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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:

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Arts manifesto Listening to artists News

Artists on lockdown: Viv Gordon

Lockdown obviously has huge consequences for live events and performance. We’re having to drastically change the way we’re doing things – and we really want to listen to artists in that process. We want to make sure that the changes we bring in are guided by what will help artists to keep creating great work.

We had conversations with a couple of theatre-makers (and paid for their time), to get their input. Here’s what Viv Gordon – theatre-maker, survivor activist and arts and mental health campaigner – had to say:


What was your gut reaction when you first heard about lockdown? 

Panic and grief. I was triggered straight away into lots of old feelings around feeling trapped in a house unable to leave, that directly relate back to abuse experiences as a child.

Like many in the arts sector, all of my work was cancelled within a week. The icing on the cake was hearing that Arts Council England (ACE) weren’t going to assess an application we had made for 18 months’ work – my most ambitious to date – that our team had worked really hard to pull together over the previous months and invested financially in.

At this point I found myself screaming in a field. I felt thwarted – and again triggered: as a child, it wasn’t really worth me getting on with anything because I was constantly interrupted by abusers. It wasn’t a pretty time. I was shocked and angry and my well-honed mistrust of authority went into overdrive. 

How has lockdown been for you, and for your work, so far?

After a painful first few weeks, things have come out pretty good for me. I have been lucky my producers – Kate McStraw and Molly Scarborough – as well as you lot at Strike A Light stepped in to offer support, leading to Viv Gordon Company receiving ACE emergency funding. I’ve had other bits of work and the Self-Employed grant so everything is feeling more on track.

My home life is secure and we are all in good health, so I’ve been able to use the time to reflect and incubate new ideas. I’ve enjoyed doing some very silly projects that have made me think about my practice in new ways.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m having ups and downs like we all are, my concentration is quite poor, I’m grieving what could have been and I struggle to think about the future very much. We’re in a global existential crisis so I’m not expecting too much of myself…

If people want to support artists right now, what would be the most appreciated kinds of support?

The bottom line is a lot of artists need money to pay their rent and eat. At the same time, lots of us have new restrictions on our time or challenges directly relating to lockdown – those with caring responsibilities, those who are grieving, those with no financial safety net, mental health needs and other disabilities – meaning we have to review our access needs for a new context.

Anyone commissioning work needs to take that into account, target funds to those most in need, avoid being prescriptive and listen to artists about how they can work best in their current circumstances.

The ACE funding scrum has been pretty divisive and so I think it’s important to recognise a lot of people feel hurt, confused, angry and abandoned right now. Anyone offering support needs to be OK to hear that.

Do you feel any certainty/clarity at all about the future/post-lockdown/’the return to normal’? How is that certainty, or lack of it, affecting your work and decisions now?

I wish! Parts of my work can only happen live: they are about a very specific interaction with an audience that doesn’t translate online. So some things are just parked for now until hopefully we are able to pick them up again – even if we have to rethink how they are presented: maybe to smaller, socially-distanced audiences or outside.

On the other hand, before all of this we had already identified that survivor audiences face barriers attending live work and had decided all our projects would have live and digital strands to enable people to engage from their safe spaces online. Our current projects are focussing on digital, so in some ways we are just doing stuff in a different order.

What’s been your experience of taking work online so far?

I’m 48, my technical skills are basic at best. This is a barrier for me. It all feels quite alien so I’m doing as little as possible, keeping it simple and learning as I go along (as well as paying my 16 year old to help me!)

How do you feel about the general rush to take everything online?

It’s a mixed bag. Most theatre work just doesn’t translate well – digital is a completely different way of working. The best stuff I’ve seen is using the opportunities digital affords creatively and playing with that form.

My analogy for this time is that it’s like when people go vegan: some people are embracing the tofu and the chickpeas (complete change), others are going all meat substitutes, trying to reproduce the “real thing”. Personally, there’s only so much Quorn I can take…

Do you think this situation has affected everyone more or less equally, or are you feeling aware of some who have benefited or suffered disproportionately?

