research project

Freelancers in the Dark

Principal Investigator
Dr Holly Maples

About the project

This research project investigates the social, cultural, and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on independent arts workers across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is funded by the ESRC through their emergency funding for projects addressing COVID-19.

Theatres went dark on March 20th 2020. The effect of this on the large freelance theatre workforce who make theatre what it is, often in highly precarious conditions, has been pronounced. The purpose of this project is to investigate the experiences of freelancers and to report back and evaluate the data collected from throughout the UK. Our aim is to not only document the collective strategies of freelancers during and in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, but also help the sector develop a plan to address the challenges facing freelancers in 2021 and beyond, facilitate communication with support networks across the UK, and increase resilience in the sector.

Our findings will be used to inform and advise major sector bodies (funding councils, unions, educational organisations, policy-makers) as the sector looks to rebuild, as well as foster further support networks and guidance to freelancers both regionally and nationally.


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We are running surveys, interviews and focus groups which you can take part in. You can also keep up with the project updates on our blog.

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The Team

The Principle Investigator is Dr. Holly Maples, and the project is based at the University of Essex East 15 School of Acting, in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and Queen’s University, Belfast.


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