Theatre workers with caring responsibilities have highlighted how working practices brought about by the pandemic could herald a new dawn of job flexibility in the future.
Figures including Old Vic executive director Kate Varah have outlined how they have been coping with work duties and childcare during lockdown, and have pointed towards new ways of operating once restrictions are lifted.
Campaign group Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PIPA) said these would lead to a more “resilient sector inclusive of carers and parents”.
Varah, who has three children, said she and her husband had continued working full-time, while looking after their family.
She said: “For us at the Old Vic, it’s not so much about an increased opportunity for flexibility and home working - all of our staff with caring responsibilities have those opportunities anyway. But what could be interesting is how this affects our practice more generally.”
She added: “The heartening outcome of this period has been seeing how resourcefully everyone has responded to working from home. Could it be that by holding regular Zoom meetings for the whole workforce, regardless of specific caring responsibilities, we will remove any sense of those online sessions being set up to accommodate difference – but instead become the norm?”
Performance artist Jonny Cotsen said “the influx of doing work online could be the new norm offering some flexibility for parents”.
“For example, I spend quite a lot of time travelling to meetings/training across Wales and perhaps, given the right access, I could do this remotely from my home,” he added.
Meanwhile, composer and performer Emma-Lee Moss, known as Emmy the Great, said “the industry has the potential to draw positives from this situation”.
“We could hold on to the practice of online gigs beyond lockdown. It has potential to provide a path for new artists who have yet to open doors to big festivals, for example, and would like to organise their own in a manageable way,” she added.
PIPA, which collated the comments, said parents and carers were “facing the double hit of devastating financial instability and career uncertainty as well as homeschooling and managing caring responsibilities”.
“The resilience shown by our industry, both to support its workforce and ensure survival, has been exceptional and is testimony to its capacity to innovate. Entire offices have been moved to kitchen tables, critical strategy meetings and rehearsals are taking place over Zoom, premieres of world-class productions are launched online and all while [looking after] children and catering for ill or elderly relatives,” co-founder Cassie Raine said.
She added: “Overnight the whole sector has had to adapt to new ways of working, find flexibility and confront work-life balance like never before. When the time comes to rebuild our creative landscape, this period will have given us all a taste of alternative ways of working that we can learn from as a sector in order to evolve and grow and create a more resilient sector inclusive of carers and parents.”