The arts sector is far from equal and neither is the wider culture. A lot of progress has been made to increase diversity – it feels like this came at time when a lot of diverse artists were starting to thrive and take up leadership – but not enough of us are yet organisations or NPOs eligible for the lion’s share of the ACE emergency funds or other big funders who have focussed their support on those they already fund.

I’m fearful that we will see things go backwards. I wrote a poem early on when I was pretty enraged. I’m sharing it on the understanding that it captures a moment in time and isn’t everything I feel. Hey, it’s all valid!


It Was Harvest Time

It was harvest time
I’d worked hard
Really hard 
And it was starting to flow
Then everything changed overnight from a yes to a no
No – you can’t make your show
No – your application won’t be assessed
No – it doesn’t matter that you’ve clawed your way in from the edges

It was a familiar shock
To be interrupted yet again
To never get to the thriving bit
To always be stuck surviving

I was angry
Angry to have been encouraged as a have not
Only to be dropped when the stakes went high
The failure of those with say so
To put their money where their mouths were
Only weeks before in their shiny new strategy
Diversity Schmiversity
Look – the backslide to a malfunctioning status quo
Look – the shoring-up of privilege in the name of infrastructure
Look – the well-worn schism opens up the same old wound 
We doff our caps
Please, sir – can I have some more?

My practice snatched from my hands
The gate-keeping of resources by ill-informed suits
Nice people
Who don’t know what they don’t know
If survivor-led practice was already part of the bedrock
There would be no need for me to push that particular boulder endlessly uphill

So what do I want now?
What I always wanted:
Trust
Change
Autonomy
The continuation of a long overdue conversation
Access to money on my own terms to make my work 
I do not want to be erased
I want to be asked what matters to me and why
I want to know that when the chips are down I still have allies
I want a future that is different to the past
Where survivors are just as important as ballet dancers
Because our tortured bodies extending along our own unique lines
Are all the more beautiful for the years spent watching from the side.


Massive thanks to Viv for her time, and her insight 🙏

As we’ve mentioned, at Strike A Light we want to use this time of disruption to make some bigger changes to the way the arts industry works. If you’d like to join us in that quest, you can read a whole lot more about the little revolution we’re trying to get started.

Categories
Arts manifesto Listening to artists News

Artists on lockdown: Conrad Murray

Lockdown obviously has huge consequences for live events and performance. We’re having to drastically change the way we’re doing things – and we really want to listen to artists in that process. We want to make sure that the changes we bring in are guided by what will help artists to keep creating great work.

We had conversations with a couple of theatre-makers (and paid for their time), to get their input. Here’s what Conrad Murray – an actor, writer, director, rapper, beatboxer, singer and theatre-maker, who has led the BAC Beatbox Academy since 2008 and made a host of five-star shows, including Frankenstein – had to say.

How has lockdown been for you, and for your work, so far?

It’s hard, honestly. All the projects I’ve been working on – all those deadlines have gone, overnight. And being an artist but with no projects and in a national emergency – it makes me feel like ‘what do you even do now?’ Like, what is my purpose?

I’ve been trying to create for its own sake, just trying to find stuff to do that is meaningful. And that’s why it’s nice to get invited to take part in some new, online events – it gives you something to work towards. But it’s also tough, because there’s all these things you’ve been working on for a long time, and you get deep into a certain practice with those, and then that’s suddenly all taken away.

It’s quite depressing, y’know? Like, “What am I doing? FUUUUCK!”

A couple of venues have checked in, just asked how I’m doing – that’s been good. And I’ve had some students – some of them from years back – just call out of the blue, tell me what’s happening for them or asking for advice. And I love that! It’s nice to feel needed…

That’s why one thing I think is really important is for artists to get money to do things. Obviously, people really need monetary support at the moment, and that is massive. But purpose is important, too – like, I wanna be getting paid, to make artistic work. I’ve worked so hard, for years and years – I’m always working – and now that I don’t have an immediate thing to work on, you can get into this kind of crisis of “Who am I?”

Is that part of why you’ve been looking at ways to do things online? How has that felt, is it different?

