Becoming family friendly

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It has always been known that working in theatre as an actor or crew member with children can be hard, especial for single parents or where both parents are in the industry with school aged children. And working in not the only problem finding the time to go and get the work, the auditions can be difficult as well.

So are parents being pushed out of the industry? Do directors and producers really not understand the issues surrounding parenting? I am sure many parents themselves! All other industries where employees are parent, whether that’s full time, part time or contractor, there is some form of flexibility, there is an appreciation of the time and effort children play in the lives of parenting.

For the first time a childcare service has been set up in London for those artists and crew with children, at the moment it is only one day a week; a Saturday, the day when most productions have a matinee. It’s called the Matinee Club, and it aims to deliver a program for creativity to the young people who use it, while their parents are working.

Getting the childcare physically isn’t always the only problem, financially there’s a strain on parents in the Arts, it is time consuming looking for affordable childcare. Now you may argue that as parents they should know when they are working and therefore should plan ahead or that becoming a parent they should consider these things. But the arts and theatre particularly can be very unpredictable. Yes there are schedules, but like many other industries those schedules aren’t always based around social able hours and producers and directors don’t always give sufficient notice on changes when the things need extra practise or where there has been a rewrite on the script. It has been said before that as an artist you are ‘at the beck and call’ of the producer.

No theatre or production company can afford to run its own crèche as there is no guarantee it would be used regularly, especially with all the cuts to the industry. Not all cast and crew for every production would require it, but as a group of theatres; whether London or Regional, could have a central fund for childcare service and an agreed list of ‘approved’ services that cast and crew can use. Then when the services are used during productions or auditions the central fund contributes to paying of the service. Yes! The production company contribute, why not? You have said the individual is good enough to be part of your show as you gave them the chance at the audition and interview, and they would have told you that they have dependents!

As the Equity/SOLT agreement on pay and other allowances come to an end April 2019, Equity have put together a various ambitious package that looks at sustaining the future of the industry across the board.

Some of the suggestions being put forward for negotiation are rehearsals to be Monday to Friday, and no rehearsals on Sundays. Better conditions, pay rates, travel allowance into London to be raised, bigger venues pay cast and crew more.

But the one thing that really goes with today’s post is to enable the right to job share. Charlene Ford, a performer in London’s 42nd Street made history by becoming the first actor to job share her role in the show after returning from maternity leave. It was hailed by the campaign Parents in Performing Arts, in the article to Charlene explained to The Stage that it took a lot of conversation to have the notion carried by her producers.

Producers argued that it is best to have the same cast and crew night in and night out. But the truth is that never happens. Holidays, sickness, cast changes in long running shows, so it is just not a reality.

Producers and directors need to wake up the 21st century. Women do have children, they do have dreams, the do want to work. But they will negotiate, they will listen to what is being said, they will offer their own opinions on things that matter them. But above all, they auditioned for your show because they believed in it and want it to succeed and all they ask of producers and directors, just like everyone else in the industry is for a bit of give and take.

This industry may be being crippled by the government cuts in funding and the access to arts from primary education, but within the industry itself it needs to be sustained from the top, the producers and directors. The industry is at a point where these individuals at the top could really help and invest, but they have to listen to be able to do so wisely.

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