Freelance Task Force

Written by Sarah
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10th June 2020

China Plate are delighted to sponsor Rafia Hussain to become a member of the national Freelance Task Force.

“I am thrilled to be sponsored by China Plate, an organisation who work closely with and value freelancers. I look forward to engaging fully with the Freelance Task Force and amplifying the voices of my community of theatre workers to the wider industry.”

Grey background with the letters 'FTF' in orange, purple and pink.

Rafia is an independent theatre producer based in the Midlands working with a range of artists including B Team theatre company and Demi Nandhra. Rafia is a former Associate Producer at Derby Theatre, as well as an alumni of both China Plate’s Optimists and Stage One’s New Producers’ programme. Her experience spans producing, directing, programming and artist development. She is active within the In Good Company network and has already taken responsibility for creating support groups for female identifying freelancers during the Covid-19 lockdown and setting up the East Midlands Artist Support Fund.

Over 100 sponsoring organisations have moved fast to set up the Freelance Task Force so that the 70% of the theatre/performance workforce who are self-employed or freelance could be better represented in vital conversations about the sector’s response to the current crisis. By necessity, each individual organisation is taking a different approach to recruitment, but we have all agreed to be transparent about our process. With staff on furlough and with the urgency with which we wanted to establish the Task Force; China Plate were unable to pursue an open call for the appointment on this occasion. As a team we drew up a shortlist of freelancers – including some with whom we have an existing relationship and some we knew less well – covering a range of genres and levels of experience. We then applied the representation criteria agreed with the wider group of sponsoring organisations – bearing in mind gaps identified up to that point.

Those criteria were:

  • Geography
  • Discipline
  • Diversity – all protected characteristics, and also class and immigration status
  • Age/experience range

Central to China Plate’s mission is supporting the continued development of the independent sector in the Midlands. It was therefore essential for us that we sponsored a freelancer based in the Midlands. Given our programme of development work, and also taking into account who we thought was routinely missing from the industry meetings we were attending, we felt it was most useful to sponsor someone well-networked with emerging artists in the region; these considerations confirmed Rafia as our strongest candidate.

Further information about representation in the task force can be found on Fuel Theatre’s website. You can read more about the formation of the Freelance Task Force in An Open Letter to Theatre and Performance Makers below.

Logo design © Emily Alden


China Plate is proud to be a signatory of this open letter to theatre and performance makers, alongside many other theatre, performance companies and venues across the UK.

This is a letter to self-employed and freelance theatre and performance makers in the UK. To the actors, playwrights, directors, choreographers, stage managers, designers, stage crews and set-builders to name just a few.

We really miss being with you during this period of lockdown. Making theatre and performance is a collaborative endeavour, so we are particularly affected by having to be apart from one another right now. We’re not able to come together, in the same space, to share the experience of a live performance. We’re not able to practise and enjoy our artform in its most basic form.

It’s now looking increasingly likely that won’t be possible for months to come, and we recognise that many freelancers face real uncertainty about if and how they will be able to continue to work in theatre. 70% of people who work in theatre and performance in the UK are freelance or self-employed, and it’s for this workforce, in all its diversity and complexity, that the impact of the current situation is most acute.

During these past weeks we have had conversations with many of you to understand your needs and the ways you have been affected. We are writing to express our support for you, and to lay out some practical steps we are taking to improve the situation based on these conversations. As well as exploring ways of producing work with freelancers during lockdown, and using this time to develop new projects with freelancers for the future, we are also are working together to coordinate our response to the government, to articulate clearly what we can offer and what we need.

Most urgently, we are calling for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to be extended in line with furloughing, for all self-employed workers, and in the specific case of theatre and performance workers, until theatres are able to safely reopen. We also want to see criteria removed from the scheme which are stopping legitimate and much-needed claims.

Some of you are already involved in these conversations. We welcome your voices and need to hear from more of you in the conversations to come. Your unique networks, skillsets, perspectives, and ideas are vital to the entire sector, and we need to work with you in our response to this crisis.
Each of the organisations who’ve signed this letter are committed to reaching out to their family of self-employed and freelance theatre makers; listening to how this is affecting your work and lives, and to your needs and ideas for the future.

More than that, we want to facilitate the establishment of a national task force of self-employed theatre and performance makers. The purpose of the task force is to strengthen the influence of the self-employed theatre and performance community. It would create ongoing points of connection between freelancers and organisations and amplify the voice of the self-employed in the conversations to come. To help establish the task force, each of the organisations signing this letter will support a freelancer to join the group, ensuring they are paid for their time.

We want to offer a message of hope and solidarity. Our well-practised ability to work together, to form connections, and build relationships will help us through this. One day, hopefully soon, we will all be able to meet together, as people have done for centuries, in a shared space, for a shared experience. In the meantime, we remain committed to working for you and with you towards a sustainable future for theatre and performance.

For a full list of signatories, please visit Fuel Theatre’s website.