Friday, 17 September 2010

SMA Friday Diary - 17 September 2010

Joining the twitterati

Friday 1 October - Elements of Company Management course at the Theatres Trust.
Still a couple of places available due to last minute pull-outs! Contact office ASAP.

Also Friday 1 October - just for your info: Peter Theobald who died in 2004 was very active within Equity and on the then SMA Committee for many many years. His Equity branch, the North West London one, are unveiling a plaque in his memory at the Royal Court on this Friday - Peter was the electrician at the theatre at the height of its fame with Look Back in Anger etc, and lit many productions during that time.

Also Friday 1 October - a memorial service for designer Stefan Lazaridis whom some or many of you may have known and worked with.

Monday 4 October - Evening Network - still at Players Club - from 9.30pm onwards - will let you know who will be there from the SMA with the discount card!

Tuesday 19 October - Health & Safety Update - an nual seminar with Geoffrey Joyce - from 10.30 till 2pm, so fits in well with a showcall. Book now through office - very good value!

Wednesday 20 October - next meeting of the Production Managers Forum - 4.30 till 6pm at the CAA, 20 Bedford Street, Covent Garden; followed by networking in the bar! Subject as yet to be decided, watch out for further postings.

More soon

Best wishes
on behalf of

The SMA Team

Friday, 20 August 2010

Working for nothing?

SMA Friday Diary - and news - Friday 20 August 2010

No new jobs on website this week

A result of the consistent campaigning by the SMA and others over that last 18 months that ACE should not be publicising unpaid work on its Arts Jobs website.
However, beware! Even though now the website only advertises paid jobs - make sure you check the small print. I came across one this week which offers GBP200 a week for a stage manager. Even on National Minimum Wage (GBP5.80 an hour), that would only give them 35 hours of a stage manager's time per week- very likely not enough to get the show on. At the London Living Wage (GBP7.85 an hour), it would only buy them around 25 hours a week!
See below also for an article which recently appeared in Creative Choices, an email newsletter published by CCSkills (Creative and Cultural Skills, the sector skills council for the performing arts). (You can sign up for this for free on http://www.

Tuesday 7 September, 2 pm - Daytime Network at the Lamb & Flag, usual place, upstairs, table nearest the window will see Sally this time, waving a Paper Props CD instead of a Cueline!

Sunday 12 to Wednesday 15 September - PLASA at Earls Court. Register now on:
For the first time, the SMA will have a presence at the show, sharing a stand with the ABTT.

The SMA/ABTT Production Managers Forum will be hosting a session at PLASA on Wednesday 15 September 11-12 on the subject of:
'Is the new TMA/BECTU Code of Conduct for Get-Ins, Fit-Ups and Get-Outs working?'
The panel to kick off the discussion will be chaired by Ken Bennett-Hunter and include freelance PM David Evans, Princess Theatre Torbay Tech Dir Martyn Jenkins, Birmingham Hippodrome Tech Man Barry Hope and TR Newcastle Chief LX Nathan Reynard.
All welcome but please note you have to register for PLASA to come to the sessio n (see above).

Article from Creative Choices:

Why free labour is costing too much
Sonya Dyer sets out why the culture of working for free means many talented people miss out.

Within the visual arts sector - as with many other sectors of the economy - free labour is rife. Those at the beginning of their careers are particularly vulnerable.
Of course, many in the sector (dominated by middle class people whose parents can help them support themselves) do not experience this as a barrier. However, what it does create is an artificial filter, with the people who cannot rely on family or other support left to fall by the

Financial barriers to opportunity
The Arts Council's mission is great art for everyone.

How can a sector open itself up to people from 'non-traditional backgrounds' (the euphemism used to describe non-white and/or non-middle class people) when they are expected to work for free in order to get their foot in the door?
I would argue that it is no longer acceptable for organisations and funding bodies that claim to value 'equality of opportunity' and 'diversity' to not back - in principle and in practice - paid
internships as a right and as an expectation.
In order to support the principle of equality, we need to remove the financial barriers to opportunity and the perpetuation of privilege for the few. It is encouraging that a number of practitioners and organisations are actively involved in challenging this injustice.
I recently took part in a roundtable discussion on internships at the Mayor of London's office, with people from leading galleries, museums and educational institutions. I left encouraged by the quality of the conversation, the way in which the principle of paid internships was generally accepted as a good and necessary thing and the desire to get to grips with the practicalities of such a proposal.

