The theatre and performance sector in the UK is in crisis and with self-employed theatre and performance makers making up 70% of the sector’s workforce, it means theatre and performance freelancers are in an urgent and acute crisis too. Organisations across the UK pledged their support to the freelance theatre and performance community by signing an open letter (below) to theatre and performance makers in the UK, stating a promise to creating a National Freelance Task Force.
Mortal Fools are a proud signatory of that open letter and as of 12th June 2020, Mortal Fools joins 138 arts organisations and venues across the UK in sponsoring a theatre and performance maker freelancer to be a part of the Freelance Task Force.
The aim of the Freelance Task Force is to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It will create ongoing points of connection between freelancers, organisations, funders and government and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come about how we manage the response to and recovery from the Covid-19 crisis in the performing arts sector.
Freelance artists are the lifeblood of Mortal Fools – to put it simply, we wouldn’t exist without them. We see freelance artists as an incredible group of multiskilled, resourceful, creative, passionate, adaptable, and dynamic individuals. Their value, skills, experience, knowledge and ability to cross-pollinate across multiple organisations and projects can’t be overstated enough. To Mortal Fools, they are everything; our freelance team feels like our tribe and one of the reasons why we’ve managed to weather the storm of COVID-19 as an organisation. To our freelancers, we say thank you.
Therefore, actively supporting this Task Force, felt urgent, important to Mortal Fools and we are looking forward to seeing how the Task Force connected and collaborates to re-develop the arts and culture sector for theatre and performance freelances with their collective voices as we emerge from lock down and beyond.
Mortal Fools are delighted to announce our sponsored Freelance Task Force member, Mortal Fools’ Lead Associate Practitioner, Sian Armstrong (pictured below).
“I am so excited to be part of the Freelance Task Force and be sponsored by Mortal Fools; a company that’s constantly supported me throughout all my freelance work. The Freelance Task Force is such a needed platform for freelancers to feel heard and empowered right now. I’m really grateful to be in a position where I can support and advocate the voices of other fellow freelancers across the North East. I will use this opportunity to put freelance voices, especially working-class freelance voices, at the forefront of what is needed now and beyond lockdown. I will support, listen and actively work with others to build a more inclusive, and accessible creative community for freelancers across the UK.”
We look forward to seeing how the Freelance Task Force grows and evolves in the coming weeks. To the freelance community, across the UK (and beyond), Mortal Fools are here for, with you and we see you.
To find out more about the Freelance Task Force, coordinated by Fuel Theatre, you can read HERE or search #FreelanceTaskForce across social media.
Below you can read the open letter to theatre and performance makers
An open letter to theatre and performance makers
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.
This letter has been signed as of 12th June 2020 by 138 arts organisations and venues, including Mortal Fools.
We, the undersigned from the cultural sector of the North East, declare that silence is not ok and silence is seen as complicity. Racism has no place in a just and humane society.
Whilst we cannot undo pain and neglect, we are calling on all of us in the arts, cultural, heritage sectors; professional and voluntary to work together to address racism and its deep roots. We must listen, have conversations and most importantly act, we know we need to do better. Everyone is part of the solution - artists, staff, trustees, partners, promoters, audiences and communities.
We want to tackle this together in sharing better understanding and practices. We stand united to bring about change in our thinking and actions as a collective of organisations and individuals.
In the weeks and months to come we will collectively act to build on this statement with concrete steps and actions to demonstrate our commitment to bringing about real change. We ask you to stand with us.
If you would like to join us in these future conversations please contact any of the points of contacts listed below:
Signee: Ali Pritchard, Artistic/Executive Director
Signees: Jonpaul Kirvan FRSA / Peter Marchal, Directors
The Angelou Centre
Signee: Rosie Lewis, Deputy Director & VAWG Services Manager
Signee: Annalbel Turpin
Stephanie Allen, Executive Director
Assembly Rooms Theatre Durham
Signee: Kate Barton
Signee: Lic Lorent
Blowin' A Hooley Theatre
BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
Signee: Sarah Munro, Director
Contact: Caroline Murphy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Executive Producer, City of Dreams / Associate Literary Producer Alphabetti
Beverley Prevatt Goldstein
Signee: Beverley Prevatt Goldstein
Bonnie & the Bonnettes
Signees: Hattie Eason, Cameron Sharp and Rebecca Glendenning, Co-Founders of Bonnie and The Bonnettes.
Signee: Bethan Kitchen, Artistic Director
This is our commitment to the black community.
It is time that we start making lasting change.
We are sorry it took such violence, such anger and so many people to fully bring this to our attention. It’s simply not good enough.
There are times to be quiet, to listen, to learn and to reflect.
There are times to speak out, to take action and to strive to bring about change.
This is the time for both.
You matter to us.
As a white theatre company, who work with predominantly white beneficiaries, with a white board of trustees, we have some important and potentially uncomfortable questions to ask ourselves:
We commit to taking proper time to answer these questions and to consider what it means for Mortal Fools to be truly anti-racist.
We commit to using the influence we have to work with others to bring about meaningful and lasting change.
And we commit to sharing all of that publicly and transparently.
We know we will need to work together with, and take a lead from, our current and future partner organisations who are already doing the work and, with that in mind, we’d like to recommend this post from Contact in Manchester, about the practical actions they’re encouraging staff, board, advocates, friends and audiences to take: https://contactmcr.com/news/georgefloyd/.
We would also like to draw your attention to a resource that has been created by Cambridge University Alumna Nandini:
This is a checklist of actions you can do to support Black Lives Matter in the UK and will be updated regularly. It includes:
- links to petitions and open letters you can sign
- templates for emails you can send
- fundraisers you can donate to and groups/orgs to support