Interim Report #1: The Future from Here

We are delighted today to be publishing our first report, The Future from Here: Theatre Freelancers and Planning for the Future During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The report details the emerging findings from our survey of theatre freelancers which ran from November 2020 until March 2021, and we would like to say a huge “thank you” to those who took part. We heard from 397 theatre freelancers, across all career stages and a variety of specialisms. We are only at the beginning of our analysis, and will continue to publish our emerging findings as we dig deeper into this data set, as well as integrate it with the data we are gathering through interviews and focus groups.

Our research project is focussed on the medium and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the field of theatre freelancers, and by extension the UK theatre sector as a whole. Our survey echoed this interest, asking theatre freelancers to tell us about their plans for the future and how they have evolved since March 2020. This generated a wealth of fascinating reflections in free-text answers which made clear that theatre freelancers’ future planning was being influenced by lived experiences in their entangled professional and personal lives. Beyond the economic (dis)incentives facing theatre freelancers, we became interested in other experiences—political, cultural and emotional—that appeared to be impacting how theatre freelancers are planning for their future careers. For this reason, we placed theatre freelancer’s hopes and fears for the future at the centre of our analysis, and we will take up these themes in future publications. We also offer early recommendations for policy and practice with a view to limit the flow of freelancers leaving the industry, taking their vital skills, perspectives and creativity with them.

Our report speaks to the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre’s (PEC) fortnight of research and policy on creative freelancers, “One Size Can’t Fit All.” PEC’s series is highlighting the unique struggles faced by freelancers across the creative industries, whose existing precarity has often been compounded by the gaps in government and industry support packages. As Julieta Cuneo writes in the opening blog:

“It is vitally important that the government provides targeted support for freelancers. Not only for when venues in the UK do finally reopen over the next few months—as per the Prime Minister’s recently introduced roadmap out of lockdown—but for the long-term health of the creative sector.”

Head over to their website for our blog which summarises key findings and recommendations of our report. Also be sure to check out the other contributions, including a PEC commissioned report Building Back Better? Creative Freelancers and Learning from the Covid-19 Experience, which together offer an excellent resource for understanding how the pandemic has reverberated across different fields of cultural freelancers.

The next steps in our analysis will include integrating the data from across our different methods. This will allow us to get close to the lived experiences and emotional realities of theatre freelancers, while positioning them in their wider professional field. We are also prioritising analysing inequalities and their intersections in order to illuminate further the differential impacts that the pandemic is having across sections of the freelance workforce. Follow us on social media or sign up to our monthly mailing list to hear about our future publications. You can find the report in two formats (PDF and online) here.

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