Ways into the creative sector
Young pe ople need pathways into the creative sector.

I find it useful to consider what information I would have access to if I were starting out again now. I grew up in a notorious housing estate in Hackney and went to a comprehensive school. At art school, I knew nothing about and no one in this sector. I was also one of a handful of teenagers - everyone else was older and more experienced.
I recently worked with a group of arts organisations in the borough who were keen to develop a paid internship scheme. I called the Jobcentre and asked who I should speak to about nternships. The person on the end of the line did not know what an internship was, even when I explained it to him.
I've also spoken to numerous people working with innercity youth and I often hear the same complaint. These young people are not being told a positive 'story' about the sector. They don't know it could be for them, as teachers aren't telling them. They aren't aware of pathways into the secto r and the possibilities for the future.
I sincerely hope that through Creative Partnerships and other projects in schools (and outside schools), the Creative Apprenticeship scheme and University Widening Participation programmes, an increasing number of young people from 'non-traditional' backgrounds are being made more aware of the possibilities open to them.
But imagine if I were someone else, vaguely aware that there may be possibilities for myself, or my teenaged child. I call the Jobcentre and the person in the position to interface with me doesn't even know what an internship is.

Ideas to open up the creative industries
Mystery Train education project engages with young people.

It strikes me that any effort to open up the sector must also extend outside the sector. It's why I'm encouraged by projects like the British Museum's Young Graduates in Museums and Galleries programme going out there and engaging with young people.
I would like to se e more of this, more interaction with parents, schools, and colleges. We know that young people from minority backgrounds are more likely to go into further education than those from the white majority - they are just less likely to go into the arts.
Of course the arts are a hard sell - the pay is lousy. But if a person loves it, if it excites them, then surely the sector should actively remove barriers to participation? How could it work? I'd like to propose a few broad-brush ideas (this is not definitive by any means, just a place to start):

* I would like to see Arts Council England encouraging all their Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) to pay at least some of their interns for their labour. Of course, organisations worry about funding - who will pay for this?
* I would propose a fund - financially supported by Arts Council England, as part of their diversity/equality agenda - that RFOs and non-RFOs could apply to in order to support the costs of the paid internships. Other funders - from the public or private sector - could get involved as well. If we think about how much money has been pumped into diversity schemes over the years, surely there should be a way to fund this? What's to stop it from becoming a grant condition for RFOs?
* Places on paid internships should be open to application, and awarded through a competitive process. There is a legal requirement to obtain information on ethnicity, so this could be used to assess any such scheme and to see if there needs to be a particular focus at any given time.
* As a matter of principle, the interns should be paid at least the minimum wage.
* We need to protect interns. Organisations should be obliged to create a plan for their internships, demonstrating what interns will learn through the programme.
* Private organisations would need to be considered as well - should they be eligible to apply for any such grant?
How would the Arts Council ensure accountability? These are issues that could be resolved.

Paid internships could single-handedly positively affect more people than any other equality/diversity measure employed thus far.
At the very least, it would mark a move away from privileging the well-off and penalising the disadvantaged. It would be a sign that this sector is truly serious about providing equality of opportunity for all.

Sonya Dyer is a London based artist, writer and arts consultant. She is the author of 'Boxed In: How Cultural Diversity Policies Constrict Black Artists.'

Sunday, 13 June 2010

SMA Friday Diary - 11 June 2010

Props, Awards, Prompt Desks and more!

WEDNESDAY 16 JUNE, 12 NOON at the ABTT Theatre Show
National Awards for Stage Management Awards Ceremony.
Awards this year to be presented by:
RICHARD PILBROW, lighting, staging and theatre consultancy guru who originally started out as a stage manager - come and hear what he has to say about us!
All members welcome, email if intending to come.

Register FREE for the show at which continues on 17 June.

WEDNESDAY 16 JUNE, following Awards Ceremony
Launch of the first Props CD.
Designed as a tool for the working stage manager or design assistant, lovingly collated by two expert proppers, Jacqui George and John Blunden.
Pick up a copy for only 7.50GBP at the SMA stand - save 2.49GBP p&p!

Join GDS at their stand for a demo of their popular prompt desk, the only successful redesign in decades, and meet their new cuelight system.

Come and hear the annual John Watts Memorial Forum debate
Subject this year: LOLER and the Theatre Industry.
Email office if intending to come, entry free, all welcome.

