FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK
WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES
09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 25th September
Present: Keslie Acton, Ben Arkell*, Rachel Bagshaw, Bill Bankes Jones, Sally Beck Wippman, Nafeesah Butt, Emma Cameron*, Paule Constable, Alistair Cope, Freddie Crossley, Cynthia Duberry, Sunita Hinduja, Hazel Holder, Jack Hudson, Matt Humphrey, Ola Ince, Susan Kempster, Peter McKintosh, Prema Mehta, Vicki Mortimer, Chinonyerem Odimba, Arran Pallan, Emma Jayne Park, Tom Piper, Athena Stevens, Ella Taylor, Adele Thomas, Leo Wan, Andrew Whyment (* first attendance)
Website and social media
- The home page and Future Labs pages have been updates and a new picnics page created.
- This week’s blog post was one of the most visited pages and we should write more.
- Instagram: we’re getting near the end of the portraits, we will start sharing on Twitter again.
- The OneVoice group have shared their Seat Out to Help Out campaign with us – we are aware of the scheme, which has now been submitted to the CSR and DMCS but because it is focussed on theatres and producers, we do not feel it is within our remit to support. We will collectively compose a response.
- The Fabula Collective have shared a project with us to see if we can collaborate – we might not be able to help in the way they have asked but will reply to find out more details.
Paul Fleming (incoming general secretary of Equity) spoke and responded to questions excellently on various topics, including protecting freelancers’ pay as we return to work. It was suggested that FMTW link up with Equity and AAPTLE on this topic. Paul has offered to come and talk to us and we will try and secure a date.
Virtual Picnics/Tea Breaks
A group met to discuss this idea earlier in the week – throughout October there will be an open tea break every Thursday from 11:00-12:00am. A web page will go online today. Access will be via link posted prior to each event and there will be no need to sign up. There will be beak out rooms (named after theatre spaces) but these can only be randomised on Zoom so people can also organise their own tea breaks as well using the hashtag. An FMTW member will ‘MC’ each session and set the tone for a positive, forward-thinking, relaxed space. We can assess how it works going forward after October. We don’t currently have budget to put access provisions in place, which we have addressed on the webpage by asking for support if people are able to offer it. We will also explore potential funding.
A ‘quick and dirty’ recording was made in a theatre space this week for us to use as a pilot piece about the feeling of returning to theatres during the current moment. There are a couple more to be recorded in other theatres around the country. We will meet later this week to discuss how we edit and present the audio. This does not necessarily need to be the format for all future episodes – we could do lots of different things, similar to the blog, with consistent framing.
- To be written about the experience of making and presenting work over the last few weeks.
- Will add a line about Future Labs, and requesting suggestions any ideas for future panels.
We discussed ideas for items which could be worn by people returning to work to raise awareness and show solidarity (e.g. t-shirts, mugs, badges). We are exploring costs and looking at using freelancers in the process as much as possible.
Update on Migrant Theatre
Migrant Theatre was launched around the same time as FMTW – they have organised a town hall meeting (16th October, 1:00-3:00pm) with seven theatre companies to discuss the role of migrants in the theatre industry. These will hopefully create inclusive principles, similar to those created by We Shall Not Be Moved and IncArts, which will address the marginalisation of migrants by both the pandemic and Brexit. The town halls will be open to attend and we will share the event link.
Engagement & Core Values Document
A draft document was written this week outlining our core values for the purposes of engaging with other groups and activity. Everyone is encouraged to look and continue to make suggestions. We will set a deadline and put in time to discuss next week.
Required for setting FMTW as a company – steered by the company secretary towards creating the core values document. It was also suggested that we talk about what the Friday meetings are.
Guest speaker suggestions
- Excluded UK happy to come and speak to us next week.
- It was suggested that we invite someone from ACE to talk about Martin Bright’s proposal.
- It was suggested that we invite a head of production to talk about returning to work.
New Member suggestions
- A few suggestions have been made but it was agreed that we should return to the subject once we have finalised our Core Values document in order that we maintain a manageable group size that can focus on activity. In the meantime, and perhaps going forward, it was suggested that we focus on bringing people into projects rather than the wider group.
Future Labs Update
- Thank you to everyone who has helped this week
- We have closed freelancer applications and will be selecting participants later today.
- There are still some spots for panellists on Monday’s trial run and everyone is encouraged to attend as observers – it is dry run but we are preparing for it to be as close to the real thing as possible. It would be very useful to have personal contacts sit in as freelancers and organisation representatives but unfortunately we will not be able to pay them.
- We are finalising participants from organisations across the first three panels and will meet later today to discuss.
Holly has been working on an 18 month project to map out the experiences and issues that are inherent among theatre freelancers across the UK and intersections. The process started with interviews, to be followed up by a survey and focus groups and culminating in bringing people together to show the results of the study and strategize for the future. This will be fed back in to reports to arts councils and the government but also be shared with the public. In particular there is a focus on hidden labour and cultural challenges within the industry. They are also tracking other studies to include their findings and collaborate. The project is trying to look at the whole ‘tapestry’ that makes up our work (including grass roots and commercial theatre) but also hides inequalities and issues, such as hiring practices.
The need for work like this to result in tangible demands of organisations and producers was raised, alongside the ever-present problem of money. The work of Stage Sight and Curtain Call was also discussed – both of whom are working with organisations and technology to break down barriers to the sector. Both groups would be happy to link up with Holly and the project.
Recap action points
- Compose a response to the Seat Out to Help Out proposal
- Respond to Fabula Collective requesting more information
- Invite Paul Fleming to come and speak to us
- Offer to MC Tea Break zooms
- Explore potential access funding for tea breaks
- Meet later this week to discuss the editing and presentation of the podcast
- Draft newsletter (including update on Future Labs)
- Continue to explore merchandise idea, including costs and engaging freelancers
- Look at and share the Migrants in Theatre town hall – open to join
- Look at and comment on the Core Values doc – to review next week
- Potentially invite Martin Bright’s ACE contact to speak to us
- Link up volunteer with podcast project
- Revisit new members once we have confirmed Core Values document
- Join the trial Future Lab on Monday
- Express interest in SOLT courses
- Look at and comment on open letter about protecting fees
SOLT courses – SOLT have agreed to offer us (FMTW members) a space on any of their courses, in return for which we will share the events.
A group of individuals have drafted the starting point of a letter around the issues of returning to work and fees being reduced, which has been shared with us for feedback.
We are continuing conversations with a venue about socially distanced sessions for freelancers.
Dates and times of next meetings
Future Labs trial panel – Monday 28 September, 11:00-13:00 (Chair: Emma Jayne Park)
Regular Future Labs catch up – Wednesday 30 September, 12:00 (Chair: Jack Hudson)
Podcast catch up – TBC (Chair: Sally Beck Wippman)
Regular catch up – Friday 02 October, 09:30-11:30 (Chair: TBC)