Inspired by the recent UK Touring Symposium as well as our ongoing Best Practice Research Project we have been reflecting on solutions that may support parents/ carers to continue touring.
We are repeatedly hearing from producers and theatres that they are unable to secure their first choice for performers due to caring responsibilities. We are also hearing from actors and stage managers that they are no longer able to tour. Supporting parents and carers is a key factor for business resilience in challenging times, it's about our touring companies becoming as strong as possible to ensure a future of continued growth and development.
It is undoubtedly a challenge for those involved but we believe there are some practical steps we can take to support parents and carers to continue touring:
- Making structural adjustments. Some companies are now touring Tuesday - Saturday. Not only does this allow carers to get home each week but also means that performers are playing to busier houses due to one show less per week. The audience experience is therefore better and they are more likely to return to see the next show.
- Truncated rehearsal times. A late start on a Monday and/or early finish on a Friday allows those with caring responsibilities enough time to get back for weekends. Equally a truncated rehearsal day with a shorter lunch break, if unanimously voted for by all involved, can have a significantly positive impact on the work/life balance for those involved.
- Accommodation. Family friendly accommodation makes a huge difference and comes at no extra cost to the theatre/ company. If you are offering accommodation instead of subsidies it's a good idea to make sure at least one provider accepts children. This can really make the difference between your chosen performer taking the job or not.
- Financial Support. The cost of childcare/ carers is exorbitant across the UK. Whether someone is paying for a nanny on tour, a parent/ spouse/ friend to travel with them or someone to look after dependents at home, the cost is likely to be as much as that person's wages for the tour. An additional subsidy, however nominal, sends a clear message that that person will be a valued member of the company. This will pay dividends in terms of loyalty, goodwill and commitment to the production/ tour. Some organisations have a 'wellbeing' line in annual budgets which can serve as a buffer in such circumstances.
- Take the initiative. If someone says they can't tour, if an agent says their client won't tour, if a casting director says the actor you want has recently had a baby and won't want to tour, take the initiative, have the conversation. Find out why and talk about it. Find out what you can do to make a difference, start a dialogue. And this doesn't just apply to performers, it's also stage management. Everyone knows the value of a good Stage Manager, an experienced Company Manager. These relationships are built over time and it's necessary to invest in their continued development. These relationships can be the difference between a good theatre company and an outstanding one. It's better to retain rather than retrain.
- And finally, please spread the word about the Actors' Children's Trust who give grants to actors with caring responsibilities to help with the cost of caring related expenses. This can be a lifeline for actors considering a tour, providing vital support for an additional pair of hands at home, help with the cost of returning home each week or family accommodation on the road, whatever the circumstances require. http://www.actorschildren.org/
If you would like any further information or support implementing any of the steps above please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org