THURSDAY 17 JUNE - we're still there at the ABTT Theatre Show! So do come and see us.

on behalf of

The SMA Team

Friday, 28 May 2010

SMA Friday Diary - 28 May 2010

I have had a holiday and I would like to take it up professionally - Kylie Minogue

MONDAY 7 JUNE, Evening Network, 9.30pm onwards, currently still located at the Players Club...

Record number of nominations received for National Awards for Stage Management!
Come and see for yourself who will be announced as the winner(s) in the Individual and Team categories on:
WEDNESDAY 16 JUNE, 12 NOON at the Royal Horticultural Halls, Everton Street near Victoria.
All members welcome, email if intending to come so we can up the drinks order!
Register FREE for the show to come and see us at our stand or join GDS for a demonstration of their new cuelight system. Register at

Saturday 26 June - VISIT TO REFURBISHED CRUCIBLE IN SHEFFIELD plus chance to see the matinee - contact office if you're interested in coming and state if you want tickets, too.

Stage Management Self-Employed Tax Seminar, Wednesday 30th June, 11-1pm. Book now with SMA office.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Save the planet from prompt corner

By David Evans

With an election no longer on the horizon, not even lurking round the corner, but imminent, we can expect each party to attempt to outdo each other as they wave their "green" credentials. The Green Party would of course win were this the only topic up for discussion, but as it only forms part of the portfolio of issues, concerns, policies and special interests that will be squabbled over we will be left with the big three performing master classes of recycling and repackaging of each other's and their predecessor's ideas.

They all have policies - the Conservative have a "Climate Change and Energy policy" which is packed with big ideas and big commitments, they talk of a "decentralised energy revolution" and they will lead the way by cutting government's energy consumption by 10% in the first year of office.

The Lib Dems are delighted that the Green Alliance gave them "three green lights" and they are rather more specific in their support for renewable energy sources, and their opposition to nuclear power which the other two parties support. Like the Conservatives they like superlatives; "massive investment", "major insulation programme". They are a bit more microcosmic addressing domestic bills and how their "green infrastructure" will form the basis of a new economic model with new jobs attached.

The Labour Party has a more difficult role as they are already enacting part of their policy and they cannot snipe from the wings. They have already passed the 2008 Climate Change Act which as a legal framework has authority in the same way that the H and S at Work act of 1974 does and we all know how that has impinged itself on our lives. One of their main ideas is a "Green Investment Bank", perhaps an odd policy given the current currency of the banking fraternity.

All three parties are rather macho, everything is; "massive, big, comprehensive", but they are quite short on detail. Of course this is all made to look slightly absurd as you see Cameron peddling furiously round London with his car following him, and Gordon publically apologising for taking the occasional plane.

But how does this affect us? At the moment not a great deal, but as all their policies show, they are building up a momentum and pretty soon stringent standards will be imposed, and we should be ready for them.

The low hanging fruit of energy saving bulbs, turning off computers etc. have been discussed at length in the pages of Cueline and elsewhere, but it is depressing how little some managements and venues have done. Do they not realise that all sound energy saving decisions save money in the short, medium and long term?

Stage Managers can attend to their own activities, use recycled paper, print on both sides, turn off the lights, etc., but their influence is much wider. They set the tone for a project. Who sets up the rehearsal room? Who runs the shows? Your influence starts in the rehearsal room, if the management do not put out recycling bins, put them out yourself.

As part of the production team, you are part of the decision making process: use that influence. Despite the often pitifully slow process of government, certain councils have established very sophisticated recycling and reuse schemes. Contact them and find out how you can work together.

Battery recycling schemes exist, but they are not always very efficient, but what is stopping you drawing up a rota for people to take the old batteries to the local supermarket or library which offer recycling? Do any of you drive to work? Offset the journey by taking recyclable items to the local recycling centre (it used to be known as the dump).

The politicians are talking about saving the world, let us just concentrate on improving our little bits of it and then we might be better prepared for when they start making some real decisions.

An SMA member comments...

There are two associated issues I feel very strongly about, that I would like to add:

I did a lot of recycling on the last West End show I worked on, as we had newspapers, champagne bottles and beer cans consumed each show. I was shocked to learn the theatre bar didn't recycle (so I carried them to nearby recycling bins). The theatre bars produced many more bottles than the show did, so it just emphasised what a drop in the ocean it was that I was doing, to the point of ridicule. There's only so much 1 person can quietly achieve when the family of theatres around her is doing nothing. No bar or pub has any excuse not to recycle.

