Supporting parents in the performing arts

two arts masks


Actor Cassie Raine and director Anna Ehnold-Danailov set up Parents in Performing Arts after meeting in 2014. They have just launched a survey to find out what the main challenges are for parents.  Here Cassie talks about what they are doing, what they hope to achieve and why the campaign is so necessary. 

Why did you set up Parents in Performing Arts?

Cassie:Anna Ehnold-Danailov (PIPA Co-founder) and I met at a workshop for her theatre company Prams In The Hall. I was invited to bring my then eight-month-old daughter into rehearsals which I did. It was the first time I had worked as an actress since I was five months pregnant and it was an incredibly affirming and positive experience. I met a very supportive network of people in my industry who were there with me on my journey back to work. It took a while and was challenging in many ways, but gradually I developed the confidence to pick up my career again, thanks to the support of this wonderful community.

However, the extent of the challenges facing parents across the performing arts soon became apparent to both Anna and I as we realised the problem was widespread, affecting not just a few performers and directors but almost any parent in this industry: creatives, technicians, management, self-employed and contract staff. It seemed to be the status quo – one that we decided to challenge. In order to see if there was a call for action we held a panel event at the Young Vic Theatre on October 16th 2015 – the launch of PIPA. With over 400 parents and 70 babies attending it was clear there to everyone that a change in attitudes and practices was long overdue.

What are your aims?

Cassie: Our aims are:

  • To understand and raise awareness of the issues of parents and carers working in the Performing Arts Industry and challenge the status quo.
  • Campaign for sustainable and practical best practice model in the workplace.
  • Campaign for greater representation and accessibility for parents and carers in the performing arts.
  • Establish PIPA as a trusted resource, developing partnerships, networks and community across the UK.

How will the survey help you in this respect?

Cassie: We have now started our Best Practice Research Project in partnership with 15 major UK theatres. It includes a big survey to assess the current barriers carers in the performing arts face as well as establish required and already existing solutions. This will give us clear quantitative and qualitative data so we can establish a baseline. It’s important that, in order to be sustainable, the solutions are industry led and based on the realities of our industry and the needs of our workforce. There are barriers and challenges that are specific to the performing arts which need to be identified. It’s also crucial that we have a measure of the impact of these issues on family life for parents and carers.

What do you see as the key issues for parents in the performing arts?

Cassie: The key issues for parents and carers will be identified through the survey. We know that the sometimes erratic, last minute nature of work is challenging for those with caring responsibilities. Long days (a technical rehearsal can be a 12-hour day,) late working hours, low pay, lack of flexibility and regular travel combined with a lack of affordable, flexible childcare mean that continuing to work for parents and carers is often not an option.

Why do you think an industry which many might assume was progressive has not adapted to a world where a large number of its workers have families?

Cassie: I think a lot has to do with a lack of awareness that this is actually an issue. What we are finding is that, now that the conversation has started around these issues, there is a real understanding and desire to support our parents and carer workforce. There is a huge drive at the moment in the performing arts to increase diversity and caring responsibilities are part of this wider dialogue.

What are the possible benefits of having more family friendly support? 

Cassie: The benefit of supporting parents and carers is that we will stop seeing the haemorrhage of talent that is currently happening. There will be a more diverse workforce with better career progression for women as more equality in the workplace and at home and men could potentially get to spend more time with their children. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that a more flexible workforce is a more productive workforce.

How does the survey tie in with the best practice research you are doing? When will the best practice research be out and what do you plan to do with it?

Cassie: We will have the results of the survey in December 2016. This will be followed by six months working with our 15 participating theatres to trial possible solutions, explore barriers to work and develop creative strategies to overcome them. Participating theatre organisations will attend three symposia to share learning and will work in focus groups with support from the research team to manage the trials, before coming together in June 2017 to formulate the Best Practice Charter that will be launched in September 2017. The Best Practice Charter will then be embedded in the Family Arts Standards and other Industry guidelines.

Do you think employers in the performing arts need more support with being more family friendly and face particular challenges? Could examples from other sectors facing related challenges help?

Cassie:  Support is needed for any organisation looking to develop their infrastructure, particularly in the Arts where there have been so many cuts and little funding is available. We are aware of the restrictions and requirements of our industry which is why we are keen to explore creative, affordable solutions that can be implemented by big and small companies. Many industries face similar challenges and it’s important to share learning between sectors so we are not reinventing the wheel. If we look to the financial sector it is clear that there is also an economic argument for supporting parents in the workplace. Our Best Practice Research Project will allow us to unpick existing models of support for parents and carers, exploring how those benefits can translate into our Industry.

*If you work in the performing arts and want to take part in PIPA’s survey, click here.

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