Yeah, really different. Not so much cos it’s online, but just because you’re having to start something totally new. In some ways, it gives you ‘total freedom’ – but actually that’s weird. Normally, you have all these different ways to get input – but now there’s no interaction with other people, or the inspiration that can come from that.

And theatre is very ‘of the time’, but at the moment everyone’s in the same ‘time’: how much ‘corona content’ can there be?!

Ha, yeah – what do you think about that general ‘lockdown rush’ to take work online?

Like I say, it’s good to see people doing things like scratch nights and stuff; it’s nice to try and have things to work towards. But overall, I think it’s really hard for artists. Like, who’s your competition now? Suddenly, I’m supposed to compete with Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber!

So actually, even though anyone can put something out there, it’s worse for most artists, because everyone is in the same space. How can you get an audience when you’re up against these global superstars who are starting out with 10 million followers?

Plus, the fees being offered for digital work and shows online are, like, 25% of normal, if that. It’s hard to take that on. And it can all feel like you’re just devaluing yourself.

Yep, that’s really not great. And actually that’s something we want to do with this time: to see if we can use the disruption to bring some bigger, lasting improvements in the arts industry – to things like artist pay. So, on that: what would be high up your list of changes you’d like to see?

Pay is definitely a big one. There’s gotta be a better way to pay artists. Less short-term, less unstable. More like a salary, I guess. I don’t know exactly how it should work but there needs to be more security for artists, so that you can build the thing you’re working on.

Just overall, there’s this fixation on novelty – a flash-in-the-pan mindset, producers obsessed with crowbarring in the latest gimmick, even if it doesn’t make any sense in the work… That’s not how you build things, not how you invest in them.

Theatres have become like a factory for neoliberal capitalism. Crank out the next thing, make the money off it, chuck it away… When you make a show, you give over the entire IP to the venue! And then, when the run’s ended, that’s it – the whole thing’s gone, like it never existed.

These places all say they want ‘more diverse voices and audiences’ – but it takes time to put down roots in communities. You’ve gotta build those connections. And you can’t do that if it’s always just ‘make a one-off show to get a one-off grant’.

I know of artists – really talented, amazing artists – who have gone from ‘upcoming star’ to Job Seeker’s Allowance. Literally, to JSA. That’s messed up.

You’re right – and, sadly, it’s the sort of thing we hear a lot. On that, just quickly, lastly, is there anything else you’d want to say to organisations like us? I mean, we’re only small, but we can still make choices about how we commissioned, book and pay artists…

Just, ‘help me to be great at what I do’. Like, I know I don’t know how to do the admin, the funding, the logistics, whatever – so I want help from people who are experts at that stuff. But I am expert at what I do – so leave me to do my thing; allow me to use that expertise! I wouldn’t tell the admin person how to do admin – in fact, I want them to show me how it’s done! So give us the same courtesy: let artists be artists, and support us to build work.

Massive thanks to Conrad for his time, and his insight 🙏

As we’ve mentioned, at Strike A Light we want to use this time of disruption to make some bigger changes to the way the arts industry works. If you’d like to join us in that quest, you can read a whole lot more (soon, real soon!) about the little revolution we’re trying to get started.

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News

What kind of events are you dreaming of?

We’re all working from home at the moment, and we’re trying to find ways to keep some of the sense of creativity and connection and community while we’re all stuck indoors. We’re also starting to let ourselves dream a bit about what it’s gonna be like when we’re allowed back out and we’re (eventually!) able to put on incredible, live, in-person events again.

We really want to hear from YOU about what’s important to you when it comes to post-lockdown events – so please do get in touch!

Instagram: @strikealightfestival
Twitter: @strike_a_light
Facebook: Strike A Light

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Fantastic free shows to enjoy from home

Hello lovely Strike A Light friends – hope you’re all OK. We miss seeing you! 😭

But while lockdown is in effect, we still want to find ways to share in amazing experiences with you. So here’s a quick selection of a few fantastic, free shows that you can enjoy from home this week:

In Loco Parentis
Date: Thurs 9 April (tomorrow!)
Location: streaming online – Pavillion Dance South West
Tickets: free! (Or optional donation)
Age recommendation: 14+

“Agonisingly visceral, and often beyond words… this is also a piece about love as an enduring source of hope” The Psychologist

We’ve partnered with our friends at Pavillion Dance South West (PDSW) to try out sharing dance performances online. This one is a serious, hard-hitting piece: a powerfully brutal and honest examination of the care system. In Loco Parentis explores what it’s like to grow up in care. What happens to young people when their parents can’t look after them?

