“I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.”
Welcome back to our blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week we hear from someone working on the technical side of the music, theatre and TV industry – Laura Perrett, freelance video designer, talks about the challenges of long and inflexible tech rehearsals.
How many children do you have and how old are they?
I have one son who is nearly two.
Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.
Before I got pregnant I was a full-time video designer working in a freelance capacity. I design and create visuals for projection, LED screens and broadcast screens. I balanced theatre jobs with more commercial arena-sized music concert jobs as they pay a living wage whereas theatre and opera rarely do. I never tour, but I do have to be present for tech-rehearsals and preview periods, the hours for which are dictated by the production. Jobs can range from being many months long for arena tours to just a few weeks for small theatre productions; the design stage of jobs offers me far more flexibility on hours than the tech-rehearsals stage which offers zero flexibility. It is the tech-rehearsals part of my job that is preventing me from working.
Tell me about your work/parenthood balance.
There is none at the moment. Apart from a very small job I did in November for the Royal Variety Performance which allowed me to work at weekends (so my partner covered), I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.
Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent?
How did this make you feel?
Frustrated, isolated. I accept that it was my choice to be a parent but the lack of flexible and affordable childcare means I cannot meet the needs to work in an ad-hoc fashion. I am considering changing career or re-purposing my skills!
Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?
My partner is freelance, and currently has a very reliable client who offers regular work and pays incredibly quickly. If I was the main breadwinner, I would be very anxious about my clients paying me on time. So we let him work full time purely for the sake of economics. My partner works in the television industry and the hours are long, which means he cannot do nursery drop-offs or pickups either. We have no family help.
Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form?
Yes – nursery two days a week. We pay for this to give me a chance to work, but currently as my hours are so limited to two days I week I am struggling to find part-time work in my sector. It’s basically full time or nothing. I often use these days to train, build my website or try and speak to potential new clients if I do not have paid work.
What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?
I don’t see how hours can change or be flexible tbh. A show is a show, and one has to be there for tech rehearsals to make it happen! It would be nice if hours could be 9-5 instead of 12 hour days! No nursery in the world is going to cover that.
How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?
Being a freelance video designer is pretty much the same as being a freelance anything. Minimal Maternity Allowance, and somehow you have to find a way to keep your name and business out there! Which is hard when you are not creating new content.
Laura Perrett is a designer specialising in creative video content and moving image for theatre, opera, music and broadcast. She has over 15 years experience working with some of the best artists, directors and storytellers in the industry. Recent design and associate design credits include the creation of screen content for: Take That Wonderland Tour 2017 (UK Tour), Half a Sixpence (Noel Coward Theatre), Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre)Turn of the Screw (Teatro Alla Scala), The Sessions : A live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios (Royal Albert Hall), Mary Poppins (UK Tour), Hamlet (Barbican), Black Sabbath at Hyde Park, The Rolling Stones (US Zipcode Tour), U2 i+e (World Tour) and ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ on Channel 4.
Read more about Laura’s work here: www.lauraperrett.com