared with the group via slack and email. Volunteers are encouraged only to answer what they feel is relevant, and in whatever format works for best them.
Deadline of weds 28th evening to submit responses – this will be to start the conversation rather than have to have the whole conversation. This will be discussed in the short session next Friday afternoon 30th April.
The aim with this questionnaire will be finding similarities in responses from the group. Responses will be anonymous, although the size of group makes total anonymity difficult, so volunteers are encouraged to be aware of this.
ACTION POINT: Survey to be put on Slack and emailed to volunteers, volunteers to fill out google form.
Paule had a conversation with Alistair Smith regarding the Stage conference event in June, and was asked to speak on a panel alongside Matthew Zier and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Paule suggested instead that we create a video from FMTW from the freelancer perspective. There is a fee of £150 (which was originally intended for one freelance panelist), and throughout the event the Stage have committed to paying any freelance panelists/speakers, while any salaried panelists/speakers will not be paid. Alistair has been responsive to our demand that the freelance voice is not forgotten, and our concern that there be a balance of speakers represented on all panels at the event.
It was suggested that we make a video that has a narrative arc which includes small moments of individual experience and includes all voices (Ideas; A series of talking heads? Provocative! Question how theatre can be sustainable for all)
It was noted that we could use this video as an opportunity to demonstrate successful video access, perhaps with burned-in-captions embedded into the aesthetic of the film, and that the podcast team may be able to help with collecting soundbites. It was also noted that we must make sure we hold the rights to the final film, as it could be useful in many contexts.
ACTION POINT: Athena to contact Paule and arrange a meeting to discuss the creation of this video.
London authorities are putting together a bid to encourage people back to the west end. Jude Kelly and Sonia Friedman are curating pop up gigs in the West End (all forms of performance.) They would like FMTW to be a presence on the steering group for the initiative.
ACTION POINT: Paule to send information about GLA bid to slack
UK Theatre/SOLT Freelance conversation
A conversation has been ongoing between UK Theatre, SOLT and FMTW (6 people from FMTW and 6 from SOLT & UK Theatre) about areas of concern in the theatre industry and how we can make change happen long-term. Three areas have been identified for project work:
- Careers, entries into the industry and pathways through it
- Support and wellbeing
- Status of freelancers
The idea of a nationwide conference where ideas are presented by working groups has been put forward, which would create an opportunity for nationwide freelancer input. There is also conversation about bringing in outside legal advice to input on employment structures in the industry etc.
It was mentioned that UK Theatre has a history of minimum wage disputes and contentious 0 hour contracts, and whether we could use this conversation to raise this issue with them. It was also mentioned that parties that need to be involved in this conversation must be identified and that both union and non-union freelancers must be listened to.
ACTION POINT: UK Theatre / SOLT document for feedback to be put on slack
Kelsie will put the updates from the latest access meeting on slack.
ACTION POINT: Updates to be put on slack from latest access meeting
Merch and Selfies
Al asked for FMTW volunteers to have a think about how we can encourage sales of merchandise, and also to take another look at the Google drive to see if there are any more photos that can be named as the photos that have currently been labelled don’t represent the diverse freelancer community.
ACTION POINT: Ideas about how we can push sales of merchandise & name photos on google drive.
Those behind the reset better initiative have asked that associated organisations, including FMTW, take a look at the current ‘Reset Better’ document and respond or express support. It was noted that the initiative seems to be intended for long-term change.
There was some confusion as to who Reset Better is headed by, and whether it is a PMA or AAPTLE initiative, and it was discussed that while these two organisations were initially involved in the creation of Reset Better, it now exists as its own entity and is not owned by either organisation.
There was agreement in the room that the RB document is not yet fleshed out enough. Some felt that there was an openness from the organisers for feedback, whereas others felt that the feedback would not be taken fully into consideration as a result of past input being overlooked. The value of rewarding good intention was questioned and it was also noted that an openness to feedback is not enough if that feedback is not acted upon – we are able to offer advice but the organisers need to “do the work” in relation to inclusion and diversity.
