Anna-Maria Nabirye

Llyod Davis
Pam Fraser Soloman
Rebecca Saffir
Naomi Waring- The Change Collective
Tim Arnold
Anna-Maria Nabirye
Devika Ramcharan
Phelim McDermott
Sean Jackson


The discussion was circular and also spread out like a spider diagram. It moved and flowed closer and further from the session title. I think this is important to mention as for me it reflects how freelance artists move, work, grow and engage. It’s hard to pin down but it somehow creates something solid and beautiful and necessary.

We looked at the statement “Withdrawing labour as a freelance Artist” and interrogated it, asking the questions:

To what end?
Why this would be a thing to do?
What we would hope it would achieve?
What are the barriers to doing this?

Here are some thoughts and responses:

Smaller Venues will suffer
How many artists are actually working?
How would we pay rent/living costs?
Division within artist community
Work security
Would anyone care
artists are replaceable


This lead to the conversation that if it did get that bad wouldn’t it be too late? I live on the coast only a few miles from where I live refugees are risking their life to get to our shores some making it others dying on the beaches and in the sea- the Government are spreading an anti-refugee, racist legacy leading to fascism and non democratic working methods. To me I feel we are already there. But for others it doesn’t feel like we are at the point of no return. Do we need to wait that long?


This came up a lot in the discussion, also talking about affective leadership and new leadership. As freelancers we feel and are told we are replaceable. If I withdraw my labour (as an actor), the understudy goes on or the management call in another massively talented actor and they are up and running in a day. This only hurts the individual and the message is lost. A need for Collective Action seems the only way to successfully withdraw labour. What impact would it have if all cultural/arts organisations that house freelance artists were to withdraw labour. If all of the theatres across the country went dark and freelance artists both working and not working gathered on the streets. What if the fine artists, visual artists took back their works from galleries so exhibitions had empty spaces. ( I know some works are owned privately or by galleries but not all). Artist Unions and unions in general seem not to have the will to challenge Government and the Institutions that work closely with Government, they seem to want to not rock the boat- why is this? This seems to reflect the lack of Power I feel as an artist.


Linking to the above topic, we talked a lot about would it even make a difference if a bunch of artists stopped making work. It is important to remember how much the arts and theatre bring to the British Economy ( the arts over took Agriculture in terms of economic contribution). Is this part of a narrative that keeps in a patriarchal system where we do not realise our own power. Arts and Cultural are always first to be controlled in the rise of fascist regimes. Who is telling us we are not powerful?


In exploring what would it take for freelance artists to withdraw labour it came out that at this moment in time there is a lot to protest about, however how do we gain unity as all these things are linked - Climate Emergency, Black Lives Matter, MeToo, Brexit, The Current PM behaviour in Parliament… We all rate these on differing levels of importance so how to create Collective Action on these things.
What instigates a general Strike?
Who Are we trying to affect?


A day of demonstration that all freelance artists can get behind and join with other protestors. City wide take over with different demos gathering in different areas all synchronised on one day.

Withdraw culture and take it somewhere else. Take The show you were to perform in the west end and perform it for free in Trafalgar Square?

Safety in numbers and powerful numbers, theatre is a hierarchy (that’s another discussion) get the producers on board, the names in order to protect those deemed lower down on the pecking order.

Don’t ask permission- Just do it

If acting alone find subversive means? What is the game?

Instead of disrupting uniting under one banner.

Mothers who make. Was given as a example

Perhaps taking action out of the institutions. Making your own work taking the labour into projects that feed a better narrative and disrupt in that way.

Tend & Befriend: using the arts to heal the void the disaster capitalists have created with Brexit. Who is peddling the narrative we will never find a common ground again and why? Hasn’t history shown us otherwise in much more extreme circumstances. Though it is not perfect look at Rwanda today? Look at Germany today?

When French transport workers went on strike, they all went to work and the transport ran as smoothly as it would any other day, but they left the barriers open and sold no tickets, took no money at all. What is our version of this… withdrawing labour but not hurting those that need it especially now. How can we be the tricksters?


“Arts and culture has overtaken agriculture in terms of its contribution to the UK economy, according to research from Arts Council England, whose chair is warning that continuing cuts threaten further growth.
Sir Nicholas Serota was speaking as ACE published a study quantifying the contribution of arts and culture to the UK’s GDP. It showed that the sector added £10.8bn to the economy at the last count in 2016, £390m more than the previous year, more than the agricultural sector and roughly equal to cities such as Liverpool and Sheffield”
Mark Brown Arts correspondent, The Guardian Wed 17 Apr 2019

Fahrenheit 9/11 ( in reference to unions)

Projects that are disrupting on their own terms: Mothers who Make: / Up In Arms:

so much was discussed that couldn't quite be out in words. Please add to the comments and continue the conversation. Also please clarify if I have mis-reported, or forgotten anything that was discussed and not mentioned above.