So having spent a lot of time thinking about the low pay/no pay debate, profit share and collaborative theatre making – and having had a very good meeting with Equity’s low pay/no pay officer yesterday. Here are my thoughts moving forwards. There seems to be several things that are clear:
1) We’re not going to have enough money to all get paid for making theatre for many years to come – so we need a positive model of how to do that fairly so everyone has an equal stake in the process and no one feels exploited.
2) We need an organisation which can look after, advise and support people making work collaboratively.
3) At least for the time being Equity do not want to be that organisation – though they would be supportive of anyone who was.
4) There is a real issue with a lack of management at the bottom end of the industry. A new model for how to manage collaborative theatre companies or potentially share resources is clearly needed.
It is fairly clear that no matter who wins the next election the level of funding for theatre isn’t going to increase to a level where all the people currently making work could get paid. So lets stop beating ourselves up about it and work out considering that is the case – how do we positively move forwards. What kind of structures and organisations will allow us to make work, with very limited funds and not feel exploited?
For this to happen it’s clear we need advice and best practice on how to run theatre collaboratively so everyone feels they have an equal stake. Far too often people feel used and under appreciated – not out of malice – but simply because no one really knows how to run a collaborative company. We need an organisation what would be willing to give advice on this, collate and disseminate best practice and to mediate disputes when they inevitably occur. Equity have ruled themselves out from this role. So it either needs to be a new organisation – or we need to find a current trade body willing to expand their remit.
Finally there is a big problem in management at the bottom end of the industry. No one wants to do it. Which means it’s mostly done by creatives, who simply do the bare minimum possible, before returning to their natural habitat in the rehearsal room. This means there are lots of corners cut and potential revenue from activities like private giving campaigns, sponsorship, commercial activity and trust and fund applications – isn’t raised due to a lack of man power. Good management is very difficult without good managers – so we need to think creatively about how we can bring them into our section of the industry – a chicken and egg problem when we don’t have any money in the first place.
Moving forwards – I guess I’d be interesting in hearing peoples thoughts – I realise I have very much just started a conversation – rather than offered any solutions. If anyone would be interested in being involved – or if any current organisation feels they could fill this gap – please do be in touch via the message board below.
A full report on my recent meeting with Equity’s Lo Pay/ No Pay officer will be going live very shortly.