Future Theatre Group News

Freelancers Make Theatre Work are pleased to be able to host the news and minutes of the Future Theatre Group, here on our website:

Future Theatre Group

‘Future Theatre’ is a weekly group run through Zoom and originally started by David Lan and open to anyone. Theatremakers of all backgrounds gather virtually for meetings that mix the organic nature of a rehearsal tea break with the passion to see our industry thriving once more. We are an informal collective of artists driven toward ideas that will revive and revolutionise the theatre industry in the aftermath of the global pandemic.

In the past weeks, we have welcomed in speakers and discussions around the latest developments in coronavirus treatments and testing, tolerance and action items related to BLM and transgender rights, environmental consciousness and reformation, and more. Below you will find information about previous meetings, as well as a link to join our mailing list and be notified about the weekly meetings.

While Future Theatre is a group run independently of Freelancers Make Theatre Work and is inclusive beyond freelancers, our ethos aligns with the aims of FMTW to be transparent and to spur conversations, connections, and actions that will make our theatre industry better than it was when its doors were forced to close this spring. 

FUTURE THEATRE GROUP – MINUTES

Monday 14 September

Led by Titas Halder, Freelancer

Minutes – Sally Beck Wippman, Freelancer (www.sallyspeaks.com

This week, Alice Kornitzer spoke about ideas for recovery. 

The provocations:

  • What losses would buildings and venues be facing if some of the DCMS money was ring-fenced for freelancers in an effort to take them under their wing?


  • Can there be an accountability regarding protection of the work forces that we will rely on down the line?  What could that look like?

  • 
How can buildings be used for non-theatrical purposes that serve their communities? How can this be done safely and without an organisation crippling itself financially? And how can freelancers support this (especially while we can’t do shows)?

Discussion Points and Further Questions:

  • Trickle Down. One example of accountability is something Alice calls the ‘Under Our Wing Program’: an initiative where a theatre company receiving funds contribute to the sustenance/growth of a new independent company and/or individual(s). While there are many criticisms and moral complications of the ‘trickle-down’ economic model, if we are forced into using such a model, this would be a way to ensure that there is a passing on of skills, knowledge, and resources. 

  • Agency. How do we take back agency as individual makers? Highlighted the way this pandemic has exposed the importance of freelancers in this community. 

  • Lockdown 2.0. How do we support each other if we go back into lockdown?

  • Back to Work. Is there a way of sustaining/employing freelancers in a way that doesn’t require the magical, instantaneous creation of work? Theatres need to be transparent/freely share information about what they intend to do to support freelancers (ex. to help with the submissions process of funding, etc.).What work can freelancers be doing now? Now, whilst we’re waiting to hear about results
 of recovery packages and reopenings and lockdowns and more. Some theatres are using freelancers on education programmes, training schemes, extending outreach work. We defined the word “community” as something we’re all part of, versus the one-off outreach project. 

Creation has not dropped. Many of these ideas are things we have heard about, discussed before. When will the click happen that activates these ideas? What is the spark that is needed for these ideas to take flight?

Monday 07 September

Led by Titas Halder, Freelancer

Minutes – Sally Beck Wippman, Freelancer (www.sallyspeaks.com

Reopening Theatre, an Example: The Bridge Theatre

Katrina Gilroy and Pauline Fallowell from the Bridge Theatre spoke about the logistics of reopening. Details include:

  • From 900 seats to 262 maximum. 

  • Assistance from SOLT, but also a Bridge-specific framework for health and safety.

  • Rehearsals done within the building to ensure health and safety and reduce costs. 

  • 2-3 shows a day; repertoire of 5 shows.

  • Show times: 2pm, 5pm, 8pm with time to exchange audience members with cleaning in between. 

  • Only by doing that many performances and the potential of 500+ audiences does it become financially viable to reopen.

  • Running on a very tight budget, having flexible designs that adjust for multiple shows, for example.

  • Ticketing pricing has remained relatively the same.

  • They are operating without insurance for coronavirus.

  • The actors are 2+ meters from the audience; 

Audience Communication

  • Assured audiences that if a performance is cancelled, they will get their money back.

  • Only 1% clicked through the FAQ sheet (https://bridgetheatre.co.uk/frequently-asked-questions/) for Health and Safety, but there was a general sense that audiences appreciated having the option to look at that information.

  • Created a model where the audience could see the seating plan.

  • The data doesn’t exist yet to see at what capacity people book single/group tickets. 

    • 14% of people who have booked are for single seats.

  • Majority of the audience is 45-65 which matches the demographic pre-Covid.