But my other real frustration which affects theatres heavily is water coolers. This is TERRIBLE for the environment, and also morally/ethically bad. But it seems to be so common, and even expected. Tap water is healthier, cheaper, ecologically and ethically better. It is important for actors especially to get their heads round this. I refuse to use water coolers and so often there is a sink not that far away. Does everyone have their own water cooler at home? Why are people so obsessed with them?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

back from holiday with a vengeance

typical, start writing a blog and then of course simply run out of time.

As I was going away on 13th Feb, the last week in the office was absolutely mad, trying to make sure all the urgent stuff was done, including, of course, the new tax guidance for stage managers and agreeing who could say what to the Stage about it. Very very relieved as it's turned out OK, if not ideal. For the majority of stage managers it's good news. If you want specific advice, email the office, and you can download the new guidance from the SMA website members' area. If members only knew how much time this particular subject has taken up in the last three months!

Being away for two weeks in Berlin was fantastic - I didn't get a two week stretch holiday last year at all and it's just really nice not to have to start thinking on day 4 about packing up again.

But coming back, as usual, had its moments - the tax office had sent a completely erroneous demand (more work for the accountant), I had 342 spam emails at home and then the wasing machine broke down. I'd braced myself for a funny week in the office and so it proved - it took me till 4.30 on the Wed to work my way through all the emails (I mean, not just read them! Deal with them!), and Thursday was one of those awful days when I did lots and lots of small things - like sorting out a response to our auditors at the SMA with queries on the accounts, trying to organise the next Production Managers Forum session at PLASA Focus in Leeds, working on finding somewhere to hold the AGM in May, catching up on training with Kat who was in on Thursday afternoon.... but by the end of the day you don't actually feel you've achieved anything, just almost, but not quite, ticked a lot of things on your list.

Oh yes lists. I'm a great believer in lists, well, I guess it's the stage management background. There's an art to doing them, though, isn't there? So they make sense to you, yes, obviously, but also so that I prioritise in the best way. There are now 3 bits to my list...what's on this week in terms of meetings;....what's really important in terms of big jobs.....; all the small niggly things I'd also like to get done this week.

So this week, for example, had a staff meeting for Tuesday, a scheduled phone call from the Cultural Leadership Programme (follow-up evaluation on the Stage Managers for Managers project a couple of years ago), a meeting with Daisy Gladstone who is interested in editing the September Cueline, a meeting with Andrew de Rosa, new Chief Executive of the ABTT, time to discuss training and the Cueline coming up with Kat Nugent on Thursday, and finally showing Kate Astbury, one of our Board members, how she can help us with the mailings for the SMA Awards which she has kindly offered to help with whilst The Enchanted Pig is being shipped back from the States for a UK tour.
Ah, that was just the meetings.... I think I'd better get on with some work now I look at the list.....

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Catching up with myself?

I finally managed to get home, very late, last Wednesday and Thursday, but I did feel I'd got a real grip on the Production Managers' Forum which has been a little neglected of late, but now has some interesting meetings lined up. And I managed to get most of Cueline together, just leaving myself the Editorial, Training and Events pages to do over the weekend....
Friday, though, was my fun day - as a regular contributor to the Stage I get invited to their New Year party in the saloon of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. It's a great event and I met quite a few SMA members there... We talked about the new West End agreement (boo, hiss), the BAPAM (thumbs up) - that's the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, and that covers stage managers, too, it's a charity which can help you access specialist advice for free. And I spoke to Stephen Spence of Equity about the tax situation - more official news on that very very soon. I even met Moira Stuart and she's terribly nice! It's a place to do business, agree meetings, exchange gossip, find out what really went on at this or the other theatre, and network network network!
Back to the grindstone at the weekend - two articles for the Stage to finish, plus that Editorial for Cueline...
Tuesday - this is my last week before I'm off on holiday for two weeks, so trying to get even more things than usual crammed into 3 days. We have a staff meeting to update each other and find solutions to various little or big problems - much better done in a group than on your own! But this is my short day, so just about have time for that and ploughing through the accumulated emails before dashing off to pick up the kids.
Wednesday - well, today has been interesting, what with conversations and emails with the HMRC, still trying to finish the last bits of Cueline, the accounts having come back from the accountants with some queries, Netbanx still causing me a headache as I'm trying to get the system off the ground which will allow the SMA to take credit cards over the phone, too (the website one is now up and running!!), yet another member complaining (quite rightly) that there are so many unpaid jobs advertised on SJP, negotiating a venue for the next Board meeting and training course, and being really happy that membership numbers have gone up again this month! Oh, and I finally got round to writing the Training and Events pages for Cueline which is just as well as David Ayliff is coming in tomorrow to finalise and print it all out with me...
time to go home!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

