Chair: Peter McKintosh
Minutes: Emma Jayne Park
Attendees – Leigh Toney, Vicki Mortimer, Alistair Cope, Jake Orr, Paule Constable, Kelsie Acton, Shankho Chaudhuri, Titas Halder, Arran Pallan,
Partial Attendance – John McCann, Chino Odimba.
- GoodMadBad request for FMTW Podcast Guests. Please check Press and Enquiries Channel for more info and to get involved.
- Everyone take a look at questions from BBC Researcher to see if they could be ethically shared with other freelancers.
- Theatre Can Change Campaign: Asks that everyone looks over it so anything that could be interpreted as them/us or signifying the development of a charter is edited to reflect the nature of the campaign.
- Al Cope to look at an ideas page on the website
An email that was shared in Slack over a week ago, containing significant suggestions for what the theatre sector could become. However these suggestions are beyond the capacity of FMTW and the email did not have a clear ask. A holding email was sent when the email arrived, in the hope we would look at how best to reply.
AC – We need to find a response to this long email
EJ – Do we offer an ‘ideas’ page on the blog, so that emails of this scale that we can’t action can have a space to share them.
A new email posted in the Press and Enquiries Channel today.
Request for FMTWers to be on a podcast exploring what is happening with freelancers in the industry and what FMTW are doing.
A previous email from a researcher looking at the effectiveness of the Cultural Recovery Fund, asking for freelance involvement. Paule has had a follow up conversation with them.
PC – Researcher asked whether we are willing to anonymously share anything from Theatre Can Change, as she would be very interested in this. Researcher has sent a list of gentle questions she would like some freelancers to respond to. Paule will post these in Slack and reminds the group that we have to be mindful of the vulnerability of freelancers right now.
*Endorsement: There have been some small conversations within FMTW about the number of projects getting in touch asking to use the FMTW platform to share their work, for FMTW to sign up to their work, for FMTW to adopt their work and integrate it into FMTW or for FMTW to collaborate. Within these conversations there has been a lot of consideration around how these things are prioritised so we are choosing to collaborate or saying no with a transparent process. Questions include how we share things with true knowledge that they align with our values, how we get involved with things with an eye on the capacity of FTMW and how we avoid creating conflicts of interest by being involved in multiple projects with similar aims. All of this thought contributes to the word endorsement as it is used below.
PC – Looking for FMTW endorsement* for their 5 Guiding Principles
EJ – Has concern that her name/ work was referenced in the email but she was not looped in. How do we share that FMTW works transparently in this way and encourage people getting in touch to loop in those who are named? Some of the email content alludes to the Theatre Can Change campaign doubling up on work already done and that our campaign may create a them/us narrative with organisations. Notes that it is not doubling up as we aren’t looking to make a charter or formal sign up process, that Theatre Can Change is also about freelancers feeling heard during this specific moment in time, and that there have been lengthy conversations about it avoiding them/us narratives, hence the name Theatre Can Change instead of a name focussed on Freelancers.
PC – Going to try and encourage communication via Josie in future now she is in role.
VM – Asks what can be done to check the comms so far.
EJ – Asks that everyone looks over it so anything that could be interpreted as mentioned above is ironed out.
FMTW – What Next?
Leigh gives a presentation of the outcomes of the FMTW What Next? survey.
Please note that the larger the words in the images, the more it has appeared in the images.
Leigh is eager for the raw data to be shared as the statements were extremely nuanced and she feels it would be useful for the discussion, noting that the group holds many contradictions. For example, people want the room to be more representative, don’t want the group to get bigger but also many don’t want to leave!!!
Leigh thinks it would be helpful to hear what hasn’t been said or what hasn’t been mentioned often, noting that this does not mean it isn’t meaningful. For example, Access was not mentioned often but this may not be a reflection that it is unimportant. It likely speaks more about how few people are carrying the weight of this work.
Leigh noted that some of the concerns mentioned could benefit from some of the mechanisms FMTW have already tried to implement. There was some mention of anti racism and wanting to be more representative however, there has been very little uptake on the group audit which Leigh believes would allow us to investigate representation further.
AC – Feels there is lots to unpick in the data and overwhelmed at how much work has been done in a short space of time.
JO – Feels like there is a lot we need to digest and that the group may all want to be part of that. What are the next logical steps we might take to enact this learning and implement change?
AC – FMTW is changing is a respect because Josie is in her role, this could be helpful. Some things should/ could hopefully get easier because of this.
PC – Feels like we are acknowledging the need for a change of rhythm because the exhaustion is excluding people. Clarity appeared to be a recurring theme. We need a sense of where we are going, before we can hang things on a strategy? Do we need to bring a big group together?
