For a long time I have been struggling with the concept of agency in freelance creative practice. How can we create more agency, as freelance artists, when most projects are conceived + funded before we come on board?

I had an idea for an email signature that freelancers could opt into, to signal our intention to embed activism within our practices. It would be a way of starting a conversation with all buildings + producers + other makers that we come into contact with, signalling that these things are important to us, as an individual and as a collective. The email signature would link to an online manifesto, a list of ethical/political criteria that we are aiming to embed within our work.

I called the session to see if others thought the idea could work, and to get different people's perspectives on how it would apply to them.
The overall response was YES. This could be a simple way of starting new conversations + have a wide ripple effect.

The idea is to create a short copy-paste signature (with a good name + logo):

"Bethany Wells is a member of XXX, a network of theatre makers dedicated to embedding political + activism within our freelance practices ...etc. Each member commits to assessing each project they take on using on the following ethical + political criteria: www.linktodownload….

Clicking on the link opens a simple web page listing the criteria we aim to embed in our work / process. The criteria would be in three sections:
FORM (e.g. One or more event / performance in the main run is Free or Pay What You Choose)
CONTENT (e.g. The production is about LGBTQ+ representation)
and PROCESS (e.g. The process includes a shadowing or mentoring opportunity)

Here's a link to the first draft google doc:

- from a producer's perspective, this could be a quick way to tell if a freelancer is a good fit for them, e.g. it's a good way to get a sense of the ethics behind people's practice
- a good way to remind people that you have wider interests/concerns e.g. if the people you're emailing only know you in a narrow role e.g. as an acting tutor, this acts as a reminder that you have a more engaged practice
- would be great if the signature format included humour, a play on the Disclaimer you see so often at the bottom of emails
- there were some suggestions of things that could be added to the list as principles of your practice e.g. to state that you will respect people's pronouns / that you will not take part or tolerate any derogatory or misogynistic conversations in the workplace.

- would it work best as a communal document that everyone agreed on, or would each member be able to tailor the list of criteria to their practice e.g. if they were specifically interested in, say, building access or recycled materials? We felt that having a central list would be clear/strong, but that on the website there could be space next to members' names, to select your top 3 priorities, or a sentence explaining your specific approach to activism within your practice.
- could this form the basis of a new kind of union / campaigning activity? (I've been looking at setting up a theatre makers group within United Voices of the World. I'd be happy to join this up with UVW, or suggest that we form a Theatre Workers group within UVW to take this forward )
- would there be any minimum standard / score for accepting a project based on these criteria? Say you were offered a project that ticked very few criteria, would you reply to the producer with their score, and ask them for a response before taking the project on? Or is it more of a private evaluation as to whether you personally felt comfortable taking it on? (we're not sure yet)
- would there be any collective or personal red lines to accepting work on these conditions e.g. if there was no disabled access to the space at all, or the building takes funding from unethical sources? How to balance the need to earn a living with a need to be more ethically demanding.
- would any scores or evaluation be made public? I had initially thought that members would report back to each other about their experience using the signature, and how it has changed the conversation for them, rather than naming + shaming. Could there be a public sharing of best practice instead?

- I'll make a shareable Google Doc open for Commenting / Editing until there's an initial draft that could go 'live'
- logo
- decide on a name (needs to be short e.g. FAN freelance activist network?)
- website (I'm happy to fund a simple website - I'd love this to be free for people to join up + share, but will find out about web costs)

Related projects:

Please contact me if you want to be included in the 'beta' phase of this.
I took down people's names from the session so I will keep you in touch with the first test version.

Thank you for your enthusiasm!
I wanted to get something simple off the ground this year that is cheap to implement + has the potential to make gradual change.

Bethany Wells
[email protected]