Audience Experience

  • Thermal camera upon arrival for staff and audience

  • Staggered arrivals with three 15-minute slots, beginning with those closest to the stage.

  • Personal interactions before entering, and once inside. 

  • Audience members wear masks.

  • 90% ‘business class’ experience – specific arrival times, pre-ordering drinks, extra legroom.

  • Seats are spaced out 1+ meters apart.

Future

  • The Bridge is open to a conversation about expand the diversity of their audience demographic.

Monday 24 August

Led by Jude Christian, Freelancer

Minutes – Sally Beck Wippman, Freelancer 

  • Equity: Paul W. Fleming (pfleming@equity.org.uk) from Equity came to speak about updates.
  • Summarised their four pillars (https://www.equity.org.uk/news/2020/june/equity-response-to-the-roadmap-for-re-opening-live-performance/) of reopening: workforce protection, safe opening, protecting infrastructure, and equality.
      • Introduced a provocation that the Arts Council could be devolved, regionalised, and run by artists.

      • Will divert support from grievances toward political education and other helpful areas.

      • Terms and Conditions: Equity wants people to understand the union’s purpose: member’s terms and conditions with the workplace.

        • Adjustments to the T&Cs such as a 5-day workweek, part-time rehearsals, or shorter days: these things could help raise salaries, increase wellness, increase diversity.

        • Mental Health: FOr a long time, the t&c’s have been pretty old-fashioned: pay, hours…Theatre company 20 Stories High have used their Paul Hamlin funding to look at all their programming through the lens of wellbeing and mental health. They asked how Equity might be reevaluating how they support artists in relation to mental health.

        • Publicly sharing policy changes: Stage Sight (https://www.stagesight.org/initiatives) has an ‘Initiatives’ page that publicly records changes in policy and opportunities. Perhaps ITC could create a similar page to publicly record changes in workers’ rights.

      • Older membership: Equity has helped enforce adequate insurance for older actors during/post-pandemic.

      • Reopening Timeline: Right now, the government could fund rural touring, theatre in education, or other methods of theatre making that are viable at this time. 

    • Lobbying: More important to lobby the Chancellor, the Treasurer, the Business Secretary→ not DCMS, for example. Especially the Treasury in terms of expressing our importance to the value of the economy.

    • Local Casting: spoke about the way local casting can save costs (ex. digs, commuting, etc); how national organisations can/should cast nationally, not just in London; encouraging this through Equity and through local authorities.

    • Social distancing in small theatres: discussed various ways of how small theatres could reopen, mainly perspex protective screens, reconfiguring the amount of time people can spend in the space, ticketing based on households/bubbles.

Monday 17 August

Led by Amanda Parker, Inc Arts UK

Minutes – Sally Beck Wippman, Freelancer 

  • Black Heroes Foundation: Joyce Fraser spoke about Black Heroes Foundation (https://www.blackheroesfoundation.org/), a charity for developing cultural awareness, promoting a world where Black Heroes are acknowledged, respected, and celebrated. Joyce shared about her late partner Flip Fraser’s show, Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame (http://www.antislavery.ac.uk/items/show/2033) and the current work her charity is doing, such as Virtual Locomotion (https://www.blackheroesfoundation.org/virtual-locomotion/): a series of stories for people in and about their local communities.

  • Cultural change: 

    • How do we bring it about? Create a recognised change plan; for example, Kotter’s 8-step change plan (https://www.kotterinc.com/8-steps-process-for-leading-change/).

    • Focus on equality, diversity, and inclusion, not to mention the economic benefit of having a diverse workforce.

    • How workplaces and organisations can commit to anti-racism and change cultures of institutional racism. 

    • How racism and microaggressions affect health.

    • Circled back to Inc Arts’s #CultureNeedsDiversity 6-point plan (https://incarts.uk/%23cultureneedsdiversity)

  • Concrete steps toward change: While companies have put anti-racism on their agenda in more concrete, action-based ways that can be evaluated in the future at specific times, we talked about specific we’ve seen taken in response to the most recent BLM protests that they think are really strong, and should be replicated more widely across the sector. We also shared some new ideas for concrete actions. Some examples:

    • Taking pay cuts in order to bring in more staff members (including senior staff members) who are black.

    • Cross-sector anti-racism collaboration: Could theatre pair with programs like ‘Kick It Out / Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football’ – to create a high profile and ongoing campaign? Some sort of idea to not only raise the issue, but to continue to fuel the fires of change.

