Monday, 27 June 2016

Theatre Thoughts: Parental Consent

At the start of 2016, for reasons too long-winded to get into, I found myself on a job hunt. Searching for work is soul destroying at the best of times, and I lost count of the times I heard the reassurances that 'theatre is a really hard industry to get in to'. I know: I was a performer for ten years. I know it's hard, and I know that the admin and production side of it is no less difficult.

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After four months, however, I was starting to get a wee bit concerned. I had taken a temp job to tide me over, so I wasn't too stressed about money (that all came earlier), but I was beginning to wonder whether I would ever find work in the industry that I loved, had trained for and studied to progress in.

I wondered, first, whether it was my CV and/or Cover Letter that was the problem, even though I was getting interviews for maybe one out of every three jobs I applied for, so I had them looked at and was told they were great. Interviews went well, I always felt like I'd done my best, made a good impression, asked the right questions, etc. And then I would get the 'thanks but no thanks' email. A couple offered to keep my CV on file, and one or two, when I asked for feedback, said that there was nothing wrong at all but that they'd opted for someone with more experience. Fair enough. Although I think my favourite was the following; "While you were an exceptional candidate, and clearly more than capable of performing the duties of the job as advertised, we have decided to change the parameters of the role." 
Now, I could (and did) rant to my other half about that for a good long while, so I'm not going to reproduce it here.

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I decided that I must be doing, or saying, something fundamentally wrong in my interviews, without even realising it. So I read every article I could find on interview etiquette, I spoke to friends who work in a variety of industries about interview procedures, and practised questions with the other half. (He was very understanding throughout this whole process!)

Then one evening, he said something to me, that I hadn't considered. I was ranting, and asking where I was going wrong, what was wrong with me? And he said to me; "Do you think it's because you're a woman, you're thirty, and you don't have kids?"

I bit back the first snap that came to mind and allowed that to sink in for a second. It couldn't be, could it? But what if it was? How do you even go about getting across to a potential employer that you don't want kids in the near future? It's hardly something you pop in your personal statement or list as an achievement on your CV. The following fortnight I had four job interviews. I managed to slip into each one, in a roundabout way, that I had no immediate plans to pop a sprog, and guess what? I got offered all four of them.

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Under the 2010 Equality Act, it is illegal for employers to ask for this kind of information from female candidates, and in all honesty, I doubt that some of the companies I interviewed with would have even considered this when debating whether to offer me a second interview. However, it does seem odd that when I started slipping in this little nugget of information, I suddenly get inundated with offers after nearly five months of no progress.

And I do understand it. I was interviewing with small-to-mid sized production companies, independents, start-ups, non-profits; all exciting companies, with passionate people producing interesting work, and I would have loved to have been a part of any of them (would still love to be in the future). However, as a small company, they can't afford to take the financial risk that I would work with them for a couple of months and then totter off on maternity leave; they would be unable to fire me, would have to keep paying me, and on top of that pay someone else to cover my role for the time that I was off, without a cast-iron guarantee that I would return.

I bet at least a handful of the places I interviewed with did consider this, and I'm certain that, even subconsciously, this would have been a factor in several decisions. 

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Most people that I speak to about this, when I get to the point where the boyfriend dropped the bombshell, they shake their heads in disagreement, scoff and say 'surely not in 2016'. But then I reveal the twist, and the head shaking stops, replaced by a raised eyebrow and a 'huh' of surprise. I agree; surely not in 2016, and maybe I am wrong, but the fact remains that when I slipped in, as an aside, that I had no immediate plans to have children, I was offered jobs where previously I was 'not suitable for the role'.

Oh, and if you wanted to know, the 'aside' was when asked whether I had any existing holiday bookings, and I replied "No, no holidays but I may need a day or two for wedding; you see, all of my friends are getting married and having kids, but that is not for me right now."

