Freelance theatre workers from across the industry have joined forces to put renewed pressure on the government to protect the sector’s self-employed workers.
Freelancers Make Theatre Work is a collective of people working freelance in theatre, with the aim of encouraging more “transparent and inclusive conversations” within the industry by “listening to and articulating theatre freelancers’ needs to theatre managements, production companies and government”.
It aims to campaign to raise the profile of freelancers and the role they play within the sector, and includes people working in design, stage management, casting, directing and acting. The collective was created through the London Theatre Consortium, where each venue invited their freelance workers to attend a Zoom meeting, following which conversations developed and a steering group was formed.
Those involved include director Ola Ince, lighting designer Paule Constable and designer Tom Piper, alongside others.
One of the body’s first actions has been to send an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak and culture secretary Oliver Dowden. It has been signed by designers Vicki Mortimer and Piper, as well as lighting designers Neil Austin and Constable, alongside directors Ince and Tinuke Craig.
The letter states that conversations to date have focused on saving theatre buildings, but that the workforce needs urgent attention too. It highlights how 70% of the workforce are self-employed freelancers and says: “Saving the buildings should only be part of the conversation.”
“Without us, the freelancers, there would be no theatre to watch,” the letter continues, and urges the government to extend support for freelancers until they can return to work.
It also calls for a new strand of support to help people who have “fallen between the cracks” of existing support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and the furlough scheme.
In addition, it demands that freelancers have a seat “in all governmental discussions about the arts”.
The collective’s other aims include providing a platform for the community to share opinions and concerns, which would then be fed back to theatre managers, production companies and government.
A social media campaign has begun, showing freelance workers holding signs that show their job titles alongside the hashtag Freelancers Make Theatre Work.
Those taking part include designer Morgan Large and casting director Christopher Worrall.