FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK

WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES

09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 28th AUGUST

Present: Esi Acquaah-Harrison, Keslie Acton, Bill Bankes-Jones, Siobhán Barbour, Sally Beck Wippman, Bunny Christie*, Paule Constable, Alistair Cope, Freddie Crossley, Anna Fleischle, Sunita Hinduja, Jack Hudson, Matt Humphrey, Ola Ince, Susan Kempster, Peter McKintosh, Prema Mehta, Chinoyerem Odimba, Arran Pallan, Beth Steel, Athena Stevens, Ella Taylor, Adele Thomas, Leo Wan (* first attendance)

Further lobbying action

An individual from the Labour party has reached out to talk about freelancers and how we can empower them as industries return to work. Their focus is on a long-term macro level, beyond just theatre freelancers, but it would be great to join up with them as a group and set up a meeting.

There are several strands of lobbying that we should pursue at the moment, if people have the time, including the Comprehensive Spending Review and constituents lobbying on our behalf (especially in the red wall regions, where the government will be keen to listen.)

We will use next week’s Advocacy and Campaigns meeting to specifically discuss lobbying activity (which likely involve some writing.)

Globe and Listening Project

Conversations have continued about potential podcast interviews. As an longer-term project it would really require funding but for now we could pilot the idea with 4 podcast-style conversations, hosted at the previously suggested theatre. We should currently have enough money to pay participants a small amount and cover any technical/crew costs. We have had an offer of help from a sound designer. The pilot series could then be used as an example for funding applications and/or extending an invitation to other venues across the country, who could host future conversations and potentially offer financial support.

It was agreed that we should pursue this and spend the money accordingly and there were offers to help curate the conversations. There were a few suggestions for selecting participants – we could go through our own network and pair people or ask individuals who they would like to talk to , for which a number of people were suggested, or each participant could suggest the next one/pair – and wellbeing was suggested as an umbrella topic. We will organise a separate meeting to discuss, prior to which any suggestions should be emailed or posted in the Slack channel. Whilst there is a feeling that getting the first conversations right will be the key to the series’ success, they will also hopefully only be the first of many and we can bank ideas for future episodes.

The venue would be happy for us to record these there alongside wellbeing and movement sessions. There are lots of complications around them opening the building and it’s unlikely we could do everything in one day but we could do sessions alongside them opening for tours and they have a room we can use without disturbing each other’s activity.

Updates on projects from working groups:

Website and social media

  • Picnics were a huge success – over 1600 clicks to website. The page is ready for use again for future events, perhaps with more notice.
  • The new Advocacy page is live on the site.
  • We still need content for Our News, which covers what we’re doing/discussing.
  • Keep highlighting any news items specifically about freelancers for the website.
  • Financial support is one of the most looked at pages and we should continue to fill it.
  • A school in Leicester are printing off our Instagram posts to put on the walls and highlight the importance of the arts.
  • The online campaign has currently reached over 8 million people.

Emails

  • An academic is looking for someone to interview for a piece of research about groups supporting freelancers – we will put her in touch with one of us.
  • We had a great chat with Two Destination Language about their FIELD project.
  • It was suggested that we loop Mark Leipacher and his cross-group public-facing campaign, into the conversation about marches.

Admin

  • It was suggested that we subscribe to a remote meeting software as a group so that we don’t have to rely on individual’s accounts to host meetings. We discussed different options in terms of accessibility and will continue to investigate. The most likely option is purchasing a Zoom account with the Otter captioning service.
  • A reminder to please log in to the shared drive and documents, with your own account, not the FMTW address.

Advocacy and campaigns

  • Culture Declares Emergency have written an open letter to Oliver Dowden which was shared by email. We have shared it on Twitter and discussed the best way to support it as individuals or as a group. It was agreed that individuals should sign the letter themselves if they wish and feel free to add Freelancers Make Theatre Work.

AAPTLE

  • This week’s meeting included a good discussion about going back into work with Covid and the need for clear policies and practices from producers and organisations. BAPAM have great resources about freelancers returning to work.
  • We discussed the need to acknowledge and focus on people who cannot return to work in these conversations.
  • Whilst acknowledging that many of the currently announced productions will already have been in the pipeline, we also discussed the importance of producers and organisations not falling back on the same established individuals to create work as the industry restarts. This is something we need to keep pushing as individuals, a collective and in conversations with other groups.
  • FMTW will be chairing next week’s AAPTLE meeting and all welcome to join.
  • There were also offers of support for Stage Sight to chair a future meeting.