You can join the live screening from 7.30pm tomorrow. More details on the PDSW site: https://www.pdsw.org.uk/whats-on/in-loco-parentis/


Jane Eyre
Date: 9-16 April
Location: streaming online – National Theatre
Tickets: free!

Every Thursday, the National Theatre are making full shows available to watch online for free, for a limited time. This coming week is Jane Eyre – a co-production with Bristol Old Vic, which we loved when we saw it in Bristol (back when things like that were allowed!)

More details on the National Theatre site:
https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/nt-at-home


Tweedy’s Lost and Found
Date: Wednesdays at noon (now!)
Location: streaming online – The Barn, Cirencester
Tickets: free!

Our friends at The Barn, Cirencester, have arranged a weekly show, live online, with Tweedy the Clown. Every week, he’ll be entertaining children with his new Tweedy’s Lost & Found series as part of the Behind The Barn Door online broadcast.

More details on The Barn’s site:
https://barntheatre.org.uk/tweedy-the-clown

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News

Culture in a time of crisis – and events in a time of isolation

Since it first became apparent that the UK was not going to escape the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve felt the need to say…something about it, and about the relationship between culture and crisis.

I guess we’re all – everybody – trying to orientate ourselves right now and saying stuff out loud can be part of how we do that.

(It’s really hard to know what to say at the moment, don’t you find?)

So, a couple of us started putting some thoughts down. This was a week or two back – before the full lockdown, before Parliament’s new emergency legislation, before Arts Council’s funding announcements or any of the more drastic escalations of the past few days.

Maybe let’s call this an exercise in thinking out loud – which we’re sharing with you now after quite a long delay because, like lots of people, we’ve spent most of the past week trying to put various emergency measures and responses in place.

Here goes, though:


A photograph of Sarah Blowers

Sarah (Co-Artistic Director)

Even before all this happened and threw everything up in the air, I had been thinking again about culture and its position in our society.

In reading Etty Hillesum’s extraordinary writing, An Interrupted Life (totally recommended reading), I contemplated the role of culture in ways I hadn’t before.

I started to reconsider how culture – especially in times of absolute crisis – has an ability to lift you from your present and take you to a place that almost nothing else can.

We are in a crisis and we are all losing many freedoms that we usually take for granted.

In that context, watching recent social media footage of people in Italy singing from their balconies, music soaring into the air, giving solace and importantly a feeling of “we are in this together” has really chimed with me.

When locked away, when held in, when on literal lockdown, the role of culture and beauty can transcend social divisions and offers a place of togetherness for us all.

We have held emergency meetings over the past week at Strike A Light (via video call!), as will many thousands of organisations, and asked ourselves questions like:

  • What do we do? 
  • What can we do?
  • What is our role?
  • What is happening?!

I am so heartened by groups of people self-organising: supporting communities, delivering food.

So how does this work in the arts?

I’d love to hear people’s responses and how we might work together. We know that culture and beauty in these difficult times become more necessary not less.

  • How can we ensure that people who are lonely, isolated and scared are still able to turn to culture and be uplifted?
  • Should we be working out how to share experiences by post, phone or podcast?
  • Should we invest in live streaming?
  • Should we commission a travelling show that can play to outdoor spaces that people can watch from a distance?
  • How can we immediately support artists? I know many have, overnight, lost their livelihoods…

I don’t have the answers but I know that as things become tighter and more constricted that we will be turning towards and yearning for some cultural transportation – and I’d like to think that as artists and organisations we are able to respond to that.


A photograph of Ben Whitnall

Ben (Marketing)

As an organisation all about making cultural change in a geographical area, putting on live events, bringing people together in physical spaces to share in amazing experiences, it would be easy to think that this new world of social isolation/distancing just entirely pulls the rug out from under us.

