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The story so far

Rob Reading, Director, Pirate Crew

Frantic Beginnings

After the Prime Minister’s announcement on 16th March that venues should close, we were all obviously shell shocked. Especially as we had just finished fitting up the shows that day! Many of us went into a frenzied panic.
We tried to shore up finances. We made wild predictions about the future, some folks were hopeful, with an end of the world prognosis from others. Whatever the opinion, the fact is that we didn’t know then how long this would last or what the future would look like. That lack of knowledge doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.

Truly desperate times

Freelancers and those most recently employed have been hit first and worst thus far. I know first hand that many are now seeking alternative careers or suffering mental health issues. We risk losing the skills that we have spent years cultivating. We can not allow this.
The students training for a career in the entertainment industry have had the rug pulled. Is it not difficult enough as a young person to decide what you want to do in life, to then find out your dream may now be dust? We must now support the youth in any way we can.
Theatres and suppliers, are now under serious threat of extinction, having to make the dreadful choice of saving their business by making redundancies or taking huge loans that will significantly stifle future profits. We’ve all been hurriedly positioned into a rock and hard place.  Furlough has helped for sure, but the simple fact is that other industries can return and we cannot, means it is folly and downright irresponsible to treat the companies in the Entertainment sector the same as others. Companies now will need to contribute to wages from August with zero income to fund it.


Not one person reading this, nor any Government minister should expect any company to pay staff salaries with a bounce back loan, as it will serve little purpose but to slide us further into debt.
If you run a company as positive as ours you’ll know that after more than 10 years in business, the team you’ve managed to create around you is so bloody fantastic, that the phrase ‘soul destroying’ doesn’t even cut it. Ultimately you’ll have no choice but to take away the livelihoods of these brilliant people, or the company that has taken so long to build, will cease to exist.
Theatres may hopefully get well deserved a financial reprieve, with discussions in parliament happening lately to further support the Arts and create separate financial bailouts. But with no firm announcements on support or a date of return it’s difficult to hold our collective nerves. Even if venues & production companies are able to secure additional funding and save jobs (fingers crossed), would that include the supply chain and all of the staff and freelancers within it?

To be responsible

There are a multitude of issues for everyone to handle with care. No one person or business is safe from the immediate or long term affects. We can put our faith in the nation and the government do the right thing, to follow social distancing measures and recognise the importance of the Arts. But when our industry is lucky enough to return to work, we must be the shining beacon of how to operate diligently, consistently and as one entity. Even if we believe the media hype of lockdown being broken or have our own experiences of lack of social distancing, we are the ones to inspire all others to do right, by trying to be right.
None of us are to blame for what has happened, but we are now totally responsible for how we deal with it. Individually and as a collective of like-minded professionals we need to be better, to lead the way in planning to work safely and support each other. It’s one thing to write a risk assessment on a piece of paper, with intentions to social distance at work, it’s another to fully implement it. We have no choice left but to do our very best. If we do get back to work anytime soon, who would we blame in the instance of a second shutdown if we don’t follow safety procedures? It’s time to take responsibility. 
You are all brilliant people. Innovative, organised and so so entertaining. While there are many challenges, I believe no matter the drastic changes we need to make, nothing can stop the fun and camaraderie.
We at Pirate are in the privileged position to be able to help, wherever we can, around the home schooling and kiddy tantrums of course!

Our Story So Far

  • After 10 years of trials and tribulations that comes with running a responsible business, we were in our prime. With an office team to die for and the best bunch of gals and lads forming our valued technical team, our world came suddenly crashing down. Any lovely people reading this went through similar feelings.
  • From day one on March 16th we tried to help production companies get out of sticky situations by offering our crew at cost for two weeks. Whilst this obviously helped our clients, it also gave us the opportunity to deliver one more pay day to our freelancers. This Crew-At Cost was used by many companies needing to pack up and store their shows in a hurry.
  • 15th May we shared our Virus Protection Guidelines for Construction advice for theatres. Initially this was sent to immediate friends and colleagues but this has now widely spread organically across multiple industries and we now field daily discussions with many in the industry, including those who are otherwise furloughed and unable to start their own work on this issue.
  • 19th May, with enquiries starting for Pirate regarding imminent works, we released our Virus Protection for our own crew. This includes measures on social distancing, travelling to work, pre work check ups and monitoring working groups. This is growing and adapting with time and experience.
  • 25th May we started back at work, helping many clients in Manchester, Bristol, London and more to strike, move and store shows. All of this has been done with a sharp eye on virus protection measures and trying to minimise our own contribution to the national R rate.
  • My business partner Gavin Pell has been in many conversations with ABTT and the PMF, and took part in the ABTT seminar on the future of theatre.
  • Gavin also accepted an invitation from RADA to speak virtually, to many production students, to try to calm some fears about their futures.
  • We’ve supported our own freelancers both former and current, with anything they may need that’s in our power to give, which is in many circumstances, is just a friendly ear to listen.

Moving Forward

We know there is so much more to do and now we are making plans to:
  • Help inform, protect and spread positivity wherever the opportunity arises.
  • Confront and support on mental health issues both systemic and with individuals.
  • Support the youth of the industry.
  • Assist all efforts to progress virus protection in the work place, including discussing our own experiences.
  • Help adjust attitudes across the industry to a new way of thinking, a beacon for virus protection – rather than sinking back to the old ways.
  • Promote discussion amongst all persons in the industry, technical, artistic and administrative, about the state of the crisis.
  • Assist people to advance their skills by locating and securing free/cheap & accessible training whilst in lockdown.
  • Promote diversity within the industry, particularly with BAME professionals into more senior roles, as befits their talents.
  • Do anything we can to help people find work once this crisis abates.
  • Help people find alternative work whilst venues are still under closure.
  • Continue to make connections and group with other supply companies to promote all positive endeavours.

The beauty is in the trying

We will try and fail at many of the above initiatives, as we are few in number and time is limited.  But we’ll do the best with the time that we have, for we have that responsibility to do so. We move forward knowing that our opinions may be controversial and unwanted. We know that anything we say will be unimportant to some ears, especially now, when everyone has their own issues and just want to get back to work.
We also know that being an advocate for change & improvement will probably be detrimental to our future profits, but that’s OK, it’s never been about making a million, just trying to to the best job we can and being happy in our work. We won’t pretend to know everything, but promoting the conversation is just so important.
We move ever forward with the notion that The Shows Must Go On.