      • Racism in theatre and in audiences often goes by unrecognised, whilst racism in, say, football, is something easily grasped. 

    • Continuation and expansion of #CultureNeedsDiversity campaign.

    • Could we create a campaign in every theatre programme?

    • Mandatory training in anti-racism for every organisation. minimum yearly. when freelance teams come in, an advocate from the organisation delivers the training on their first afternoon of rehearsal.

      • Theatre Peckham developed an anti-racism program that all staff participate in. It involves a 3-hour in-person or online workshop delivered by two black practitioners within the organisation. There is the possibility of opening up this training to other companies and individuals.

      • Requiring specific readings by staff members (ex. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People).

    • Can we place more pressure on local authorities like council leaders, metro mayors, etc. to ask the venues they fund to sign up to anti-racist programmes?

    • Joyce voiced that any action, no matter how small, is good. Don’t not start because you have a fear of not doing enough. Do something.

  • Hiring diverse artists: 

    • Combatting the excuse that ‘you couldn’t find anyone’? 

      • Amanda spoke about a database of offstage black theatre artists.

    • Not acting from an ethos of tokenising

    • Reflecting values that do not disenfranchise groups.

    • Creating a diversity inclusion and access rider that will go out to associations to send to organisations and put alongside contracts. Keeping in mind the excuses/challenges institutions might throw at you, such as: this is the team and this is how it is, budgets/time don’t allow, etc. 

    • Creating a diversity and inclusion rider for freelancers to use.

Monday 10 August

Led by Amanda Parker, Inc Arts UK

Minutes – Isabel d’Souza, Act IV 

  • Disability Awareness: Andrew Miller updated us about #WeShallNotBeRemoved, which rekindled disability activism in our sector and provided a space for solidarity and support. It advocates for a more inclusive recovery, and now has 700 members UK-Wide, the biggest disability arts network since the ’80s. 

    • Impact: The movement was a top 3 trend on Twitter in June, the policy led to the BFI ‘Press Reset’ campaign, referencing in the AC Wales BLM statement, and culture-supporting statements from the Lib Dems and Labour Party.

    • Covid Risk and R:

      • Disabled people make up ⅔ of COVID-19-related deaths.

      • High risk of unintended discriminatory practice applied to disabled artists and audiences. E.g. the ways disabled people could be excluded from venues due to covid rules.

      • Burden of costs 

    • Inclusivity: Andrew made the provocation: What are the things you think you can do that will make recovery more inclusive for disabled people? Is it better to reopen for some or reopen for all? How can we maintain the progress that’s been made during lockdown such as working from home? 

    • Intersectionality: Ableism can be regarded alongside racism, homophobia, sexism. It is not only about physical access, but also about attitudes. It’s about deeply ingrained issues that have gone unaddressed. It is also about not wanting to have difficult conversations about cost. Inclusion costs. And the burden sits heavily on those most affected. It would be extremely beneficial to work together alongside anti-racist movements.

    • Drama Schools: Discussed imbedding good practice like having more inclusive classes/programs at drama schools. Personal experiences of ableist discrimination at drama schools were shared, perpetuating the viscous cycle of not providing training for those with disabilities, then claiming they can’t hire people with disabilities because there aren’t any trained people.  

      • Can we set a challenge to contact your drama schools and ask what they are actively doing to help creatives with disabilities?

    • Right now: Can we activate audio descriptions/subtitles into this group?

    • Useful links:

  • Coronavirus Updates: Dr. Mark Payton, a geneticist and biochemist, shared updates on coronavirus:

    • The politics: The government is being very selective about info being disseminated, which leads to an incredibly confusing situation and massive disinformation in the public domain. Overall, there has not been enough testing to be able to share accurate numbers or to take care of people. To date, there have been 13 million tests, but that doesn’t mean 13 million people. There are 1,000 new identified cases a day: track and trace will not work on those numbers. 

    • There are currently no treatments, but they are in development.

    • Drugs already on the market: Everything you see in the press is about drugs that already exist for other conditions and are being tested just in case they can do something for the virus. E.g. steroids. dexamethasone only helps the really severely ill patients in ICU and would do an immense amount of harm if you take it in the early stages. Ignore everything about malaria drugs – dangerous and could induce heart attacks in those not being monitored. The only drug that has proved remotely efficacious is Remdesivir. Trump has bought all of them. So  perhaps it’s time to think about breaching drug laws and allow copying.

    • Vaccines: Will probably arise in December. Most likely front runner is Oxford and Astra Zeneca who have promised 300 million doses. 

