If there’s one thing the past year has shown us, it’s that we all need to connect with others. The communities we live in and the networks of colleagues we work with provide essential support through challenging times. This collaborative approach isn’t new to the creative industries – we create value across an interconnected ecology of freelancers, businesses, academics and institutions, and this value generates economic and social gains across the whole of the UK.
Yet the past year has also highlighted structural inequalities within that interconnected ecosystem, which when pressured can rupture and break. Research by the Creative Industries Federation released in February 2021 showed that freelancers and those based outside of London were hardest hit by the pandemic. Freelancers are 20% more likely than organisations to have seen a drop in income of 75% or more since the pandemic began. There will be few in our sector who are not aware of freelancers facing significant hardship – be they our colleagues, working in our supply chains or our family and friends. The fact that so many have fallen between the gaps in the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has only exacerbated this inequality further.
Organisations and activists across the creative industries have responded with a fantastic show of solidarity. Incredibly quickly, schemes and funds were set up to respond to the crisis, from the Film and TV Charity’s repayable grants to the Theatre Artists Fund by SOLT/UK Theatre. As the year progressed, industry campaigners like Freelancers Make Theatre Work, Coalition for Change, Dial F for Freelancers, Cultural Freelancers Wales and Fuel’s Taskforce engaged industry leaders (both freelance and organisation based), unions and trade bodies in important discussions about the future of freelance working. These have resulted in many proactive principles and charters beginning to emerge, with the ambition to redress some of the power imbalances felt by many across the sector.
With a growing energy and appetite for change, many identified a need for co-ordination of these incredible initiatives, driving systemic change within the creative industries and advocating for the needs of freelancers directly to government. The Creative Industries Federation undertook a significant period of consultation across the sector, before launching the Future of Freelance Champions to advise and steer the Federation’s approach to advocacy, impact and change.
Announced in March 2021, the small group of Freelance Champions represents a diversity of experience, drawn from all parts of the UK, all subsectors and at different stages of their careers – whether freelance or PAYE.
Over the next year, Champions will:
With the Freelance Champions, the Creative Industries Federation is engaging in open and honest discussion on how best to drive this initiative. How can we better articulate the value freelancers generate? How do we empower the whole ecology with the right tools for fairer working practices? How can we reallocate or redistribute power? And how can we invest back into the freelance community and support the next generation of freelances?
Over the course of the next year we will be conducting an industry consultation to explore these issues, and their potential solutions, in greater detail. The role of freelancers will be core to our policy and advocacy work, ensuring their needs are visible to government and the public, and their contribution recognised as significant and essential.
We want to include as many voices from across the creative industries as possible in these discussions, so please contact me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts or ideas you’d like to share.