The 5 Guiding Principles – a toolkit to help support the performing arts sector. Nearly half of our workforce are freelancers and the Freelance Taskforce (and Activate) think it imperative that – as the sector still suffers from the knock-on effects of the pandemic – organisations & freelancers collaborate to improve working practices. Together we […]

The 5 Guiding Principles – a toolkit to help support the performing arts sector.

Nearly half of our workforce are freelancers and the Freelance Taskforce (and Activate) think it imperative that – as the sector still suffers from the knock-on effects of the pandemic – organisations & freelancers collaborate to improve working practices.

Together we can ensure a more equitable, sustainable, productive sector for all who work in it.


At the start of the Freelance Taskforce we were part of the original admin team

and collated the ‘burning issues’ from 130+ freelancers to draw out a set of ‘key

themes’. One of these was the desire for a best-practice model for organisations

working with Freelancers. As a starting point we looked at the ‘fair trade’ model

– a marque that could be adopted as a way of subscribing to best practice. This

marque would identify an organisation so Freelancers & other organisations

would be able to assume a shared set of values or principles.

The conversation around this topic has wandered as working groups have taken

on specific issues and/in specific sectors and/relating to specific roles. Following

an Open Space event a large number of FTF members agreed to align with 7

Working Points to share the work being undertaken. The first of those points was

‘ The creation of a Working Fair Trade Active Agreement’ .

With the 5 Guiding Principles we’re attempting a model that can be subscribed to

– regardless of the size of an organisation, the specific sector it sits within, or the

kind of activities it delivers.

In order to inform this model, we distributed a survey to the South West sponsor

organisations to capture their voices. A version of that survey has also been

circulated to Dance organisations by the Dance working group. We also created

a survey for Early Career Artists and Practitioners in Cornwall. We are conscious

that whilst all freelancers are vulnerable, those graduating now are struggling to

even begin.

Sharing this document with the South West, Dance and What Next working

groups in the taskforce has influenced it further and we acknowledge specific

pieces of work done by them around representation and pay for example.

This version of the document has also been informed by discussions with

sponsor organisations about adopting the proposed model.


Ahead of joining the taskforce we had noticed a shift in some language – in

reacting to the Covid crisis and early sector responses to it – that could separate

organisations and freelancers rather than view them holistically as part of the

same endeavour. We see this piece of work as a joint enterprise in which

organisations and freelancers positively empower each other.

We foresee a process in which each organisation works together with its

Freelancers to best interpret the principles as relevant actions. Referring to the

outputs of the various working groups, sector-wide lobbying, and existing

models of best practice will provide guidance on how to do this.

Subscribing to the 5 guiding principles requires a commitment from all of us to

keep working on applying them. Using a set of principles allows space for policy

and strategy to develop as the sector shifts and develops into the future.

We believe that by working together we can also help each other hold ourselves

to account. The Marque will be administered from a simple website that will list:

1. The 5 Guiding Principles

2. Organisations subscribed to the model

3. A reference library of links to guidance – for eg. policies, manifestos &

proposals generated by Freelancers and the sector

4. A reference library of links to existing models of best practice

The South West Taskforce Group will also offer to co-host, with organisations

and their freelancers, workshop-discussions on adopting the model.

These principles were written by Alister O’Loughlin & Miranda Henderson. This version

has been reached with contributions from Charlotte Kransmo and June Gamble. NB: The

phrase ‘Nothing about us without us’ has a 500 year old history but is most recently

identified with disability activism from the 1990’s to the present. It arose during a

meeting between the dance working group and People Dancing, and we use it here



1 – Fair Pay

Includes recognition of all the work undertaken – including planning, travel,

evaluations etc. Also the experience of the Freelancer – using Freelancer

approved pay scales.

2 – Inclusion

Rather than diversity – referencing for e.g. FUEL’s manifesto, the Dance group’s

IDEALLL document, the open letter on Neuro Divergent Freelancers and so on.

Continuously re-examining and questioning internal structures and the culture

within organizations to insure inclusivity is the norm.

3 – Representation

Freelancers represented in decision making that affects Freelancers, borrowing

the principle ‘Nothing about us without us’.

4 – Transparency

What does a job entail & what is the budget? Can we be clear from day one?

What does representation in an organisation look like? Recording & publishing

data around Freelancers engaged by organisations, sharing best practice etc.

5 – Sustainability

A commitment to supporting Freelancers: from platforming early career artists

and practitioners to continuing relationships with mid and late career

Freelancers. Recognising that Freelancing by its nature is precarious and support

is needed to keep people in the profession.


1 – Adopt the 5 guiding principles

Share how this looks in practice for you – employ the ongoing work from various

groups of the FTF (on pay, anti-racism, d(D)eaf & disabled access etc).

2 – Apply ‘Nothing about us without us’

If an organisation relies on Freelancers to fulfil its aims, they should be part of

setting those aims. Working to include Freelancers in decision making – for e.g.

development strategies, commissioning & recruitment panels, boards etc. Where

possible, no one left feeling that they are ‘the only one’ in the room.

3 – Keep talking & sharing

Create spaces for conversations. Organisations working together to prevent

Freelancers falling through gaps of support.

4 – Bulk-buying & Bartering

Where organisations order – be it software, equipment, or CPD such as First Aid

courses, etc – can we offer to Freelancers too and reduce costs for all? If time for

planning cannot be covered, what can be offered instead? Training, marketing &

mentoring of Freelancers’ own projects? Understanding that not all freelancers

will be willing/able to accept this instead of a higher day rate.

5 – Schools & YP

Can we work together to ensure that every child in school sees a live

performance at least once every year and there are opportunities to participate

built in? Further participation opportunities to support the next generations.

6 – Build development ladders

Offer time & space (when are your rooms dark?) Play, Peer-to-Peer training &

learning, ‘missing piece’ conversations, opening address books, Scratch Nights +

Mentors, industry audience showings, educating on watching works-in-progress

& feeding back – Liz Lerman’s ‘Critical Response’ etc?


Reading the organisation survey responses, some common themes would be

resolved if we:

1. Clearly articulate what we can do. Say when a role/task/job is beyond our

current capacity.

2. Clearly articulate what we want . Is this job an end in itself or a stepping

stone? Are we hoping to work longer-term with this organisation?

3. Be prepared to ask for help.

4. Respond quickly to calls for information/contracts/monitoring.

5. Evaluate and share our evaluations.


Organisations interested in subscribing please email:


List what existing/planned programmes of work/actions are happening that align

with the 5 Guiding Principles:

For example in Cornwall:

  • The HFC/FEAST cuppa culture weekly meetings
  • The contracting of Freelancers by HFC to manage public consultation on the council’s new Cultural Manifesto
  • Prodigal Theatre’s Emergent Ensemble contracts 6 early career artists for 1 week a month over 9 months, up-skilling them as self-producers whilst also embedding them in the ongoing work of the company with community engagement, touring, and the creation of a new festival as outcome.

For example in Plymouth:

  • The FTF representatives are co-hosting conversations with Plymouth Culture for freelancers and organisations who engage freelancers in the city.
  • The Plymouth Cultural Education Partnership consults with and engages freelancers in their projects to actively involve schools and children and young people in culture in Plymouth.

For example, the Peninsula Dance Partnership:

  • Hall For Cornwall, Plymouth Dance and Dance in Devon, have secured and are distributing CPD and choreographic bursaries and business coaching support for freelance dance artists/companies, with a total value of £37,500, in response to COVID-19.

Visit the The Freelance Task Force website for more information, to contact them or to access additional resources. HOME | My Site 2 (5guidingprinciples.com)

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