      • The problem with testing: No one knows if it actually works, the challenge of clinical trials is there is not sufficient exposure of the general population because of lockdown. You give vaccines and look for production of antibodies and boosting of the immune system; however, this doesn’t prove it works.  You need to inoculate many people and expose them to the virus and see what happens. There has been outrage about asking young healthy people to be exposed to the virus, and not many people volunteered, but it is the only true way to test whether or not it works. 

      • The problem with vaccines: 200 people per day die from the flu virus. The vast majority will have been vaccinated, but that is only 40-60% effective. It just dampens down the infection so that fewer people die. Developing a vaccine takes time, and if it works wrong, it can be fatal. Only 10% of all vaccines work. The UK adopted a strategy of taking vaccines made in a classical way: 250m doses of 4 different vaccines, hoping that at least one will work. Most frontline workers or people in high risk groups and everyone over 50 would be vaccinated (like the flu).

    • Exposure: If you are exposed to the virus, you are probably not immune. The nose and back of the throat are imuno-compromised organs (they are completely exposed to the air), which means that antibodies do not go there.

    • Demographics: Older people are very sensitive to the virus as their immune systems don’t work as well and the infection is in a place which is difficult for the body to defend. Type 2 Diabetes and obesity are at increased risk with COVID-19 due to inflamed organs and the presence of fatty liver. It affects disabled people and those in care homes to the highest degree.

  • Mass Cultural Action: Mark Leipacher led a provocation about mobilising the various campaigns together in a way that could influence government prior to the spending review – deadline 24 September. What might a UK-wide day of cultural action look like, and how can we demonstrate the large number of people affected? Additionally, how can we effectively organise this?

    • Solidarity between people and buildings/organisations.

    • Solidarity between artists and the public. How do we let the public know that this is not a one-off investment/saving that we need, and that this is not London-centric? 

    • Can we make a Jeremy Deller mass happening? Can we communicate with Tracy Brabin to ask her how we can communicate best and do something that means something to the government? Can WSNBR to make some noise? The wider the group we bring into this the better. 

    • On the other hand, acknowledge that the activity undertaken by various groups over the last months DID have an impact on the government.

    • Rhetoric: Government loves the idea of Britain being “world leading”. You will destroy decades of hard work and brilliance in this country which others around the world look to us for. Emphasise that the strongest argument is the overall amount of revenue the arts generate for the economy – and then say what kind of “good” it does – beyond monetary value, how many hours of joy and pleasure and help…and job creation. Highlight that  those of us who run arts centres and create participatory events for communities have replaced day centres for kids, programming for kids, adults, people with mental health issues, old people – picking up the services usually provided by local authorities and Government. 

  • Climate Emergency: Kay and Feinte updated us about impending actions regarding the climate emergency. There will be a campaign launch of ‘Culture Declares Emergency’ (https://mailchi.mp/500d37a3613d/the-offer-relaunched-4137465?fbclid=IwAR2oK_jhXQKUDBYpL_2Cu6emxXsWFhBqvnZimgbdZUMDL5Q2loD5i4ew0d8)

    • Extinction Rebellion: On 1 September, they will be making some noise about climate emergency. What is the cultural response to the rebellion? The day parliament resits after summer recess. Multiple emergencies happening right now. Invitation to all those to declare emergency – creative interpretation. 

    • Discussed doing more than naming the crisis, but brainstorming visions for the future and the change we need. Invitation to write your letters to authorities, opportunity to amplify our voices.

    • Climate & Race breakout space. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BhtkK4Mm3UV0BncDT0t1bW9Z44Iufm4dkSl-X4mweZI/edit?usp=sharing

Monday 3 August

Led by Amanda Parker, Inc Arts UK

Minutes – Sally Beck Wippman, Freelancer

  • Updates on Government Funding: 

    • The Arts Council will disburse funding on behalf of DCMS and the treasury.

      • The challenge is that the fund is not designed to help support individuals or freelancers.

      • This fund is to enable cultural organisations that have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis to stay afloat, providing them with support over a 6-month period to ensure that by 31 March 2021 they can reopen, either fully or partially, or operating on a sustainable, cost-efficient basis until they are able to reopen at a later date.  

      • Organisations must have been financially sustainable before Covid-19 but are now at imminent risk of failure and have exhausted all other options for increasing their resilience.

      • ACE is widening the eligibility for project grants so NPOs and non-NPOs can both apply.

      • No new groups will receive funding – companies have to have been established for at least one year. 

    • Other waves of funding will come that will have different criteria.

