Parent Friendly Professional Theatre

Anna Farthing, 30 June 2012

Session called by Anna Farthing Matilda and Riddley
Catherine and Harold


Theatre Bristol recently posted a topic about the parental shift, what happens when artists take on parenting responsibilities and can no longer “sleep on the floor of the studio”.

Theatre Bristol will be hosting a conversation on this at some time soon, but we thought we would get ahead.

Improbable have heard this theme come up at numerous previous D&D events, and it may be worth cross referencing notes from those sessions.

The theme developed through our conversation, to include balancing the needs that develop when parenting older children, as well as other caring roles (disabled people, elders etc).

Here are some of our notes:

Working for nothing is not an option for those without private means once there are other mouths to feed.

Some people find jobs that are industry linked and friendly to family time. eg. teaching, writing, working in other areas of culture (heritage).

There can be pressure from grandparents to ‘get a proper job’ and ‘be responsible’. Balancing this with honouring your own aspirations and ambitions can be really tough.

Grandparents can however also help to support creative careers, especially in the early stages, by offering flexible childcare, support and advice.

Family and working life in theatre is reflective of the wider cultural norm. In Italy for example it is much more common for artists to work with their wider families.

It still seems more ‘acceptable’ for men to take their kids to work. Sometimes women are each other's harshest critics. For a man to take his kids to work it is cool. For a women, she is seen as disorganised.

One women felt ‘selfish’ pursuing her career, and had felt depression. A counsillor had reminded her that it was her work and her identity that was being foregone, and that she should try to find a way through without sacrificing her career.

The wider culture of professional theatre can do more to support family friendly working practices. Timing of meetings, duration of working day, flexible working,

Productions and performances can also do more to welcome people with young

children and who respond differently, and not just to kids shows. Model of the cinema screenings for people with under 1s. Model of specifically programmed audio described and signed performances (would also be appealing to other audiences who may respond noisily owing to disability etc)

The work of the artist is play, so there must be ways of combining work play and child play through group work with interested participants.

WE WANT TO SEE WORK THAT REPRESENTS PARENTING. There were really moving stories that emerged from our conversations, stories that resonated and had a sense of timelessness and humanity.

It is our responsibility to try and affect change in the way that theatre and parenting intersects. Progress is being made....but it is slow.

Useful links and things to look out for
Playing Out - the work of Amy Rose and Bocadalupa, Theatre Bristol's ongoing conversations on this theme. Cinema “screamers” screenings
Permission Improbable
Good practice - if you see it - please share it!


childcare, theatre, arts, family, parenting, babies, women, Theatre, children

Comments: 6

Emma Manton, 30 June 2012

We are used to thinking creatively in our professional life and if we apply this to our family life then I truly believe that it is possible to have it all. Events like d and d remind me that we are part of a wonderfully supportive and exciting community. This is the world I love and desperately want my son to be part of. I want him to grow up around theatres and the fabulous people they contain. By continuing events like d and d we can help change our own preconceptions of life post children and find solutions that work for us as artists and also as parents. I truly truly believe it is possible!

Ali Robertson, 30 June 2012

This sounds an inspiring session and is critically important. We expect to make certain sacrifices but if we cannot combine working in theatre with raising children then we have lost. I think we can combine the two: I loved that we had two babies in d&d and a bunch of young children doing dance class down the hall!

Gill Kirk, 3 July 2012

Hear, hear, to all said above. I feel passionately that if we adults allow children space around us, both they and us will benefit hugely. Adults need to chill out a bit when it comes to kid proximity; a little community confidence near small people could deliver massive cultural payback.
Perhaps if theatres led the way, others would follow...? Anyone?
Catherine Guy, 10 July 2012
I found this session inspired: came out of it (and away from thebroadshow itself) feeling empowered. Theatre reflects life and life involves children and families, nice to see kids in the theatre not just to see kids' shows and to be reminded there are others with small children involving themselves in theatre. And yes theatres could lead the way: good to have less age-based segregation

Emily Beecher, 17 September 2012

I'm gutted I missed this session - as a mother, writer, actress, producer & theatre goer I'm incredibly dedicated to finding a way to combine all of the above and would have loved to have spoken to others who feel similar.

Will there be more sessions in the future?

Phelim McDermott, 17 September 2012


We did have a Satellite evening D&D at the Young Vic about Theatre and Parenting. It was clearly an event that merited more than an evening and hopefully we will get round to doing another longer open space. Until then if you are in London I would suggest calling a session at our big annual D&D which willl be in January. Meanwhile keeping the conversation going here is valuable!