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Parents in Performing Arts (PIPA) publishes preliminary findings…

Parents in performing arts announces Arts Council England and Creative Scotland funded first-of-its-kind best practice research project in partnership with 15 leading UK theatres and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Photo credit Brian Martin

Parents in Performing Arts (PIPA), a Consortium of 18 leading Industry organisations, led by The Old Vic, announces the preliminary findings of their Best Practice Research Project. Conducted in partnership with 15 leading UK theatre organisations and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, the research project is funded by The Arts Council of England, Creative Scotland, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Actors’ Children’s Trust, The Family Arts Campaign and UK Theatre.

The initial findings, based on a UK wide survey with 966 respondents working in the theatre sector, as well as follow-up interviews and focus groups conducted with the 15 partner theatre organisations, confirm that the burden of childcare falls disproportionately on women. It also reveals that self-employed people are significantly disadvantaged by current provisions for childcare support.

According to the survey 81% of self-employed people and 57% of employed people reported that they have turned down work as a result of a caring responsibility. Further, 66% of survey respondents reported changing their jobs as a consequence of becoming parents.

It also reveals that there is a tacit working culture in theatres that disadvantages people with caring responsibilities and moreover that caring responsibilities that are not for dependent children are invisible to

“Our interim findings demonstrate the depth and complexity of the challenges faced both by theatre workers with caring responsibilities and their employers. We have identified both employment and career consequences of caring and aspects of the long-established working culture of theatres that actively disadvantage and exclude
parents and those with other caring responsibilities. We have now begun the next phase of the research with some extremely promising discussions with the senior managements of theatre companies. We look forward to supporting them to trial solutions to the challenges we have identified.” Dr Tom Cornford, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

“The extraordinary advancement of the PIPA campaign over the last year has been supported by all of us at The Old Vic. We have joined with other members of the industry in this initial best practice research project, the findings of which have already revealed some practical steps that we can all trial to improve our family friendly employment practices. We are committed to finding solutions to effect lasting change. If we don’t, we’ll miss out on the pool of talent out there who need us to open the gateway to ensure they can work in our industry.” Kate Varah, Executive Director, The Old Vic

On 14th December 2016, Phase 2 of the research initiative began with the 15 theatre organisations meeting at the
first Parents In Performing Arts symposium hosted by the Donmar Warehouse. The aim of the event was to identify potential solutions to the challenges highlighted by the research findings, some of which will be trialled over the next 6 months.

It has been invaluable to spend time with colleagues from across the sector, to explore the challenges and
opportunities that people with caring responsibilities face when working within the performing arts industry. It has been fascinating to learn about the many successful best practice processes and policies that already exist, and to learn from one another how these can be more broadly adopted to ensure a consistent approach nationwide. Many of the ideas raised at the recent symposium were surprising simple, easy to implement, and had tangible positive benefits.” Caroline Newall, Director of Artistic Development at the National Theatre of Scotland.

The overall aim of the research is to identify barriers facing carers working in the performing arts, and to investigate practical ways of reducing them. The outcome will be a Best Practice Charter to be embedded in the
Family Arts Standards in conjunction with the Family and Childcare Trust as well as other performing arts industry



  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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