An open letter has been sent by the signatories to their networks of freelancers. The letter recognises the extremely perilous position that these freelancers are in and is part of a campaign to bring their plight to the attention of the government as it enters discussions with the arts sector on how best it can recover.
“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, The Almeida Theatre, ArtsAdmin, The Actors Touring Company, Battersea Arts Centre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Boundless Theatre, Brighton Festival, Bristol Old Vic, Brixton House, The Bush Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, China Plate, Contact, Dance Umbrella, Derby Theatre, Eden Court Highlands, English Touring Theatre, Fio, Fuel, Gate Theatre, Graeae, HOME, Improbable, Kiln Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Leicester Curve, The National Theatre, National Theatre of Scotland, National Theatre Wales, National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, The New Wolsey Theatre, Northern Stage, Nottingham Playhouse, One Dance UK, Paines Plough, Rose Theatre Kingston, Royal & Derngate, The Royal Court Theatre, The Royal, Shakespeare Company, Sadler’s Wells, Sheffield Theatres, Spare Tyre, Talawa, Tangled Feet, The Yard, Theatre Peckham, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Tiata Fahodzi, Yellow Earth, 1927.”
The letter is to everyone who works in the theatre and performance industry in the UK who is self-employed or freelance. The self-employed are in an urgent and acute situation right now, and the situation will only get worse unless they are provided with much needed financial security and representation in conversations about the survival and future of our theatre and performance industry.
The idea is that each freelancer will be able to use their time to co-ordinate wider conversations with freelancers in their area and/or specialism, join regular meetings with the rest of the task force, work on ideas with and for the task force, and to attend other meetings and events on behalf of the task force.
Each organisation has committed to paying one self-employed theatre/performance maker for one day per week for 3 months – June, July and August. The idea is that this freelancer will be able to use that time to co-ordinate wider conversations with freelancers in their area and/or specialism, to join regular meetings with the rest of the task force, to work on ideas with and for the task force, and to attend other meetings and events on behalf of the task force. Engagement, contracting and payment of each member of the task force will be undertaken by the organisation supporting them. They will be paid a day rate in line with that organisation’s standard policy for a freelancer, in accordance with union guidelines. Selection processes will differ from one organisation to another, and we will work together to strive for representation, in all its forms, across the group.