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Freelance task force: an open letter to theatre and performance makers

We’re joining more than 100 other arts organisations across the UK to help establish a ‘freelance task force’ – one way of supporting freelancers working in the arts while in-person events can’t happen.


The open letter that we’ve signed, and the support we’re giving

Audio version of the Open Letter to Theatre and Performance Makers – read by Sarah Niles

This is a letter to self-employed and freelance theatre and performance makers in the UK. To the actors, playwrights, directors, choreographers, stage managers, designers, stage crews and set-builders to name just a few.

We really miss being with you during this period of lockdown. Making theatre and performance is a collaborative endeavour, so we are particularly affected by having to be apart from one another right now. We’re not able to come together, in the same space, to share the experience of a live performance. We’re not able to practise and enjoy our artform in its most basic form.

It’s now looking increasingly likely that won’t be possible for months to come, and we recognise that many freelancers face real uncertainty about if and how they will be able to continue to work in theatre. 70% of people who work in theatre and performance in the UK are freelance or self-employed, and it’s for this workforce, in all its diversity and complexity, that the impact of the current situation is most acute. 

During these past weeks we have had conversations with many of you to understand your needs and the ways you have been affected. We are writing to express our support for you, and to lay out some practical steps we are taking to improve the situation based on these conversations.

As well as exploring ways of producing work with freelancers during lockdown, and using this time to develop new projects with freelancers for the future, we are also are working together to coordinate our response to the government, to articulate clearly what we can offer and what we need.

Most urgently, we are calling for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to be extended in line with furloughing, for all self-employed workers, and in the specific case of theatre and performance workers, until theatres are able to safely reopen. We also want to see criteria removed from the scheme which are stopping legitimate and much-needed claims.

Some of you are already involved in these conversations. We welcome your voices and need to hear from more of you in the conversations to come. Your unique networks, skillsets, perspectives, and ideas are vital to the entire sector, and we need to work with you in our response to this crisis.

Each of the organisations who’ve signed this letter are committed to reaching out to their family of self-employed and freelance theatre makers; listening to how this is affecting your work and lives, and to your needs and ideas for the future.

More than that, we want to facilitate the establishment of a national task force of self-employed theatre and performance makers. The purpose of the task force is to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It would create ongoing points of connection between freelancers and organisations, and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come. To help establish the task force, each of the organisations signing this letter will support a freelancer to join the group, ensuring they are paid for their time.

We want to offer a message of hope and solidarity. Our well-practised ability to work together, to form connections, and build relationships will help us through this. One day, hopefully soon, we will all be able to meet together, as people have done for centuries, in a shared space, for a shared experience. In the meantime, we remain committed to working for you and with you towards a sustainable future for theatre and performance.

Signed,

Access All Areas
Action For Children’s Arts
Activate Performing Arts
Actors Touring Company
Akademi
ArtsAdmin
Barbican Theatre Plymouth
Battersea Arts Centre
Belarus Free Theatre
Belgrade Theatre
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Boundless Theatre
Brighton Festival
Bristol Old Vic
Brixton House
Candoco
Cast
Chichester Festival Theatre
China Plate
Chinese Arts Now
Citz Glasgow
Clean Break
Company of Others
Complicite
Contact
Curatin Call Online
Curious Directive
Dance Base
Dance Umbrella
Derby Theatre
Diverse City
Doncopolitan
Donmar Warehouse
Eden Court Highlands
English Touring Theatre
Farnham Maltings
Fio
Frozen Light Theatre
Fuel
Gate Theatre
Graeae
Hall For Cornwall
Headlong
Hijinx
HOME
Improbable
In Good Company
Jermyn Street Theatre
Jerwood Arts
Kiln Theatre
Knee High
Leeds Playhouse
Leicester Curve
Little Angel Theatre
Mercury Theatre
Mimbre
Miracle Theatre
National Dance Company Wales
National Theatre of Scotland
National Theatre Wales
National Youth Theatre of Great Britain
Northern Stage
Nottingham Playhouse
Octagon, Bolton
One Dance UK
Oxford Playhouse
Sophie Motley
Paines Plough
Pleasance Theatre
Polka Theatre
Ramps on the Moon
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Rose Theatre Kingston
Royal & Derngate
Rubicon Dance
Sadler’s Wells
Separate Doors
Shakespeare’s Globe
Sheffield Theatres
Smart Entertainment
Soho Theatre
Spare Tyre
Spin Arts
Stellar Quines
Stephen Joseph Theatre
Strike A Light
Studio Wayne McGregor
Taking Flight Theatre
Talawa Theatre Company
Tangled Feet
Tara Arts
The Almeida Theatre
The Bush Theatre
The Cockpit
The National Theatre
The New Wolsey Theatre
The Royal Court Theatre
The Royal Shakespeare Company
The Yard
Theatre Bristol + Kiota
Theatre Centre
Theatre Peckham
Theatre Rites
Theatre Royal Plymouth
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Tiata Fahodzi
Turtle Key
Unfolding Theatre
Unicorn theatre
Unlimited
Wales Millennium Centre
Wassail Theatre
Wise Children
Yellow Earth
1927


How we are selecting a freelancer to support

As other people have already pointed out, there is no perfect way of recruiting to this kind of scheme. There are thousands of incredible freelancers working in the arts, any of whom would add valuable voices to this discussion.

In this instance, we have decided not to make this an open call-out. Mostly for very practical reasons: because the task force is launching imminently, so this needs to happen quickly – and also because lockdown and furlough has significantly reduced our own capacity at the moment (so we would struggle to do justice to a high volume of applications).

So we have approached four freelance artists with whom we have a longstanding working relationship, each of whom can represent underrepresented voices, to see if any of them would be interested in participating in this initiative. We hope to be able to support one of them to join the task force in the next few days.

To make our decision there are four points we are taking in to consideration:

  • Financial need
  • Relationship with Gloucestershire
  • Ensuring under represented voices are heard
  • National gaps in the taskforce

They will be paid a fee of £150 p/d, one day a week for 13 weeks (June – August).


There are 10 other South West organisations supporting the project: