On Friday (12/06/2020), Twitter was buzzing with excitement as the Freelance Task Force was announced. Arts organisations are chuffed they can support freelancers during these times, and freelancers are grateful and passionate for initiating a platform for change. Myself included!
One organisation said, out of 80 applications, they had selected ‘insert name of freelancer’, to represent the geographical area that venue was based in.
That is a big weight of responsibility sat on that person’s shoulders!
Another organisation tweeted, they were excited to see such a high percentage of ‘insert specific demographic’, and called out for people on the task force to connect with them to ensure their members who also identified as ‘insert specific demographic’, were represented in the discussions.
I need to be really clear with you, I WON’T BE REPRESENTING ANYONE ELSE’S EXPERIENCES OTHER THAN MY OWN on the Freelance Task Force. The only experience I can confidently represent is my own.
I will represent my experience as a white, straight, female, single parent, age 36, who lives in Bradford, predominantly works in dance as a producer (with a diverse portfolio), who was born into a working class family and raised by a single parent.
This does not mean I will be representing the views and experiences of the diverse artists in my portfolio, the artists in my city, region or art form. Nor will I represent everyone who identifies as a woman, working class, or all single parents working in the arts.
The Impossibility of representing those who share the same demographics
The idea of being able to represent all the characteristics or demographics I identify as is laughable. No two people’s experiences are the same. Even if I wanted to faithfully represent the people who identify with shared characteristics to me, this would be impossible.
It’s impossible because I can’t know the views of everyone that I would be hoping to represent. And ironically, the wider the demographic I would try to represent, the more unlikely it would be that I’d create change that would serve all those people’s interests.
Let’s not assume those of us on the Freelance Task Force imagine ourselves as “representatives” of others. What if we view ourselves as ‘trustees’ whose job it is to do what’s “best” for freelancers, regardless of what people who share similar characteristics to us may believe to be best. Rightly or wrongly, in that scenario, the “right thing” is simply that which comports our personal ideology.
When viewed through this lens, it’s hard to see how we could call ourselves “representatives” at all.
I know this may sound like I’m being unfair or like I’m doing freelancers a disservice by taking up one of those seats in the task force, but trust me, the only people doing you a disservice are those that will tell you you’re represented at the table when you aren’t sat at the table.
I don’t want to appear all doom and gloom about the task force. I equally straddle optimism and scepticism about these kinds of initiatives. This particular kind of initiative feels long overdue, it feels important, but it could also turn out to be unimportant if it’s not practical or realistic.
From what I can see, the Freelance Task Force is made up of different socioeconomic and cultural freelancers, so even if we pursue our own interests by drawing on our own experiences, then ’in theory’ the diversity of the group should provide some checks and balances against one another.
Here’s the demographic breakdown of the group for those of you that are interested. Let’s remember, this data doesn’t give us an in-depth picture of our viewpoints, only our makeup.
The roles the freelancers represent are wide ranging. They include directors, technicians, producers, writers, set and costume designers, crew, production managers, sound designers, composers, fight directors, choreographers and movement directors, dramaturgs, actors and performers, casting directors, puppet makers, dancers, singers, theatre makers and more.
50% are 20-34
42% are 35-49
8% are 50-64
23% identify as D/deaf Disabled
5% identify as neuro-diverse or learning disabled
71% identify as non-disabled
67% identify as female
30% identify as male
3% identify as trans/non-binary/define in a different way
53% identify as White
5% identify as Mixed
10% identify as Asian
18% identify as Black
14% other/prefer note to say
1% identify as upper-middle class
36% identify as middle class
62% identify as working class
1% identify as lower class
There is representation in every region in England as well as Scotland and Wales.
There are a wide range of immigration statuses represented.
Whilst I can’t promise I’ll represent you. Here’s a non-exhausted list of what what I can promise.
-I won’t falsely represent you.
-If I need data, experiences and advice beyond my own, then I will transparently ask you for it and relay it in your own words.
-I won’t ask you for anything if it’s a token gesture and not a genuine consultation.
-I won’t speak on your behalf. If I am asked to speak about a subject that I know nothing about, then I will leave the table and someone else can sit in my seat who knows about that subject.
-I will shut up and listen when someone with a different background, experience or point of view to me is contributing.
-I will show up when discussing issues that do not directly affect me.
-I will let others lead and not always position myself at the centre.
-I will be an ally, activist and attempt to abolish systems that don’t serve freelancers safety, health or freedom, particularly those who are marginalised or don’t have equal access to opportunities.
-I will be available and transparent with anyone who wishes to talk about matters relating to the task force.
Some things you can take responsibility for (feel free to add to it)
-Not to expect miracles from over 100 freelancers that have a total of 13 days each to change matters that have affected us for years.
– Continue to sign the petitions, fight the battles, and organise yourselves into other groups to also affect change.
– Contribute in any way you can to any ‘asks’ from the task force or others, that may support the needs of freelancers.
To find out more about the Freelance Task Force check out #FreelanceTaskForce over on Twitter.