    • Comprehensive Spending Review top points:

      • Strengthening the UK’s economic recovery from COVID-19 by prioritising jobs and skills.

      • Levelling up economic opportunity across all nations and regions of the country by investing in infrastructure, innovation and people – thus closing the gap with our competitors by spreading opportunity, maximising productivity and improving the value add of each hour worked.

    • Universal Basic Income is still something being discussed

    • Here is a link to various charities you can apply to if you’re struggling

    • The SEIS scheme has been extended. If you were eligible for the first grant and can confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020, you’ll be able to make a claim for a second and final grant from 17 August 2020.

  • FMTW: Paule Constable and Andy Whyment spoke. The allocation to theatre is so much smaller than we had hoped, and it is especially aimed to support buildings in the direst need, and not to freelancers or to the making of work moving forward. They had a productive conversation with Kiln Theatre about how Artistic Directors can work with freelancers to offer solutions on moving forward together. 

    • Both DCMS and Treasury select group papers supported and underlined the importance of supporting freelancers or we are in serious trouble; however, the way the bailout has been articulated makes it near-impossible to imagine a scenario where freelancers can be articulated as an “unavoidable” spend. So the question remains as to how the government will be held accountable.

    • We have 8 weeks to try to put together a comprehensive ask.

    • The scale of our industry is vast – 200,000 people – and means that the money to support individuals really isn’t there

    • CurtainCall and other groups (The National Grid, #openhire and more) are working to try to streamline opportunities (especially recruitment opportunities) for freelancers.

    • For now, the main FMTW website continues to be a central information site and we are producing wellbeing, financial guidance and funding application guides etc.

  • Film and TV: Rebekah Harvey, a COVID-19 health and safety supervisor on a feature film, shared current practices on sets. They’ve created a document that works across different production sizes and encompasses information ranging from training to on-site precautions to alternative ways of filming to avoid physical proximity.  

    • COVID-19 Health and Safety declarations put PPE at the bottom, meaning that PPE should be a last resort in favour of other more effective measures like distancing.

    • On-site testing and lab testing differs based on production size and timing.

    • APA shooting guidelines

    • High End Film and TV guidelines 

  • Buildings: Gemma Brockis had a provocation about ways of using theatre spaces in alternative ways, like school rooms, found spaces, ad hoc events, etc. 

    • How can money be made from employing people?

    • How and to what level do buildings and people work together/separately?

Monday 27 July

Led by Amanda Parker, Inc Arts UK

Minutes – Sally Beck Wippman, Director, Movement Designer, Writer

Additional Minutes – Titas Halder, Writer, Director, Musician

Alice Kornitzer, Director, Dramaturg, Artistic Director

  • Creating in the Digital Platform: Jude Christian spoke about Homemakers, a program that commissioned artists during this stuck-at-home time for £1000. Artists were encouraged to ask themselves: What does this moment give you an opportunity to do that you wouldn’t normally get to do? This was meant to sew new seeds for the future, rather than simply ‘staging’ something already created. The project has now spread to further commissions where proceeds are split 50/50 between commissioning body and the artist. Some unique aspects of this project are:

    • Pricing: tickets are sold, but people have the option on how much they wish to pay. There is a suggested price, half, double, zero, and £100. Most purchased tickets are for the suggested price.

    • Budgeting: artists are allowed to budget their commission how they see fit.

    • Voices: Platforming artists with a strong personal voice and building them audiences for the future. An exciting way to give artists a platform to talk about who they are and experiment. 

    • Reach: Wide international reach and no financial barriers.

  • Freelancers and the Bailout: Sam Evans and Robert O’Dowd spoke about One Voice Campaign to ensure that freelancers are not forgotten in this governmental bailout. They’ve…

    • Interviewed a scientist about coronavirus and singing and more information will be available in the next 2-3 weeks.

    • Facilitated emails to the Minister of Culture to not forget freelancers. 

  • Equity: Charlotte Bence spoke about where we are in terms of return to work protocols. 

    • Equity will publish information under their ‘Health and Safety’ section for members who are hired/hiring. The main protocol is for H&S to be open and collaborative. 

    • They are working on guidance around ensuring that marginalised groups are not left behind in terms of safety, hiring, and redundancy prevention.

    • Concerns were acknowledged about how much theatre is going to get from the bailout, and about the 17% working outside of the industry and 22% seeking work outside the industry. 

  • Freelance Directors: Joshua Roche and Derek Bond presented an update on their campaign for fair hiring practices of freelance directors, called Open Hire (#openhire). Their aim is to get companies and Artistic Directors to make one show a year an open hire process. They’ll update about this campaign next week.

