On Monday 10th May March for the Arts (MFTA) will hold a live launch for their Working Guidance for Arts Freelancers and Organisations, the product of a 16 week Arts Council England funded project to make working life better for freelancers in the Liverpool City Region.
As a group of theatre freelancers, the team have been laying the foundations for the project since they found all their work suddenly cancelled at the start of 2020.
The experiences and thoughts of freelancers and organisations have been flooding in over the past eight weeks and, together with a committee of 15 freelancers and organisations from various sectors of the arts, MFTA have been coming up with guidance that will help the sector work better together as it reopens and moves forward.
A couple of striking comments that have come from the MFTA freelance community outreach discussions have been:
“There is a real fear about not getting re-employed if you ask questions or raise issues”, Anon. freelancer
“You can feel like you’re having things done to you, rather than with you”, Anon. organisation representative
“As freelancers, we have to negotiate in whispers”, Anon. arts community member
The MFTA committee has been bravely picking apart the difficult stories and experiences of colleagues to make sure the future is better.
Now they need to hear from the wider public about what they’ve produced. Will the Working Guidance work in practice? Have they missed anything? Does the document work for your industry?
The public can join the live launch Monday 10th May at 6pm at https://www.marchforthearts.com/watch-our-consultation-launch
where MFTA will explain what it’s all about.
If members of the public need a different way to access or comment on the document MFTA will be very happy to accommodate and they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Arts Freelancers website (ArtsFreelancers.com), where freelancers can upload their profiles so organisations can see them and hire them for work, will also be launched in a few weeks by MFTA so that organisations can follow through on the promises of the best practice document.
MFTA are ahead of the curve with this project, which bears some similarity to Fuel Theatre’s recently announced project Shaping London’s Recovery. MFTA have been working closely with Grace Goulding, who is a facilitator for the committee and who represented the Everyman and Playhouse at Fuel Theatre’s original freelance task force. Learning and improving upon that process has helped the MFTA project get to where it’s at now. Grace says:
“This working committee and this document serve as a right here, right now voice that must be listened to and used as a reference. Large organisations that can affect change, and the freelancers that navigate it all, must come together and help each other. That's what this committee has had at its core. Making change.”
MFTA’s project is producing results for Liverpool’s recovery now and the document will be ready for use by freelancers and organisations by the time the country reopens in June.
The document may change over the coming months and years but it is a solid starting point for stronger relationships between workers, artists, organisations and the public.
It is an exciting time within the region. As well as working with MFTA to support and engage with our project, Liverpool Theatres; Everyman and Playhouse, Unity and The Royal Court have announced that they will “work together for the first time to promote and sell tickets for each other’s shows...and will also pool resources for talent development and co-create work in a new shared rehearsal facility planned for the city.”
As organisations have come together, so have freelancers, and MFTA are bridging the gap between them.
“There is a consensus in the freelance community that we cannot and will not return to old ways of working, to the disproportionate power held by organisations and the often shocking treatment of freelance staff alongside the pressures of such a competitive industry.
We’ve seen huge support from our partners at The Bluecoat, The Everyman and Playhouse and Culture Liverpool who want to work in better ways.
We will be expecting arts organisations of all kinds to sign up to use this guidance...and we’ll be watching to make sure they follow through on their promises to look after the freelance community, on whom nearly 50% of all cultural work depends.” (Source)
March for the Arts team at Bluecoat, where they are based. Left to right: Becky Webb, Liz Barker, Gemma Dunne, Caitlin Clough. Photo credit: Andrew AB Photography.
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