TH – At some level what we do next is contingent on what the industry does next. The organisation needs to exist in the ‘new world’ of theatre. Burnout now is also related to work coming back and the scale of change. Do we need to have an understanding of and be in the industry with the conversation about what happens next? What happens if the industry returns and fails hugely on EDI, will that not be our focus? In terms of continuing this group, if FMTW shut down now, would we happily go away and believe everything is working well or better? If we close, who will continue to ask these questions?
SC – Contributing thoughts as a newcomer who started and then returned to work for a significant period of time. Returning it is hard to understand what happens. There is a need to get to know each other (speed dating?) in order to position ourselves where we are useful, instead of just looking through Slack. How do we use relationships to ensure that we are tuned in? (Comments about speed dating or conversation received lots of positive visual reaction from the group).
EJ – It appears that several different things have come up and need balanced, from internal FMTW to outward facing work. There appears to be some quick wins that could be trialled swiftly, for example the anonymous voting system mentioned could simply be utilising Zoom polls for all decisions. There is also a question of strategy which feels impossible without knowing what framework the strategy hangs on. Some mentioned wanting FMTW to be like a Union body, some want it to be a volunteer organisation. These things are fundamentally different and would heavily influence the strategic approach. Strategic planning is a specific skill set and different to project planning. Who are the strategists in the room, or do we need to invite some in? Detailed strategy cannot be created in groups of thirty, can we have a small group with strategic skills who use the consultation and conversation to form an offer? This could then be discussed with the wider group who would suggest amendments until agreement was reached. This is both a matter of efficiency but also a matter of saving energy and emotional labour.
PC – Notes concern over the Union Body Suggestion, references that we are and need to be grassroots. References that sometimes Future Labs moves slowly because of a fear of getting things wrongs. ‘You move at the speed of trust.’ How do we build trust so we can get things wrong together without fear? Making an offer is an act of generosity, rather than a coup. It’s about supporting the group rather than controlling it.
AC – What are the welcome documents and the welcome strategy? Is this a working group to welcome out a working strategy? We talk a lot about where we are going, do we need to go backwards and recognise why this happened in the first place. Do we need to reexamine the void we initially filled and what that void looks like now? If we remind ourselves why we were here in the first place, it may help us define where we want to be? It feels like there are a number of points in the document that could become immediate questions that are put to the group, decided up and actioned. The model for Inc Arts could work for FMTW? Do we need to look at different models that could work for us?
PM – Notes concerns about capacity and the size of the group we can be, given people’s capacity. What do we need in order to sustain FMTW? What does FMTW need to be to be sustained by a smaller group? As well as looking inward, we need to outward. We have spent a lot of time looking inward and discussing things before.
KA – How do we design a way to continue the internal conversations so we can tweak and move as newcomers enter the conversation and systems benefit from adapting?
EJ – We have discussed internal working for a long time but this is possibly because we have not committed to finding systems for working. Suggest that we have been trying to resist hierarchy so much that we have entered ‘Tyranny of Structurelessness’ territory which is why the conversation seems to be going nowhere. We need processes so that newcomers can have agency, too much fluidity can mean that all of your energy is spent figuring out what is going on. In other volunteer organisations the asks are very clear – time of shift, work to be done, processes for information sharing and systems for feeding back what works or needs adapted. If we commit to a process, we need everyone to commit to it to see if it actually works. We haven’t ever really tried anything with 100% commitment from the whole group. Suggests that instead of fixed capacity per volunteer there could be a ‘social justice scale’ version of volunteer time, with those who are doing far more emotional labour in the industry being exempt from administration work and encouraged to be in the space to meaningfully inform the work, values and outcomes without having to take on more.
KA – One of the reasons stuck around is because the ask of was extremely clear, she is here to inform access practices and that is the work she undertakes in the room.
PM – Has set self parameters and that is why he feels he has not burned out.
PC – Builds frameworks in creative processes to give her enough security to be able to respond. Is FMTW like a creative process? What do we need in order to achieve the things we want to? Enjoys the idea of enough support to hold us up enough so we can function.
CO – Excited by what heard as when started was very nervous about the way the group worked. Has learned, via FMTW, to not feel guilty about capacity and changes in capacity in life. Believes FMTW may need to look at the word system and systems, as we seem to intrinsically think of them as bad things – why? It feels like there is a mapping process at the heart of this, changing our place on the map when we have more or less capacity.
Volunteers for Strategy Conversations (in Chat)
Vicki Mortimer, Paule Constable, Titas Halder, EJ Park