Taskforce

  • Ending soon but otherwise no news.

Newsletter

This week’s newsletter will highlight the conversation below about people who are being left out of the conversations about returning to work due to the need to continue shielding.

Picnics

The picnics were a huge success, with lots of small but lovely meet ups, including at least one individual who was new to the industry and had not been able to meet people because of the lockdown. One area had no attendees and we must make sure that we allow enough notice to avoid this for future events. There were a few request for them to be nearer to a bar – it might be worth some lateral thinking about venues we could use, especially as the weather changes. There is a write-up of the Coventry picnic on the website. We will have a separate debrief before identifying another date for more events.

MPs Letter

The current letter, which focusses on the DCMS select committee is now out of date and we should move our focus to the Comprehensive Spending Review, even though it is likely to be short-term and already almost entirely allocated. A draft has been started which we will meet at the beginning of next week to finish, and to draft the accompanying blurb for the website. If we share and send it out on Tuesday then this will give us time to follow up with another letter if there are new developments.

We can take down the letter thanking MPs who were on the APPG.

We also need to acknowledge and draw attention to the fact that there are people in our industry who can’t go back to work even when we do open back up. This is something we should be focussing on across our lobbying projects, not just the MPs letter – if we are not supporting the most vulnerable then what are we doing? To this end, it should perhaps be the focus of its own action – possibly the exhibition idea for the portrait exhibition with missing faces (potentially in collaboration with Scene/Change). It is important for awareness to be raised both in the public and within our own industry, as this ties into a bigger issue with this government and their lack of care for the most vulnerable. If we are going to broaden this outside of the arts then we would have to identify what our aims are.

For context, the official govt advice is that from August 1st people no longer need to shield, but lots of individuals do not trust this and are continuing to shield, because the virus has not gone away and catching it could still kill them. This is further complicated for mixed households where some people need to shield and some do not, which has not been addressed by the government.

Survey update

The survey for organisations to complete regarding freelancers has now been sent out and we should have an update on the project next week.

Update Organisation Contact List

Our contact list of individuals at organisations could do with updating. We will share it with the group, with sensitive details removed, for individuals to update.

Recap action points and deadlines

  • Meet on Wednesday to discuss lobbying action
  • Share podcast suggestions in Slack and meet on Tuesday to discuss
  • Purchase FMTW Zoom account
  • Sign the Culture Declares Emergency with FMTW signature as desired
  • Draft newsletter highlighting situation of shielding freelancers
  • Meet on Tuesday to debrief picnics and identify possible dates for future events
  • Meet on Monday to finish MPs letter – to be sent on Tuesday
  • Take down the old MPs letters
  • Share and update organisations contact list (within GDPR requirements)
  • Prepare questions for next week’s guest speaker

Dates and times of next meetings

  • MPS letter: Monday, 12pm (chair: Bill Bankes-Jones)
  • Podcast meeting: Tuesday 9am (chair: Sally Beck-Wippman)
  • Picnic debrief: Tuesday, 10am (chair: Sunita Hinduja)
  • Advocacy and Campaigns: Lobbying – Wednesday, 12pm (chair: Paule Constable)
  • Regular catch up – Friday 4th September, 9.30am (chair: Ola Ince)

AOB

There is a meeting on Monday about NI freelancers and policy change, to update next week.

Our funding for the Future Labs has been confirmed, and is not the full amount we had identified so we can either seek the rest elsewhere or make the project work with the offered amount. It was agreed that we should be able to do the latter.

IPSA – a professional support group for freelancers – are meeting next to discuss how they are helping the most vulnerable.

Tête a Tête are working hard to ensure their festival will be safe and it will go on sale soon.

Migrants in Theatre are planning a series of townhalls and we should discuss their work next week. Possible adjacent guest speakers: Zoë Svendsen, who is doing work around sustainability and the return to work, or Sonali Joshi from Excluded.

Our guest speaker next week will be from the commercial sector and we should identify and prepare what we want to discuss with them.

A free implicit bias training workshop has been shared in Slack, which everyone is encouraged to sign up for.

Another Zoom (or in-person) social event has been requested.