  • £1.57 Billion: There is still a great deal of uncertainty about how the £1.57 billion figure will both support theatre and save jobs. How much will theatre receive? How will freelancers be impacted? How will this funding (and any shortfalls) impact diverse employees? Will the industry backtrack on its work to be more inclusive? Groups that are particularly interested in these questions and are reflected in our meetup include (but aren’t limited to):

    • We Shall Not Be Removed

    • Public Campaign for the Arts

    • Freelancers Make Theatre Work

    • One Voice Campaign

  • Funding Distribution Oversight: There’s a sense that a group to oversee funding and distribution of government funds will be announced this week, but there is little to no information about any specifics. Special attention needs to be paid to the makeup of this group and there may need to be a vocal response to any announcement. 

    • Should there be a drive to assert that funds should be distributed according to criteria set by the industry: i.e. the Equalities Act? Or to put forward criteria which may paint a picture of a more egalitarian way of funding, as opposed to acceptance of a blanket saving of the ‘Crown Jewels’?

    • In publicly-funded venues, could Salary Ratios be an option – i.e. a limit to the highest earner in relation to the lowest earner.

  • Unity: There is importance in strategizing uniformly and speaking from a place of unity, despite pressure to be divided. 

    • Perhaps it is a good idea to really get behind the Arts Council – will defence of the Arts Council result in defending jobs? 

    • How can we get behind companies who are experts in making outdoor, or socially distanced work, or working from alternative models?

  • Creating in Alternative Spaces: Simon Sharkey ran a breakout room that discussed alternative ways to make, finance, and resource theatre through partnerships such as local authorities, mental health organisations. Information was shared from another member about alternative business models for theatre buildings, discussing repurposing theatres as venues for education, studios for recording, community centres, and more. There are different models of cooperation and co-production, some of which come with: a ready-made audience, ready-made community debates to use theatre to explore, opportunities for long-lasting connections with audience, not only artistic, but financial opportunities. Some examples were:

    • ‘Home Glasgow’ – NTS – 10 directors, 10 shows, 10 communities with active roles; John Tiffany’s project worked with the Housing Association and people within a highrise flat; they had actors within the flat moving from different rooms on different floors, and then they had people who absailed along the flats with cameras on their helmets stopping at specific windows. The footage from the flats was projected for audiences to watch. 

    • ‘One All’ – A theatre piece that worked with football stadiums and the communities of football fans and families. 

    • Archipelago of Shetland – the audience was driven around in cars that stopped along the way to different performance sites. The piece explored the local debate around environment.

    • ‘Granite’ – an promenade piece around Aberdeen

    • Other intimate spaces like telephone boxes in shopping malls and festival fields.

Monday 20 July

Meeting Minutes

Led by Jude Christian

Minutes by Sally Beck Wippman, Freelance Director, Movement Designer, Writer

  • Announcements: Please send any requests to make a provocation or facilitate a speaker to Isabel.

  • Breakout Beginnings: This week we experimented with doing small breakout rooms at the beginning of the session, which helped everyone get the chance to speak. 

  • Interests: The group expressed interest in hearing about and discussing many different topics, including but not limited to: 

    • Crisis logistics – scientific information, rescue package information, 

    • Different theatres – outdoor theatre, touring theatre, international theatre, regional theatres

    • Different industries – TV and film industry, other arts and public gathering-type industries, 

    • Groups of people – Young people, audiences

    • Unions and institutions – hearing regularly from ACE, UK Theatre, SOLT, Equity, SDUK, etc.

    • Equality – Black Lives Matter, accessibility, hearing from different industries on how to create a more equitable sector

    • Collaboration and creativity 

    • Adaptability – looking at different types of practice. Who has adapted now? Maybe someone who has worked on an online platform? 

    • Pilot programs of reopening theatres like ALW at the Palladium or the LSO

  • Safe Returns to Work: Concerns were voiced about going back to work and ensuring that we all are being protected from health and safety risks. We are hoping to bring someone in from Equity to speak about this, as well as someone to update us on the coronavirus situation in terms of working protocols, vaccines, risk assessment, and more. Some examples of protocols exist in the film world, Equity is an expert body in safe practices, and One Dance UK  has an example of safe ways to return to work in the dance world.

  • The Importance of Theatre in the midst of a Big Tech Takeover: Zoe Svendsen gave a provocation regarding Naomi Klein’s article about how big tech seems to be taking over and profiting from the pandemic. Key takeaways and points of discussion were:

    • Big tech culture is a culture addicted to speed, control, and one-upmanship: this is the model preferred by a specific type of rich, white, Western male persona (‘Silicon Valley male’). Theatre combats this and maintains our humanity.