In the SMA office

Never a dull moment at the Stage Management Association, though I have to confess my whole life is a bit like that - too many interesting things to do and not enough time to do them in!
Anyway, just to add to the fun, I thought it about time that the SMA had a blog, so maybe YOU can tell us a bit more about what YOU're doing, and we at the SMA can tell you what exactly we're up to.
So what are we up to?
Well, there's three of us who work in the office, as you know. Sally is the membership chief honcho and spends the whole of Monday and Tuesday in the office, often part of Wed or Thurs or Fri as well. And she deals totally with the Freelist. On her own. Giant round of applause here, please. She is the person with the most fantastic attention to detail, ever, even by high stage management standards! I'm hoping I'll persuade her to write her own account of what she gets up to on here soon!
Kim is administrator and queen of the website and also deals with a myriad other things - printing out Cueline, organising meeting rooms for the Board meetings, writing up the minutes from those meetings, getting all the stuff ready for various trade shows, and being the life and soul of the party at any SMA events. But again I hope she will tell you a bit more about her work herself at some point. Kim is in the office every Tuesday and Friday and often an hour or two on other days, depending what's on.
Mmmm, what do I do? I find it difficult to summarise, so I might just tell you about my last week... but essentially I'm responsible for the SMA, accountable to you, the members, and the Board of Directors. In consultation with them, and Sally and Kim, we decide on strategies and directions and policies for the SMA. I also do all the representing and going to talk to people. Oh and setting up new initiatives or dreaming them up in the first place... You see what I mean about it being difficult to summarise? Ah, I forgot - I edit Cueline, too... It's a bit like 'stage manager' - I do everything else, and by the way I'm in charge!
So I'm in the office generally on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. But last Tuesday was an exception - I'd been invited by Cirque du Soleil to an event they were holding at the Royal Albert Hall for the industry, to talk to some of their backstage staff and have a look around backstage. I couldn't miss that - I've been trying to write an article about them for Cueline and/or the Stage for three years! And they'd even organised an interview with the stage manager for me! I was really looking forward to that.
Sigh. It nearly worked - yes, I did get to meet their Deputy Technical Stage Manager, their Production Manager for the Royal Albert Hall and the Touring Services Director (that is one hell of a job description, more on that another time!), but the stage manager was - you'll never guess - on paternity leave (spot first big difference to 'normal' UK stage management). And the other stage manager (they have only two - more on that another time) was busy rehearsing something on stage. Grmpf.
Still, plenty of material for an article, but another year to wait for the next Cirque stage manager who calls one of their shows to come to town!
Wednesday. Stage management and tax issue - have Equity cracked it? Still holding our breath though Equity confident. Lots of emails about that. Also, emails since previous Thursday to catch up on - we only have one email address in the office, but use different colours to mark emails for different staff. I'm purple and usually on a Tuesday I have a sea of purple emails to wade through... even more so last week as I wasn't even in on the Tuesday. Urgent ones, obviously, do get forwarded to me at home, or Kim or Sally ring me up, but most stuff can wait till I get in and it's much better this way - at one point, I was doing emails all the time at home and actually felt I was working seven days a week, though I wasn't if you totted up the hours - but I wasn't getting a proper break. Now I feel I'm much more productive on the 3 days I actually work (well, often I do do Fridays as well, but just till 2pm). Long conversation with one of our trainers who is worried a pressing family commitment may get in the way of the course planned for us. We postpone the decision till this week. Pay some bills, set up all the Accounts spreadsheets for this year as our financial year ended December and I've just sent off all the stuff to the accountants. More emails and phone calls trying to finalise the technicalities with Netbanx which will allow us to take credit cards not just on the website (yippee! that's up and running now!), but over the phone, too. Re-write some of the website as Kim and I went through almost the whole of it the previous week to decide which bits needed tweaking and updating.
Pause! I'll carry on another day... too late now... Hopefully at least one more post before I go away on holiday (shock, horror) for TWO weeks on Saturday!