FMTW Weekly minutes: 9.30-11.30am, Friday 9th April 2021

Chair: Ben Arkell
Minutes: Bill Bankes-Jones

Present: Emma-Jayne [EJ] Park, Josie Underwood, Vicki Mortimer, Susan Kempster, Ella Taylor, Paul Carey Jones, Jake Orr, Arran Pallan, Beth Steel, John McCann, Andy Whyment, Adele Thomas, Paule Constable, Peter McKintosh, Shanko Chaudhuri, Freddie Crossley, Jess Murrain, Mimi Doulton, Titas Halder, Athena Stevens, Nikki Edmonds, Chino Odimba, Leigh Toney

Apologies: Alistair Cope, Anna Fleischle, Anne McNulty, Hazel Holder, Kelsie Acton, Peter Brathwaite, Rachel Bagshaw, Steffan Donnelly, Steven Hoggett, Tom Piper

Updates & reports: 

  We’ll ask Amanda Parker of Inc Arts to talk us through100 Actions Against Racism on 23rd April 

Action: Arran

– NT/FMTW workshops are coming on a treat for 12th-16th with an awful lot of emails and 100 participants ranging from recent graduates to very experienced.  

– Big Freelancer Report Audio Version – a query about how we can best let people know they can access this

– Letter about the new Chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society – agreement that a meeting to strengthen this would be good, inviting Scottish freelancers in with FMTW 

Action: EJ

– Anti Racism Sessions this week and next; EJ has sent out some documents from Charmaine (Racism in Real Time)

 Reset Better Charter ‘ – Meeting the needs of Freelancers at this time 

Reset Better is moving really fast, there’s another open Town Hall coming up, AAPTLE are encouraging attendance.  BECTU doing something similar, so are others.  Should we refer people to Reset Better so this is all joining up? Anybody is welcome to come to the town halls.  Should FMTW contact Mark Shale?  They want help to make this charter more inclusive. 

ACTION: Josie/Vicki: poll to see if we need a meeting then conversation with Mark Shale about Reset Better 

A detailed and thoughtful discussion followed, with an enthusiasm to improve the Reset Better campaign by making a strong input, and a reminder that this is a beginning, not a complete work.

We need to quickly support people dealing with desperate short-term issues, eg *do I still get paid if my covid test is positive?* (contrasted against the generally good care of employees). 

We also need to look at long term issues, and to work with companies. 

The charter lacks specific practical actions, and has the feel of continuance of pre-pandemic power structures, in common with the very many other charters and campaigns that have bubbled up over the last year.  Fighting for a 5-day working week, for example, is not inclusive for people with disabilities who need more sensitive scheduling to function. Can we take the thinking of the future labs to create something that will drive a real culture shift?

Policies should come from unions, small hits on social media and signposting freelancers to where they need to go are maybe our strength, working on our storytelling to freelancers?  

Information sharing:

FMTW and people from outside (eg What Next?, Public Campaign for the Arts, Creative Recovery Group) met on 8th April to talk about how campaigning through information sharing could be more joined up.  Though these conversations have been running for a year now, the conclusion was to join forces.

The Creative Recovery Group has no platform but is keen to share minutes of its Friday meetings (with lots of good info) on our platform.

Action -Al share CRG Minutes on our platform?

Who is the “we” sharing information?  How do we make that an open circle? Is it about information sharing or about making information accessible and useful and potent?  For urgent issues:

  • Newsletter?  Regular section of newsletter?

Action: Mimi – newsletter

  • Pairing human faces with urgent issues, not necessarily the face of the afflicted freelancer, but someone 
  • Could people submit concerns we edit in a list of ten “IT IS NOT OK TO…”s, then we write these on signs held up by other people with faces and circulate [remembering to keep formats accessible]?
  • So many testimonies of poor treatment of freelancers are being privately shared.  People are hungry to share in a way that feels safe.  How can we set this tinder alight?  
  • At the same time, keep in mind the toxicity of social media and naming and shaming, how to hold a powerful dialogue without spiralling into accusation?
  • We’ve done a lot of this already, but also we haven’t written to artistic leaders voicing concerns in a long while.  Time to go to them with some tangible asks?
  • There’s power for freelancers just in knowing we have weekly meetings working towards addressing all these issues – more ways to let people know this is happening?

ACTIONS: Andy convene a 1 hour meeting on sharing freelancer issues with the wider community.

Titas: continue work on getting the industry to share information.

Kindness and how it works in these difficult times

So much of our attention is industry focussed, trying to make a difference for freelancers by looking to the institutions.  Looking around our own room, the difference between us is our success, though it also brings challenges.  It’s easy when we are in agreement, but how do our values deal with the competitive imperative endemic in our industry?  Social media is full of reactive anxiety. There’s a sense of this moment passing, things happening to us we can’t change that maybe put us in competition with others.  This is a really difficult moment, both internally and outside.  This relates to how we evaluate invitations from outside to attach ourselves to initiatives.

There is a challenge around keeping our spaces kind and safe.  This relates both 

  1. to inviting people in (eg future labs) where generosity and empathy can be compromised by people coming in from very different spaces.  Politeness is different, and can be tyrannous.  
  2. Then there’s this value in relation to us, and when that gets tested. 

Politeness = governed by external rules, rather than genuine openness.  The words ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ are not in our core values, isn’t that what we’re talking about?

It’s better to be kind and loving than to be ‘nice’.  Being nice makes barriers to openness and honesty.

Within this space, empathy is key.  Outside this space, certain people don’t always speak up.  Black people can feel a need to censor themselves as their words (eg swearing) land differently and can seem harsher.  Sometimes, being included in conversations is about feeling able freely to take part in the dialogue, not just being present in the room.  Have we examined the politics of politeness enough – the politics of respectability, of middle class values?

We see what should be strong campaigning letters from other campaigns shaving off the important edges by feeling the need to be couched in the language of their targets/ie politeness

When our group is at its least polite, it’s like a crucible and there’s a moment when the impurities are burnt away, leaving the useful core of the idea.  We must never lose this.

Successful things we’ve done like future labs do not assume fixed points, that solutions will be complete.  Difficult conversations with a sense that we will find a way through it, rather than forced conclusions.

When we speak to power, can we make spaces when it’s ok to be open and angry?  Twitter & social media get so toxic because we don’t have spaces to *AAAARGH!*

How we get this to affect organisations, eg shared information on rates of pay, how we can encourage organisations themselves to share this information? 

 

AOB

  • There’s a meeting to follow up the exchange with David from New Diorama 11:00am Tuesday.
  • What happens when a FMTW freelancer becomes a gatekeeper?  A strong wish to keep the connection, is it ok to stick around in the group?  A feeling of wanting to feed this both ways, especially with so much conversation about EDI.

Actions recap:

Arran – Contact Amanda Parker about 23 April

EJ – convene meeting with FMTW and Scottish Freelancers about EFFS Chair

Josie/Vicki – poll to see if we need a meeting then conversation with Mark Shale about Reset Better

Action -Al share CRG Minutes on our platform?

Mimi – Newsletter  

Andy convene a 1 hour meeting on sharing freelancer issues with the wider community.

Titas: continue work on getting the industry to share information.