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Political Artistry

I think I realised I was properly grown-up this year. It wasn't the big birthday, or the full-time job, or even sorting out a pension (!) that brought me to this conclusion. It was the Referendum. Over the past few months I have taken an active interest in politics, foregoing the usual banality of late-night comedy television shows to watch debates and conferences, and opting to have BBC News as my background while working as opposed to the usual cycle of Disney movies.

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Obviously what everyone wants to know is how their choice will affect their specific bugbear, be that education, trade, the job market, pensions or immigration. For me it's the arts and culture, and from what I've seen and heard so far, there's been nary a peep about this from the main figures involved on either side.*

Part of me is quite surprised about this, given that the creative industries contribute billions each year to the UK economy, and help support other industries such as leisure and tourism. However, another part of me isn't surprised in the least, given that a lot of what people think of as the arts is considered to be quite elitist and inaccessible.

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So I was delighted to come across a manifesto of sorts from the National Campaign for the Arts. As a charity they state it would be inappropriate for them to express an opinion either way, but the article certainly made for some interesting considerations.

Creative Europe funds hundreds of enterprises here in the UK, and many more European organisations have their headquarters or management offices here too. If we were to leave the EU, where would that funding come from? It's all well and good to suggest that we'd save money by not sending it to Brussels each year, but I think that small cultural companies would be way down the list of things to fund, and I'm not convinced that even the Arts Councils would be massive beneficiaries of any extra money that may suddenly become available.
Those European companies which have bases here would probably have to leave in order to continue to receive Creative Europe funding. It's hard enough to secure European grants as it is without having their main offices in a country which is no longer part of Europe.
It is possible that the UK could negotiate to remain as part of Creative Europe, but I doubt we'd get particularly favourable terms if we did.

Thanks to unrestricted movement throughout Europe, the UK benefits massively from European expertise and talent in the arts. Again, it's possible that this would continue but I think there would be a lot more bureaucracy involved along with higher costs across the board which would make international transfer incredibly time consuming and costly, putting off smaller companies or non-profit organisations. I doubt that events such as the London International Mime Festival or CircusFest would be sustainable under these circumstances.

This free movement also extends to training - many people I know have attended courses, classes, festivals and events in Europe which has enabled them to improve their skills and professional network. Again, I don't think this would stop entirely if we were to leave Europe, but I think it would become a lot more complicated and cost a lot more.

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From this you can probably tell which side I'm coming down on. These aren't the only reasons, just the ones that are pertinent to my specific area of work and interest. I have been following debates and considered all of the arguments, and I will continue to listen and consider until I make my mark on that slip of paper on the 23rd June. I have heard compelling arguments from both sides, and there will probably be more in the days to come, but in the end this is a personal choice - everyone has to vote according to their conscience, but everyone also has to seriously think about the pros and cons either way.

This. This quote.

I don't think we should leave the EU. For the reasons above and for dozens more. It's easier to work with the person sat next to you than the person on the other side of the room, regardless of whether the person on the other side of the room is the popular kid or the class bully. I believe we need to build bridges, not burn them, and work together rather than shut ourselves away. And the best advice I heard throughout the whole saga has been that if you're unsure, vote to remain. We can always call another referendum in another couple of years, but once we're out, that door is locked and we'll have thrown away the key.

* I may be wrong about this, however, and I'm happy to be corrected!

Normal Service will Resume Shortly

I've been silent on here for a while, I know.

Attempting to resume normal service

This is mostly to do with a new full-time job, which not only takes up my time but most of my brain processing power too! It's really interesting and varied, covering lots of different aspects of theatre and arts, but because of this I've lacked the time and inclination to write any blog posts!

It's also partly to do with a lack of inspiration, I think. There's not been much that's grabbed my attention over the last month or so, or at least not to the point where I've wanted to have a rant about it. I've been thinking recently about possibly 'forcing' inspiration; to this end I've been reading articles and books in what little spare time I've had, and I think it's worked a little bit as I'm now feeling ready to sit down and attempt to articulate my rambling thoughts again!