FREELANCERS MAKE THEATRE WORK
WEEKLY MEETING MINUTES
09:30-11:30, FRIDAY 7th AUGUST
Present: Bill Bankes-Jones, Siobhán Barbour, Sally Beck Wippman, Nafeesah Butt, Paule Constable, Alistair Cope, Andrew French, Sunita Hinduja, Hazel Holder, Jack Hudson, Ola Ince, Peter McKintosh, Prema Mehta, Vicki Mortimer, Chinonyerem Odimbo, Arran Pallan, Tom Piper, Gweneth Rand, Ella Taylor, Adele Thomas, Andrew Whyment
Guest speaker: Sue Emmas, Artistic Director of RTYDS (Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme)
Based in Manchester at Royal Exchange, with a base in London at the Young Vic, the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS) is a professional artist development programme for new and emerging theatre directors in the UK. The scheme seeks out and nurtures the most talented theatre directors at the early stage of their careers; developing their skills and experience by placing them in the UK’s leading regional theatres and providing unique training and professional development opportunities. The organisation focusses on training and opportunities for artists from under represented areas (95% participants are from under-represented groups), with three focusses:
- Representation and inclusion (across intersections)
- Regional talent
- Artistic leadership (not just craft of directing but leadership, which is where change can happen)
They run introductory courses, short placements and longer residencies, including the associate AD residency (launched last year), alongside lots of craft-based and career development activity. Recently they have begun offering a recruitment consultation service to organisations with a focus on senior roles.
Some schemes have halted during the pandemic but they are still running some residencies and curating the Young Vic Directors Programme, facilitating 30 zoom sessions for about 1000 participants. They have also been working with Class and Coronavirus and other groups including their associate partner Ramps on the Moon. During the pandemic their focus has moved from wellbeing sessions to focus on skills and craft and moving towards looking at what’s next.
There are a number of overlapping focusses between RTYDS and Freelancers Make Theatre Work, including the make-up of theatre boards, funding for freelancer support outside of shows, and transferrable skills within the industry. We will continue to look for ways to link up in these areas and include RTYDS in our plans for open discussions with theatre and organisations.
Update on Freelancer picnics
We are keen to move forward with outdoor pastoral meet ups for freelancers across the country but need to navigate the general mood, updates to the lockdown and avoid clashing with the #WeMakeEvents activity in London next week. We will wait until August 15th and reassess.
In the meantime we could put a call out for people to host in different regions, perhaps outside local theatres.
Update on Open panel discussions
Letters went out to Artistic Directors across the country this week repeating the need for conversations to include freelancers and suggesting the idea of open discussions.
We are meeting with a group of interested ADs on Tuesday to discuss the idea further and reach a sense of requirements, topics of discussion and logistics, maintaining a focus on solutions-based conversations.
A separate group should maybe meet to discuss a budget for the connected funding application.
Update on other groups
- ABTT (Association of British Theatre Technicians) have produced a backstage document about safely returning to socially distanced show running and have invited us to provide a rep for their activity.
- PLASA’s #WeMakeEvents is happening next week on 11 August – we are pushing the event and registration details on social media.
- We have establish regular attendees for the weekly AAPTLE meetings.
- At this week’s We Shall Not Be Removed Meeting the comprehensive spending review was raised, which might be something we should return to in our letters to MPs.
- We are exploring possible links with BAPAM (British Association for Performing Arts Medicine).
Update on the Welsh theatre industry
We discussed elements of the current situation in the Welsh theatre scene. Due to being a devolved region, Wales has similar complications to those discussed around Northern Ireland last week. The Welsh Arts Council have announced a cultural contract about how the UK Government’s money will be used and the future of arts admin. There is currently a campaign to collect suggestions for input from freelancers, which will result in a 10 point plan to propose to the arts council. Alongside this there are ongoing campaigns to increase the number of native Welsh artists working and leading organisations in Wales.
This fed into a broader discussion around the possibility of shadowing, apprentice and mentoring schemes to break down barriers and hierarchies and increase diversity across the theatre industry. It was noted that campaign groups and schemes which focus on this area have been active for a long time prior to the pandemic and that rather than beginning new ones it would be more effective to boost their work and encourage engagement from organisations. A separate project group could be set up to discuss engaging with these ideas more actively.
Update on volunteer database
The framework for a volunteer database has been created but contacting potential individuals has been delayed to ensure we have substantial activity to offer them. It might still be beneficial to add people to the database (with their permission) to be contacted as and when they can be called upon.
This led into a conversation about enabling new individuals to be actively involved in the group. There was a suggestion for a document that explains the different streams of work and where people might get involved as well as permission to commit or slip in and out as much or as little as needed. This could be combined with a one-on-one introductory chat with another member prior to their first group meeting.
Update on our road map – short, medium and long term projects
This discussion was postponed.
A discussion with someone working on one of the vaccine trials suggests that it might not be able to affect the situation in theatre until September next year. If this is the case, nobody is currently systematically looking at how we create and maintain support between now and then.
It was suggested that we get some advice from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation who help campaigning groups. We could invite them to talk to us in a future weekly meeting.
There was a suggesting that we revisit the idea of unconscious bias/allyship training for wider the community in order to stem a transition towards inward looking activity and communication. We are losing the small steps to diversity that had been made and marginalised individuals are already leaving the industry. There is a strong case for this being one of the panel topics in the Open Discussions.
It was reiterated that we must be careful not to get swept up in any negativity. Whilst we must always hold those in power to account, our focus must be forward-looking solutions.
A suggestion of the need for campaigning around kindness resulted in the idea of a project like Radio 4’s The Listening Project to match-make individuals in different areas of theatre and provide a space for people to be open to not having the answers and finding solutions together. We will pursue this idea further.
Recap action points and deadlines
- Organise first meeting to discuss Open Discussion events
- Write and send out this week’s newsletter
- Draft documents for new individuals
- Return to plan for enlisting volunteers
- Discuss a budget for the Open Discussion funding application
- Pursue the idea of an audio discussion project
- Potentially create a group to look at campaigning for apprentice/mentoring provisions
Dates and times for next meetings
- Meeting with group of ADs to discuss the idea for the open discussion events on Tuesday
- The Wednesday advocacy group will happen at the normal time but with a different chair
- Next general meeting: Friday 14th August, 09:30 – 11:30 (Chair: Peter McKintosh)