FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK MEETING: FRIDAY 23rd JULY

Chair: Peter McK
Minutes: Mimi Doulton
In attendance: Peter McK, Mimi, Al, Paul, Susan K, Leigh, Ben, Leo, Shankho, Paule, Vicki, Jake, EJ, Nikki, Kelsie, Freddie
Apologies: Arran, Prema, Tom P, 

Higher Education funding news (Paule):

Athena volunteered to write a newsletter/MP letter about this.

Updates (Al):

Please keep pushing FMTW merchandise.

Conversation about West End ticket sales (down 40% this week) and individuals dominating the conversation about shows closing down/opening. Loss of audience confidence due to: lack of clarity, constant changes, media, not feeling safe, pingdemic. 

How to combat narrative of a single person ‘saving’ the industry without starting a war, or shouting into echo chamber. Strong feeling that the conversation is best avoided.

Newsletter celebrating resilient shows opening successfully to full houses – moving away from negativity of last few newsletters. Speaking to audiences as well as colleagues about how many people it takes to get a show on the road. Share with audiences what we are doing to keep ourselves and them safe. Re-write the negative narrative. (This might be two newsletters: one celebrating re-opening, another about keeping safe). 

Suggestion that newsletter is more image-led – but still accessible. Photos of people going back to work.

Call for continuity of Covid protocols between venues so that freelancers and audiences feel safer. Establishing a baseline. Do we aim some energy at SOLT/Unions on this? Suggestion of working with Public Campaign for the Arts on list of open shows.

Unions (continued)

BECTU setting up a National Freelancers Branch for anyone on a day rate or fee. BECTU pushing back strongly on SOLT Green Book agreement. Energy has shifted as people discover what variation contracts mean in practice.

General distrust of union causing membership decrease/disengagement.

Would be a good moment for Equity members in FMTW to reach out to committees.

Could Strategy group facilitate unions working together more? More solidarity across professions in our industry to create a stronger community. How do we engage with members rather than personalities? 

Could we set an example for how unions should behave, proving that it can work without becoming a union ourselves?

Process update (Al)

Only Al and Josie at the last meeting. Zoom links for the day to be shared daily on Slack at 9am. Google Calendar will continue be populated with meetings and key dates (eg. end of furlough). 

Strategy update 

Post-its broken down into seven strands of work, and these have been broken down into project groups. Once this is finished, a timeline will be made with constant, high, medium and low priority projects. 

Suggestion that an 8th category is added ‘To sustain FMTW as a model for how we learn to  share and work in the future’. This category supports fundraising, maintenance of the group etc. It will be good to have in-person input on the Away Day. 

Everyone welcome to pop into these meetings.

Away Day:

For those not attending, a simple form is coming around today about how you’d like to engage, and how you’d like to be updated.

Freddie, Paule and Vicki providing food. Asked everyone to bring their own plate and cutlery!

Budget for travel – email Josie if you haven’t already. £10 stipend for everyone travelling across London.

AOB: 

Awareness that the summer holidays have begun.

Fundraising: meetings planned with Foyle Foundation; Jerwood Foundation.

Minimum Basic Income Floor: this is being abolished in August, which means that self employed theatre workers who are out of work will have no access to welfare. Here is information about the last time it happened. Equity are researching/lobbying:  Equity – Take Action Now – Tell the Government to continue the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor of Universal Credit 

Battersea Arts Centre: complexities arising as we are not all London-based freelancers. If that is not acceptable to them we will step back from our critical friends role. The conversations had to date are interesting as they are relevant to wider industry/FMTW work.

Action points:

  • Athena volunteered to write a newsletter/MP letter about HE funding
  • Leigh volunteered to collate images for ‘re-opening’ newsletter
  • Leo to make contact with Public Campaign for the Arts
  • organise Brexit meeting (Brexit group)
  • reach out to Equity committees if you are a member (all)
  • push merchandise (all)
  • email Josie about Away-Day travel if you haven’t yet (all)
  • Make progress with the skills audit before Away-Day. (LT and MD)
  • Re-establish contact with Treasury/lobbyist/IPSE (PC?)
  • Leo and Paule do fact-finding about Minimum Basic INcome
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