How can we do anything to create a shared cultural experience when people aren’t even allowed to be in the same room?

We’re determined to come up with creative ways to keep doing what we do and bringing you, our audience, together (even if our ‘bread and butter’ of in-person events is off the table).

Why is this about to get more important?

This isolation is going to feel…weird. And, sure, people are happy to joke about binge-watching their way through the entire back-catalogue of Netflix but just try it for more than a few days in a row and see how quickly you start feeling the lack of genuine human interaction. Humankind does not live on boxsets alone. 

When you’re in the wild west – at the frontier, finding your way through the uncertain nights in a hostile landscape, navigating a world where the rules aren’t yet set – you sit around the campfire and tell stories to each other. 

Every time any community has started out on a new rhythm and structure of life, you’ll find the same thing happening: people make stories to tell each other. Because we need that to navigate, explain and pass on the situation in which we find ourselves. And it’s only heightened when that new time is a time of crisis. 

We’re in a wild west all of our own now. We need to tell stories to each other, even if we can’t sit around a campfire.

Maybe it’s possible to identify and bottle some of those other ingredients that make arts and cultural events so vital and find other ways to share it with people, even when we can’t all be in the same room together. We’re going to try.

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News

Coronavirus Update

(Updated 17 March- 11am)

Following yesterday’s announcement from the government we have made the difficult decision to cancel all our shows and workshops this week. We will be contacting all audience members, participants and artists as soon as we can.

  • You can choose to swap your ticket to a future Strike A Light event- we can credit your customer account and you can then book using this credit in future.
  • You can choose to donate your ticket to Strike A Light we will contribute your donation to our ticket campaign so that in future a child in Gloucester can see a show for free.
  • If you do not want to do any of the options above then we can offer a refund for your ticket.

    To arrange this please contact info@strikealightfestival.org.uk with the name your tickets were booked under, the event name, the number of tickets and what you’d like to do.

Behind the scenes we’re working together with artists, companies & tutors and keeping up to date on the latest guidance. We’ll post updates on our social media.

Thank you for your support in these unprecedented times.

We believe that with the combined creativity of the Strike A Light family we can find some ingenious ways to keep you entertained over the following months.

Keep in touch & stay safe!

Lots of love from the Strike A Light team 🔥

Audio Coronavirus update: 17 March

(Updated 16 March- 3pm)

To our brilliant Strike A Light audiences,

We’re looking forward to seeing you at our events this week and wanted to check in and let you know that we’re still going ahead as planned. We’re keeping a very close eye on government updates regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) and will share updates about future events via our social media channels and direct to ticket bookers via email.

We understand that everyone’s experiences and responses to something like this are different and so if you don’t feel you want to attend or are self isolating then we can offer the following options:

  • You can choose to swap your ticket to a future Strike A Light event- we can credit your customer account and you can then book using this credit in future
  • You can choose to donate your ticket to Strike A Light we will contribute your donation to our ticket campaign so that in future a child in Gloucester can see a show for free.
  • If you are ill or self-isolating and do not want to do any of the options above then we can offer a refund for your ticket.To arrange this please contact info@strikealightfestival.org.uk with the name your tickets were booked under, the event name, the number of tickets and what you’d like to do.

We have been working to ensure that extra hygiene measures are in place for our events. In uncertain and anxious times, theatre can provide a much-needed boost and escape. We would like to thank our audiences for supporting us in this unpredictable time and for taking personal responsibility for their health and heeding hygiene advice.

We want to share again this useful government advice:

  • If you develop a fever or a new persistent cough you should stay home and self-isolate for seven days and visit 111.nhs.uk for further advice.
  • If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

We look forward to welcoming you to a Strike A Light event soon!

Jess and the Strike A Light team

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News

Youth Arts & Activism

Over the past few months we have been working with an *incredible* group of young climate activists from Gloucester who are part of ‘UKSCN Gloucester’ and organise the Youth Strikes for Climate in the City.

