Information for Participants

If you have any questions about your participation, please get in touch.

If you consider yourself to be a theatre freelancer, you are invited to participate in this research project. Please find here information about your participation, how your data will be used, and how to contact the project team.

We use the word ‘freelance’ to refer to anyone working in a non-salaried role in theatre or someone who combines some forms of payrolled contracts with self-employed work.

What is the purpose of the study?

This research project investigates the social, cultural, and economic consequences to freelancers across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The purpose is to investigate the experiences of freelancers like yourself, and to report back and evaluate the data collected from throughout the UK. Our aim is to not only document the collective strategies of freelancers during and in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, but also help the sector develop a plan to address the challenges facing freelancers in 2021 and beyond, facilitate communication with support networks across the UK, and increase resilience in the sector.

Our findings will be used to inform and advise major sector bodies (funding councils, unions, educational organisations, policy makers) as the sector looks to rebuild, as well as foster further support networks and guidance to freelancers both regionally and nationally.

Why have I been invited to participate?

Our aim is to gather as much data and reflection from freelancers working in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. We are looking to connect with those self identifying as theatre freelance workers from all roles (and some working across roles), including producers, designers, directors, actors, playwrights, technicians and theatre makers. Our survey is reaching across the United Kingdom reaching as many freelancers as possible, and we also hope to have 300 focus group participants and 50 one on one interviews.

Do I have to take part?

Your participation in this research is entirely voluntary. It is up to you to decide whether or not you wish to take part in this research study. If you do decide to take part you will be asked to provide written consent. You are free to withdraw at any time, without giving a reason. 

You may withdraw by emailing the project PI, Dr Holly Maples, her email address is Once you opt out of the study all your information will be deleted from our data base, including all contact information and confidential data you have included in our study (except anonymised survey entries). If you decide to opt out of the study beyond the creation of our final report, in December 2021, it will be impossible for us to withdraw your data, however all information will only be used anonymously without full consent of participants.

What are the possible benefits of taking part?

There are many potential benefits to participants in this study. We are bringing together experiences and reflections of freelance theatre arts workers from throughout the UK, including England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. There is potential to build further support networking between freelancers. The project will also allow freelancers to voice their experiences and concerns back to the Arts Councils, arts networks, and the government, to build better lines of communication. Such feedback will foster the potential for change to funding streams and larger institutional support addressing the impact of COVID-19 on freelancer’s careers and livelihoods. We will also invite participants to end of project industry led research events across the country to further dialogue and networking.

What information will be collected?

Our study investigates the social, economic, and cultural impact of COVID-19 on the work and livelihoods of freelancers. Through our large scale survey, our interviews and focus groups we will be examining the effects of the pandemic on theatre arts workers and asking whether they vary, based on factors like age, background, ethnic group and location. Our data collection investigates how individual theatre-makers are supporting each other through the pandemic. It explores the various networks that existed before the crisis helping freelancers, and how are these networks transforming during this time. We will also investigate the effects to theatre arts workers creative practice, as well as livelihoods.

We are gathering creative responses to the pandemic to allow arts workers to voice their experience in a variety of ways suitable to their medium. We will make a short film of these creative responses solely with participants’ consent. This will be used to raise further awareness of the issues and highlight the importance of freelance arts workers for the larger community, government and arts funding bodies.

Will my information be kept confidential?

All research data will be kept securely at all times. PCs, laptops and other devices used for the study will be password protected and the study’s data files will be encrypted.  When working remotely due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the data will be held securely in a Box folder and transferred daily to a University of Essex secured shared drive to avoid data breach risks, technical malfunction, or theft. 

All participants will be informed about who will have access to their research data, both during a project and after it has been completed. The research team are the sole members accessing the research, and transcriptions of interviews and focus group discussions will be done by Dr Maples and the project post-doctoral research assistants.  

