Freelancers Make Theatre Work

As most of those working in the theatre industry will know, freelancers are its lifeblood, with 70% of the entire workforce being self-employed. Therefore, when the government advised that all theatres/live performance venues should close on March 17th, the impact of this was felt immediately. Whether it’s designers, electricians, stage managers or choreographers, many saw their current work stop overnight as well as their future employment either cancelled or postponed. With so much uncertainty in place as to when the industry might be able to return, along with no clear government support to protect the sector’s self-employed workers, a new organisation called Freelancers Make Theatre Work has been formed to help raise awareness and provide a voice to this hugely important community.

Formed by several close friends and colleagues of WL, Freelancers Make Theatre Work is a collective of people working freelance in theatre, with the aim of encoring more “transparent and inclusive conversations” within the industry by “listening to and articulating theatre freelancers’ needs to theatre managements, production companies and government”. It will offer a central resource of information for the freelance theatre workforce that welcomes contributions from organisations and individuals to share the conversations going on behind closed doors. It also offers several clear action points as to how individuals can get involved and rally government support. 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.


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 Tom Piper, as well as lighting designers Neil Austin and Paule Constable, alongside directors Ola 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: “Saving the buildings should only be part of the conversation. Without us, the freelancers, there would be no theatre to watch”. It urges the government to extend support for freelancers until they can return to work and 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.


Another action is the recently launched BIG FREELANCER SURVEY. Anyone who is a freelancer is being encouraged to complete this, which only takes five minutes, and will help the collective build a picture as to who they are representing and how the pandemic has impacted their livelihoods. You can complete it here.



Similarly, an incredibly popular social media campaign has been launched which shows freelance workers holding signs that show their job titles alongside the hashtag #FreelancersMakeTheatreWork. For other incentives, please visit the Freelancers Make Theatre Work website which offers clear guidelines on the various initiatives.


WL’s Managing Director Bryan Raven comments: “Freelancers Make Theatre Work is an incredibly important organisation and one which we are proud to shout about as a company. Freelancers are what make the theatre industry and the fact that so many feel they are not been given a voice/the appropriate support in this incredibly worrying time urgently needs addressing. We would encourage every freelancer we know to take part in the various action points and make sure that your concerns are heard and that we rally towards hopefully getting you the support you both need and deserve”.

















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