    • Individuality – Theatre combats this erasure of individuality that technology threatens. 

    • Political act – Theatre is NOT a luxury. At times of unfreedom, theatre becomes vital and a political act even by fact of its existence. The act of making theatre becomes a necessity when you’re no longer free.

    • Relating – The fact of theatre being live and interactive is important to keep people relating to each other in the midst of an ever-autonomosing world.

    • Mental health suffers in front of screens – how do we combat this? Can we find a hybrid with technology instead of letting it takeover or denying it completely?

    • Healing nature of theatre – the ability to come together and process and heal.

    • Community – Watching work makes you feel a part of something bigger.  A space of resistance and community.

    • Shared humanity – Theatre has an immense power to captivate our shared humanity and see yourself or parts of yourself recognised and represented.

    • Coming together – Theatre does a fundamentally opposite thing to what some governments are trying to do which is pull people apart and polarize them. 

    • Complexity of reopening How do we communicate to a wider public the complexity of bringing theatre back and how we need their support? Something radically interesting about – if we lose our funding, we can appeal to the aspect of ‘it’s not fair’ OR we can appeal to humanity. Theatre reestablishes humanity. Can we link this conversation about humanity with that about finances and budgeting?

    • What do we want to hold onto and what do we want to fight for? Is there a wider existential threat going on to theatre as it exists? And is this temporary?

Monday 13 July

Meeting Minutes

 Led by David Lan

 Minutes by Sally Beck Wippman, Freelance Director, Movement Designer, Writer

 

  • Hiring Directors: Joshua Roche and Derek Bond presented on the idea of restructuring how freelance directors are hired. The overall recommendation is that when an Artistic Director is looking at a season, they would put out a brief on an open-access portal where freelancers can apply. It’s a similar process which happens now, except that the it would be listed publicly. It allows ADs to curate from a larger pool and expand diversity and breadth of applicants. It also allows for accountability and transparency regarding hiring processes, representation, and fees. More in the breakout session.

  • WTF Next (finding elegant steps): Maddy Costa presented on WTF Next. The industry tends to think about what buildings need, and not what people need, and this series of online conversations was begun in order to think about the future of theatre. See their very accessible and extensive notes here. Their sessions focused on:

    • 1. Honest/generous/transformative asks to bring up in all conversations about the future of theatre.

    • 2. Care. How do we ask for care in the form of workers’ rights. Where is it missing? How can attention to care ensure that unjust and unequal systems are not perpetuated?

    • 3. Competition. What are hierarchies and how are they internalised by the industry? What is the status of the artist? How a culture of competition leads to performative gestures towards social justice, rather than genuine change. What interpersonal shifts might be required to work non-competitively with each other

    • 4. Time, pace, and pause. What are the risks of working quickly (particularly when trying to change embedded systems)? How can we acknowledge and prioritise needs. Can we slow down to notice more? 

  • Theatre and Environment: Kay Michael and Fehinti Balogun shared a 3-minute video. They shared that structural change coming out of Covid-19 is very possible, community change is very possible, but individual change is NOT the solution to the environmental crisis. Kay Michael shared about high carbon culture, which was/is perpetuated by capitalism and colonialism. Further information can be found here, and they will share further information about protests organised by Extinction Rebellion.

  • Culture Needs Diversity: Matthew Xia spoke on behalf of Amanda Palmer and Incarts. A public campaign is being run with #cultureneedsdiversity as an effort to ensure that diversity is at the forefront of decisions regarding distributing of funding. This was inspired by and involves a 6-point pledge aimed primarily at Arts Council England. Matthew acknowledged the following inspirations for the campaign:

  • Future of the group: We discussed the pros of the group. 

    • Addressing fear: There is a lingering fear of speaking (whether due to hierarchy or simply the fact that it’s a big group) which will be addressed with some potential solutions in the next meeting. 

    • Breadth and relationships: A significant highlighted positive of the group is the wide breadth of individuals in their experience levels, backgrounds, and current situations. One suggestion was doing a 5-10-minute breakout room at the front of the session in order to get to know people. 

    • Information Sharing: There is still a feeling of important information sharing, mobilising people, and planting seeds for change. One member dropped an awesome truth bomb that the group has previously shared pertinent information regarding coronavirus that led to significantly more clarity than the government is providing. This could be an integral factor in keeping this group abreast of our country’s situation moving forward in the face of Brexit. 