Last month we supported the group to organise a fundraiser ‘Australia is Burning’ at Gloucester Guildhall, to raise funds for the Australian wildfire relief fund. The event was produced by the young people and they programmed some awesome musicians and spoken word artists. Alongside this they performed a ‘scratch’ of the show we have been creating with them about their climate activism. The night was a massive success and they raised over £400!

A couple of weeks ago we took the group to the Youth Arts & Activism Symposium held at Battersea Arts Centre.

(On the way to London we made a detour to see Greta Thunberg make a speech at the Bristol Youth Strike for Climate which was an amazing way to start the weekend).

The Symposium was a two day event which brought together young activists from across the entire country. There were some brilliant workshops from experienced arts activists including Viv Gordon & Richard DeDomenici. Plus workshops and a performance by the phenomenally inspiring coletivA ocupação.

A couple of members of UKSCN Gloucester talk about the Youth Arts & Activism Symposium & ‘When it Breaks it Burns’ at Battersea Arts Centre.

“I will remember this weekend forever.

People from different countries, different races, different sexualities, different religions, people with disabilities, transgender people… you could be yourself and no one would judge- you don’t get that in everyday life. 

I laughed, I cried, I danced till my body hurt, and I bonded with people I’ve never met before.”

-Member of UKSCN Gloucester

“At the symposium, there were so many people who were like me. I got to talk to so many people that I could relate to.”

-Member of UKSCN Gloucester

We’re so proud to be working with these amazing young people and are so inspired by their passion, dedication and resilience. If you’d like to support what they are doing why not join them on their next strike in Gloucester on Friday 3 April.

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Co-creating change in Gloucester

A photograph of Philipa Smith

Hi everyone, my name is Philippa and I am an Associate Producer for Strike A Light. 

I am currently working on a project called ‘co-creating change‘ which is an initiative to encourage everyone to work together to create something special for their communities. 

Gloucester has a thriving African and Caribbean community and as a member, I feel that there is a lot of talent that can be shared in and around Gloucester and beyond. 

Lately, I have been working with a number of people to create a team of ‘community promoters.’ So, what is a community promoter? Well, they are locals who are passionate about Gloucester and its arts scene and they would like to see more people, access, create, participate in, produce and be a part of a thriving arts scene in Gloucester. The group of community promoters I’ve been working with promote events within the African and Caribbean community. 

The group have a couple of shows planned for the next few months. The first is a family variety show, which will take place in May. This night promises to be a treat! It will include local acts as well as one or two guests from outside of town. If you would like to be involved, let the team know – the more, the merrier!

Secondly, the group is planning a performance at this year’s Rooftop Festival. Once again, the idea is to showcase local talent, and bring a variety of different artists and genres together: music, singers, dance, fashion and more. 

Keep an eye out for more performances during the year – and why not get involved yourself as well? We’re always happy to hear from people who’d be interested in helping us co-create some change!

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Why a programme to empower female arts leaders is so important

Last week I made a list of people to set up meetings with for a project. Because those meetings were with leaders of organisations, *there were more people called Richard on that list than there were women*


It’s time for a new way of working.


In the last few months two things happened.

  1. The Point in Eastleigh were successful in securing funding from Arts Council England for a Transforming Leadership project which will support 16 female arts leaders from diverse backgrounds and we at Strike A Light (SAL) will be supporting two of these women.
  2. I read Mary Portas’ book Work Like A Woman.

Both of these things set my brain whirring and as I lay in bed (ironically enough, at a hen do) I sent myself about 15 emails as I thought of so many things I wanted to do or change or articulate.

The Transforming Leadership project is not only the opportunity to address gender inequalities in leadership on a purely statistical level, it’s an opportunity to question how and why we work the way we do.

Most of my brain-whirring was about what the wise Mary calls “broader ambition”. There’s a myth about women being ‘less ambitious’ as a reason for them not applying for leadership roles. There are many systemic barriers that exist which could account for this imbalance – but, equally, women are not less ambitious if they are rejecting the existing baggage that comes with our current view of what leadership is: isolation, stress, long hours, a dictatorial approach.

If women want things for their personal life or family life too, they are just ambitious in a wider way, for their whole lives, which includes the workplace but isn’t defined by it.


