OPEN LETTER TO THEATRES – 7 July 2020
Here’s our Open Letter to Artistic Directors, Producers and Theatre Managements that we sent on Tuesday 7 July 2020
Dear Artistic Directors, Producers and Theatre Managements,
We want to thank and acknowledge the extraordinarily hard work you are doing to protect and support our industry. We appreciate the gravity of the decisions you are having to make, and stand with you in solidarity as we continue to face ongoing uncertainty about our industry’s future.
We are a group of 24 volunteer freelancers who have come together to create Freelancers Make Theatre Work; a collective voice to advocate for the UK freelance theatre workforce. We are writing to you on behalf of the thousands of freelancers who have joined the campaign over the last few weeks.
We have received an overwhelming response from freelancers expressing deep concern about their situation both now and in the future. Following news of the £1.57 billion government support package, it feels urgent for us to bring to your attention some of these concerns, particularly as decisions are being made about how this money may be spent.
From hundreds of emails and thousands of responses to the Big Freelancer Survey, it is clear that there are two immediate questions which need your attention:
- How can communication between your organisation and the wider freelance community be developed?
- How can freelancers be part of planning and shaping the future of our industry?
To begin to address these issues, we ask that you please:
- Give freelancers seats at tables where plans for recovery and reset are being discussed.
- Be a voice for freelancers when speaking to the press, the Arts Council, industry bodies and the like.
- Communicate in a transparent and inclusive manner with the entire freelance community so that we know of, can trust, and can support the work you are doing.
We invite you to work collaboratively with Freelancers Make Theatre Work to address these issues, make change, and work towards a better future.
Additionally, today we have published the ‘Routes to Recovery’ study that was presented to the Government last week. It was created by an unaffiliated group of analysts and theatre freelancers. It includes data gathered through our Big Freelancer Survey and puts theatre freelancers’ situation into clear focus. We encourage you to take a look here.
Let’s stand together; it is the combination of your organisation and the freelance community that makes theatre work.
Freelancers Make Theatre Work
OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNMENT – 15 June 2020
An open letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden and the Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove
We are writing to you to ask for your support. We are presenting the case for 200,000 freelance artists working in the UK theatre industry. Together, freelancers make a vital contribution to our country’s extraordinary theatre culture, from pantomime to Shakespeare.
Theatre is uniquely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a live art form it needs performers and audiences to be close. Social distancing makes that practically and economically impossible, which will keep the doors to our venues firmly closed for much longer than any other industry.
The threat to those venues has so far dominated the discussion of the crisis faced by the performing arts, but theatre is a unique industry in which 70% of the workforce are self-employed freelancers and it is us who are its core creators. Saving the buildings should only be part of the conversation.
Hundreds of thousands of freelancers have already lost many months of work and are facing unemployment well into next year.
We are its actors, singers, dancers and musicians. Its playwrights, directors, composers, choreographers, designers and casting directors. Its production managers, technicians, stage managers, set builders, make-up artists, costume, prop and wig makers. Its youth theatre leaders, education and outreach officers.
Together, as the UK theatre industry, we make a major contribution to the economy:
- Delivering a return of £5 to the exchequer for every £1
- Generating £133 million in VAT from London theatres alone (2018).
- Generating £1.28 billion in ticket sales nationwide, playing to an audience of 34 million (2018).
- Attracting 100,000 international tourists every week to watch a West End show.
- Contributing to the wider local economy: for every £1 spent at the theatre, £3 is spent on food, drink, accommodation and travel.
- Supporting local communities, providing social hubs, education centres and meeting places, reaching out to the old, young and disadvantaged.
Theatre makes a powerful contribution to our society as well as our economy. Nationwide, we entertain, educate, engage and inspire across all communities. Worldwide, we are the cultural diplomats exporting UK theatre and raising its profile by collecting awards at podiums.
Without us, the freelancers, there will be no theatre to watch.
As you decide on future support schemes for the self-employed, we ask that you implement the following for freelance theatre workers:
- Government support for freelance theatre workers to be extended until we are able to return to work safely;
- A new strand of support for freelancers who have fallen between the cracks of the existing SEISS and furlough schemes (including: the newly self-employed; PAYE freelancers; small limited company directors paid in dividends or paid by PAYE annually; self-employed with over 50k profit or more than 16k savings);
- Freelancers to have a seat in all governmental discussions about the arts.
Freelancers are the creators, leaders and innovators that make this industry so strong.
Please support us at this critical time.
Freelancers Make Theatre Work.