    • Potential for Action: We discussed investment in people, and how we need to comb through what Rishi Sunak announced last week to see what is applicable to our sector. We also talked about connectivity of this group to communicate across sectors (within and beyond our industry). Are we forming coalitions based on what we’ve been discussing? Who is bringing in speakers? How do we turn conversations to action steps? The Arts Council Wales BLM statement was mentioned as an example of turning intention toward action points.

  • Breakout Room:

    • If there’s a job, shouldn’t it be advertised? 

    • Clusters for bigger companies paired with smaller companies (similar to Nurturing program idea here

    • Maybe this should be proportional to the number of shows they put on?

    • Can we gather a list of action points that we can get theatre companies to sign onto? Even with first steps as very simple objectives like: we respond to applications; we are committed to 50% gender split; etc. 

    • Freelance Directors: Discussed unconscious bias and the ‘feudal system’ of the hiring process for directors, with main points:

    • Environment: What is theatre’s response to a world that’s 4-degrees hotter? 

    • Space for Healing.

Monday 6th July

Meeting Minutes

Led by Amanda Palmer from Inc Arts UK

Minutes by Sally Beck Wippman, Freelance Director, Movement Designer, Writer

  • Celebrating the Bailout: Stephen Daldry provided commentary on the DCMS statement, saying, let’s celebrate and be positive, but be aware of the challenges ahead. Now we’ve had this recovery budget, next is rebuilding. We don’t know how the bailout funds will be distributed. We need to be aware of ‘the arm’s length principle’ that keeps the way funding is distributed in the hands of a separate body (the Arts Council). Comments were made about the necessity to also protect local councils which invest in the arts.

  • Public Campaign for the Arts: Jack Gamble discussed his work with the Public Campaign for the Arts. He proposed consolidating an extensive list of where support for the arts comes from in the UK. He also discussed activating our audiences and participants to join in the conversations we’ve been having behind the scenes about our future. Link here.

  • Rebuilding the Theatre Industry with Fewer Barriers: Simon Sharkey and Sally Beck Wippman spoke about rebuilding the theatre industry by interrogating hierarchy and the barriers faced by freelancers and emerging artists. They discussed the opportunity COVID provides for implementing ideas like alternative structures to companies and provided the example of the National Theatre of Scotland, of which Simon was a founding member. Lauren Walsh connected this to the intersectional issues pertaining to working class artists.

  • Theatre Protest on Hold: David Bell and Sarah-Jane Price announced that any proposed theatre protest is on hold because of the success of the bailout scheme.

  • Theatre and the Environment: Fehinti Balogun summarised findings from his and Kay Michael’s breakout room last week, found here.

  • Breakout Rooms: 

    • Rebuilding the Theatre Industry with Fewer Barriers: Led by Sally Beck Wippman, Simon Sharkey, and Lauren Walsh. Findings here.

    • Environmental Restoration: Led by Kay Michael and Fehinti Balogun

    • ‘Water Cooler’ Informal Breakout Room: Led by Jude Christian

Monday 29th June

Meeting Minutes

Led by Amanda Palmer from Inc Arts UK

Minutes by Sally Beck Wippman, Freelancer

  • Website: We discussed a potential plan for a website led by Sally Wippman, and based on their generous offer, the group agreed that Freelancers Make Theatre Work could support the group by hosting space on their website.

  • Freelance Data: We heard from Prasanna Puwanarajah about extensive data compiled from freelancers. There will be information summarising this data in the coming weeks.

  • Environment: We heard from Kay Michael and Fehinti Balogun about how people in the arts can affect climate change.

  • Connection: Francesca Murray-Fuentes and Molly Sharpe shared their work on the Exchange Project, which sets up professional freelancers with furloughed professionals for professional development and artistic growth: click here for more details.

  • Theatre Protest: A member shared information on a theatre march ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ which is being organised for 11 July at 12pm: click here for more details.    Amanda will invite Sarah-Jane Price or Darren Bell to speak about a theatre march. However, we also discussed alternatives that do not dishonor the pandemic or BLM movement like a human chain. 

  • Mailing List: Act IV has volunteered to help / are happy to help with [the website] – in terms of workload

  • Public Campaign for the Arts: Members were encouraged to join at www.campaignforthearts.org and consider signing the accompanying petition and signing up for their email list.

  • Breakout Rooms:

    • Environmental Restoration: Led by Kay Michael and Fehinti Balogun

    • ‘Water Cooler’ Informal Breakout Room: Led by Jude Christian