In a previous job, I worked for an arts organisation where putting in long hours was a sign of commitment to your job. The word slacker was used a lot as a ‘joke’ if people left on time or worked part time. As someone without children I’d never considered why that might be a problem and how damaging my perceptions were. 

Since I first joined Strike A Light it has been led by two inspiring women – women who have challenged a lot of the things I held dear about workplace culture and my own value within it. I think that SAL has a working culture which is influenced by this approach and it’s one which I am excited to examine, try and articulate more clearly and share regionally and nationally through the Transforming Leadership project and to the new leaders we will be working with. 

Because that’s the thing about diversity in the workplace. It’s not about quotas or tick-boxes. It’s about the fact that things are genuinely better if more, different voices are heard at leadership level. Better creatively and better in terms of workplace equality. If something doesn’t affect you (childcare costs, the physical accessibility of a building, only seeing white faces in marketing materials) then you’re less likely to think about it or do anything to make it better. More varied experiences in staff teams means more people making things better and fairer for everyone. 

At SAL, our flexible working policy opens with: “we accept that the 9-5 structure was invented for a society when the men went to work and the women stayed at home. That society no longer exists.” 9-5 does not work for most people for a huge range of reasons and in our industry and with the magic of the internet is there’s no reason to demand it. 

When we consider other people’s needs, it makes the work environment better for everyone. Childcare might be a driving factor in moves towards flexible working but, for example, in the SAL office that flexibility also means that one staff member can do regular exercise classes which help her manage her migraines and another can cut their commute in half by avoiding rush hour. (Fun fact, while I type this it’s 7pm and I’m over 100 miles from our office, having spent the day playing with my nephew.)


But theoretically these ideas could be implemented by anyone. So: a scheme to support women leaders. Is it needed? After all, us women have got the vote, what more could we possibly want?! And when’s International Men’s Day, eh??! (It’s ‘19 November’ or ‘every day’, depending on why you’re asking the question).

Theoretically yes, legally, women should be treated equally so why the need for positive discrimination? Why not just ‘the best person for the job’?

Because of humans’ unconscious bias towards people who are similar to us, we usually think the ‘best person for the job’ is the one who is most like us. The status quo bias means that difference is seen as risky. If there’s only one woman or one person of colour shortlisted for a role, their chance of being hired is statistically zero.

Also, when shortlisting, the best person for the job on paper will be the person who has already been given the most opportunities and so has the most experience. So the same narrow pool is hired over and over and nothing changes.

Women are under-represented in leadership in almost every industry, even those where the workforce is female dominated. They’re underrepresented in board rooms and in leadership roles in large Arts Council National Portfolio Organisations. When married women retire, on average they will be five times worse off financially than their husbands because the current work structures are stacked against women progressing in their careers, earning more or managing childcare without detriment to their income.

Last week I made a list of people to set up meetings with for a project, and because those meetings were with leaders of organisations there were more people called Richard on that list than there were women.

Diversity brings in new ideas, new voices, different ways of looking at old problems. In the UK we work the longest hours in Europe and are experiencing a mental health crisis. The current structures aren’t ideal for anyone. It’s time for a new way of working.


At SAL we are trying to do things differently. This includes collaborative working. Everyone’s workload has peaks and troughs – if someone is drowning under too much work that week we will sit down and go through their list and either get rid of what’s not important or dish out tasks between the rest of the team. That’s better for the organisation in terms of getting things done well but also for that individual. This is something which the standard view of leadership, the competitive model of individual success and ambition, does not allow for.

I am inspired by the way we work and I never want to go back to working for a large organisation that creaks under its own weight and struggles to turn. I have also banned myself from using the word bossy. We use it to refer to girls, and only girls, who are being in charge, taking up space or talking loudly and giving instructions. We are saying that they are displaying the behaviour of a boss, a leader, and this is addressed as a criticism. 

I am proud of being a leader and I want to work for an organisation and on projects that encourage other women to do the same.


To find out more about the South West Women Leaders project as part of Transforming Leadership, check out the application information in our current Opportunities.