There was concern from the group about the lack of diversity on the Reset Better panel, and it was proposed that this be raised at the upcoming Reset Better meeting (Monday 26th April). Some volunteers acknowledged the well meaning intentions of the initiative, and suggested that, as FMTW has been consulted for it’s input, we should use our voice to further the conversation and address these issues, making sure that all voices are in the room. There were other members of the group that felt that there had already been a lot of energy put into these vital conversations to this point, and felt that the emotional energy that has already been expended has so far been ignored. For some members of the group it was this underlying issue that worried them more than the lack of diversity in the panel. It was noted that it is important to acknowledge the damaging effect this has had on members of the group. Further to this point, some commented on the fact they felt uncomfortable and unwelcome in the AAPTLE room, and that the room felt actively harmful. There was frustration expressed that the work around improving the diversity in the room came at such an effort, and it still hasn’t been heard. It was noted that someone having to be harmed in order for the change to happen is not acceptable, and that disproportionate emotional labour is expected of those worst affected by a lack of diversity. It was suggested that there should be a baseline of expectations in order for FMTW to become and remain involved.
The wide-range of professions being successfully represented in AAPTLE meetings was noted, and it was highlighted that it represents a lot of voices (eg wardrobe, designers, production) that are not often heard in the freelance theatre conversation. It was also noted that there has been a lot of investment from FMTW members in the past year which needs to be acknowledged.
While some members of the group felt strongly that FMTW needs to be in the room in order to help, it was also suggested that there are other ways to effect change (not necessarily in relation to this specific situation) which don’t include our presence in the room.
Some noted that the discomfort that this conversation has already caused needs to be acknowledged, and it is from this perspective that we must move forward. A few members of the group will attend the Reset Better meeting on monday to get a better understanding about the project. It was stated that the initiative has traction and that there are ways that we can be a useful part of a conversation that is going ahead anyway, but that we must go into this space as allies of those that don’t feel they have agency in the conversation.
ACTION POINT: Arrange another meeting after the Monday Reset Better meeting to further discuss.
INC ARTS Unlock
Unlock is an inclusion report written in response to the BLM movement, aimed as a mechanism for intransigent organisations to address racism, and to help the whole sector become more inclusive.
FMTW will sign up as an organisation and commit to the actions outlined in the initiative. There is also a lot of information shared on their instagram for people to engage with.
ACTION POINT: 1 – Josie to sign up up to INC ARTS Unlock at FMTW. 2 – Ask Amanda Parker what we can do as FMTW to help with INC ARTS Unlock.
Back to Work
FMTW will launch the Back to Work campaign discussed over the last few meetings via the FMTW Newsletter next week (27th April).
The next stage will be identifying who will be willing to read the responses to the initial campaign and working out how we can form this into a full campaign that freelancers can engage with.
EJ and Josie will have a meeting next week about administration for the campaign. It was also discussed that if current FMTW volunteers don’t have the capacity to go through the responses then it could be possible to reach out to other freelancers that might be interested in helping with the campaign.
ACTION POINT: Form a working group for Back to Work campaign.
The process of responding to emails that come into the inbox is difficult as we don’t have a consistent policy in regards to what we will support, share and engage with. Josie and Al will work on a document to be approved by the group that outlines our terms of engagement with the enquiries that we receive. This will be based on FMTW values, capacity and what we think will be beneficial to the entire freelance community.
Josie is unavailable to take minutes on the afternoon catch on the 30th April so EJ has offered to minute this meeting. There are a further couple of meetings that will need to be minuted by someone other than Josie – she will put details of these into slack.
It was noted that there have been some conversations started with potential new volunteers who are still interested in joining the group but have yet to be welcomed in. It was agreed that the next couple of weeks will involved a conversation around ‘what’s next’ for FMTW, and part of this conversation should focus on the invitation/application process and welcoming of new volunteers.
ACTION POINTS RECAP
- Meeting to discuss ‘encourage paper trails’ point further
- What’s Next for FMTW survey will be emailed and put on slack – Leigh / Josie
- Stage Conference video meeting to discuss – Athena / Paule
- GLA Pitch to be put on slack – Paule
- UK Theatre / SOLT document for feedback on slack – Paule
- Access updates to be put on slack – Kelsie
- Ideas about how we can push sales of Merch – ALL
- Name photos in the drive – ALL
- Meeting to further discuss Reset Better and make sure everyone is heard and seen
- Sign up up to INC ARTS Unlock – Josie
- Ask amanda what we can do as FMTW to help with INC ARTS Unlock
- Form a working group for Back to Work campaign – to go on Bat Signal – EJ
- Create baseline response document – Al and Josie
- New Volunteers list to be collated, conversation to be picked up in two weeks – Josie
- EJ to minute afternoon catch up 30th April