2020 Vision - A Retrospective

ALD Chair, Johanna Town talks about ALD initiatives in place to support members back to work.

Looking back over a year like no other, there’s no doubt the pandemic has exposed the precarious position of the live events and theatre-based workforce. We exist as a huge tribe of freelancers but I don’t think we ourselves had realised how disparate the industry had become. At the ALD, the situation has enraged and empowered us all to make some substantive changes on behalf of our members and the wider industry.

It was immediately evident, when many of us had to fight to be paid in early 2020, that our priority was to work on contractual security for every role represented by the ALD. The working group for Professional Working Practice has worked diligently to produce contract checklists and deal memo checklists, which can open up discussion with producers. It is imperative that we become more formal in our approach to job offers in the future.

Hopefully, we can all benefit from them, make them our own and insist upon them, and as an industry, educate and protect each other. A Producers Guide on Good Practice continues the enlightenment and education of our industry colleagues, as do the Working Role Definition documents that are being finalised now.

But we haven’t been working in isolation. Back in April, we started talking to our colleagues in other professions and realised we were all fighting the same battles, separately. We formed AAPTLE: The Alliance of Associations and Professionals in Theatre and Live Events to stand united and strong as an industry. Every discipline is represented. Between the professional bodies, we’ve been sharing best practices and documentation. With strength in our numbers, we hope to stand together so that live event and theatre freelancers can go back to work with dignity.

It’s also our responsibility to support the sustainable future of lighting roles, in what we’ve painfully discovered is a true gig economy. The ALD’s Wellbeing working group has been looking at ways to create a happier and healthier workforce who are able to focus on their own needs whilst working at the pace a production requires.

Alongside the advocation of maintaining a healthy lifestyle in a demanding job, our successful Lumiere 2020 scheme crystalised the importance of interaction and connectivity to our members’ wellbeing. We’ve since set up a Buddy Scheme to provide peer support in small groups that create a safe space for mutual support and listening. Plus, more group-based social activities provide members with vital interaction that is connected to the industry, but not in the work environment, which for lighting workers can be quite solitary.

As we start 2021 these interactions with others in the industry and our own lighting peers feel more and more essential as the industry looks set for another slow return to work. My main focus at the moment is to help our members survive mentally through 2021, from organising activities like monthly tech talks and events, to finding the funding to run another Lumiere scheme for both designers and technicians which is a way to reach out to our lighting community.