The average wage in the creative industries is £16,575. The average cost of a full time nursery place in London is £14,750 (Creative Blueprint via PIPA)
That’s why Parents in Performing Arts (PIPA) are crowdfunding to hold public meetings and lobby theatres to change the status and participation of parents in the UK stage and music industry – and why Raising Films are proud to partner them! We’ll be sharing research and collaborating to make change, and supporting each others’ goals.
On Friday 16 October, PIPA took over the Young Vic to launch their campaign, with the help of Bea & Co. crèche services. Raising Films’ own So Mayer joined panellists including RF interviewee Romola Garai, director Stephen Unwin, actor Rakie Ayola, writer-director Poppy Burton Morgan, Equity rep Adam Burns and casting director Annelie Powell, who chaired brilliantly. There were also spotlight presentations from the floor by Mothers Who Make, the RSC’s nursery manager Kate Robinson, Tonic Theatre and more.
The focus of the event was Laura Well’s incredible report Becoming Invisible: Parenthood in Creative Industries. Focusing primarily on the theatre industry, she discovered that:
- 74% of the creative workers surveyed have turned down work because they were a parent
- 22% stated that their career had come to a halt or stopped altogether
This has a negative effect on self-worth and sense of community, both around creative work and around parenting, which is also devalued by a lack of support and social value.
From a feminist perspective, negative social attitudes to motherhood and caring mean that structural problems are self-perpetuating, as the ramifications of career breaks and lack of flexible roles means that fewer women are progressing to decision-making roles where they can advocate for women’s rights.
But there were also positive, solution-oriented findings, which were the focus of the day.
1. Creative industries need creative childcare solutions. To accommodate the hours that people work and the wages that they earn, these solutions need to be geographically accessible, financially affordable and reliably flexible.
2. Equal parenting requires equal pay. The pay gap that persists between men and women in the creative sector means that, when both parents are within the sector, the dad’s career is often prioritised.
3. To include all we have to hear all. The industry needs to do more to understand and accommodate all representatives of domestic culture, inclusive of single parents and would-be parents, whose experiences are currently being marginalised.
RF contributor Alexis Zegerman spoke up about the current political and economic situation in the UK and its negative effect on publicly-funded childcare. She said that in her meetings with local MPs, she was told that “Childcare is seen as a soft issue” that only has relevance or appeal for middle-class women. She argued that we need to connect all unions to campaign together for working parents.
Adam Burns announced that Equity had taken a motion to the TUC (passed unanimously) on the need to fund childcare. But the discussion highlighted that point 2 was equally important, along the idea of a citizens’ wage, wages against housework, maternity leave for freelancers, and more support for single mothers. There was a recognition that legislative change is important to push for, but not enough – social and cultural change is needed.
The great thing about this campaign is how it has utterly crashed through the culture of silence. David Mercatali, Stage Directors UK
Again and again, we heard that smaller organisations and independent productions are more flexible, innovative and humane, and that exciting work AND sustainable life/work balances are possible, but need funding, support and attention.
Many creative and thoughtful solutions were presented that, while specific to the theatre industry, were inspiring for film and television. Discussions about the length of working weeks, particularly away from home, need to be heard in film too, and practical solutions – for example, rep theatres having lists of nearby childcare to give actors – could be carried across to regional film funders.
There was also a powerful discussion about how looking at caring and parenting also brings to light invisibilised narratives around bereavement, disability, special educational needs, poverty, class, and migration. “We will make change so much more resilient if it involves everybody,” Laura Wells concluded.
Mothering is creative work, not a career break. (Mothers Who Make)
Romola Garai stressed the importance of having organisations provide statistics and support to create industry-wide change. She noted that there’s no duty on film production companies to find out if an employee is a parent, or to make any accommodations. Rakie Ayola spoke about taking action on discrimination – and winning. Organisational visibility is important, too, to stop implicit or explicit blacklisting or loss of contracts – Adam Burns stressed the importance of joining your relevant union. BECTU and Musicians’ Union also support PIPA, and Raising Films are talking to Directors UK and Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
Poppy Burton-Morgan encouraged people to shout about making parenthood and creative practice work (we’d still love to hear your testimonials!), and Romola Garai added that there should be more films and shows in which pregnant characters are played by pregnant women – and indeed, more cultural texts that deal both with pregnancy and with working mothers, from non-judgemental/horrific points of view. We are storytellers and can tell new stories.