The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the workforce of freelance artists, technicians, and craftspeople on whose health and resilience the recovery of the performing arts sector depends.
However, the scale of the crisis for freelancers is rooted in a wider story of inequity which predates the pandemic.
The relationship between producers, venues, organisations, and the workforce is one of mutual dependence. But over the past 50 years, permanent employment for artists has largely disappeared. 94% of the work created for the nation’s stages is entirely reliant on the freelance workforce.
COVID-19 has exposed critical vulnerabilities in this existing business model. For freelancers, these include forced dependency on the sector’s existing infrastructure and organisations, unstable margins of income, significant overheads, and a lack of basic employment protections.
Of significant concern is that the ‘reputational’ aspect of the freelance business model has a coercive effect in the workplace, discouraging individuals to push back against poor pay and conditions, abuses of power, and unsafe working practices. This response was most common in women, and particularly women of colour.
You can read the full report here.
Freelancers Make Theatre Work is an inclusive, independent community for the 200,000+ self-employed and freelance workers from all areas of theatre, opera, dance and live performance, who make up 70% of the UK theatre workforce.