All data gathered from project participants will be held at the University of Essex in their secure server for 10 years after the study. We will destroy the data at the end of the period (any paper documentation will be shredded and all digital recordings of data set transcriptions of interviews and focus group discussions will be erased). However, the University’s Research Data Management Policy requires that research data is made available for access and re-use where legally, ethically and commercially appropriate, taking note of any relevant safeguards. 

It is a requirement through our funding body, the Economic and Social Research Council, that we will share anonymized data on the UK Data Service Platform. We will submit and include data-sharing of our survey and interview data sets. We will share the anonymised creative responses through platforms available that allow for sharing raw functional imaging data ( Accordingly, the raw dataset gathered in this research project will be made publicly available either through such a data-sharing platform, or alternatively by publication in a journal that allows for publication of supplementary data materials. In line with general principles of sharing data after publication and on request, we will make the data sets available to other researchers, and industry partners, after publication, to allow for alternative analysis and replication of the findings.

Personal and sensitive data in our research project will not be made publicly available.

What is the legal basis for using the data and who is the Data Controller?

The legal basis for processing your data is by consent, and you are not obligated to give this consent and can opt out of the study at any time as required by GDPR guidelines. None of your contact information will be shared with anyone and only used for communication with you about the study and for anonymised data gathering.

All datasets will be collected, handled and stored according to the highest standards of qualitative research practice. This will include standardization of quantitative and qualitative procedures including data collection, storage and data protection. We will ensure that data is processed confidentially and in a standardized way. All data will be stored anonymously at University of Essex. The university has appropriate back-up procedures in place, which will ensure long-term availability of the data sets. We will work in close collaboration with University of Essex administration to guarantee that all ethical and data protection requirements are fulfilled in this process.

The Data Controller is the University of Essex, and you can contact Sara Stock, University Information Assurance Manager ( in regards to Data Control.

What should I do if I want to take part?

If you are interested in participating in our research, either through our survey or to be included as a focus group or interview participant, or would like more information on the project before agreeing to participate, please contact the research project email;

What will happen to the results of the research study?

Our industry events and report will publish the research findings to regional and national organisations responsible for funding, championing, and protecting the sector and providing support for Independent Arts Workers (IAWs). Our website and workshops will function not only as means of data collection but also as a platform for recommendations, best practice, and support opportunities for IAWs. Our academic articles will further disseminate research findings focusing not only on the wide- ranging impact of COVID-19 on IAWs, but also on strategies for innovation and adaptation across the industry, and changes to working practices as theatres and arts venues re-open. Our published record of research participants’ creative responses reflects upon—and speaks to—the deep rooted and transformative experience of the pandemic on IAWs. We will not only document the collective strategies of IAWs during the pandemic, but will raise wider sector awareness of the challenges facing freelancers in the aftermath of COVID-19 and beyond, and facilitate communication, support, and networks across the UK to increase the resilience of the sector.

The information provided by you in our research study will be used for research purposes only. It will not be used in a manner which would allow identification of your individual responses. Your participation is voluntary and you can opt out of the study at any point. All data will be held securely and confidentially and be used in anonymous data gathering material unless particularly requested otherwise by the participant.

Who is funding the research?

This research is being funded through the Economic and Social Research Council.

Who has reviewed the study?

Permission for informed consent of research participants will be documented before using any data, and all data will be processed in line with University ethics guidelines and IRB Approval the Humanities, Ethics Sub-Committee at the University of Essex or the University of Essex Ethics Committee.

Concerns and Complaints

If you have any concerns about any aspect of the study or you have a complaint, in the first instance please contact the principal investigator of the project, Holly Maples at If are still concerned, you think your complaint has not been addressed to your satisfaction or you feel that you cannot approach the principal investigator, please contact the departmental Director of Research in the department responsible for this project, Rosie Klich (e-mail  If you are still not satisfied, please contact the University’s Research Governance and Planning Manager , Sarah Manning-Press (e-mail 

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