The subordinate continuity assurance working group shares practices, suggestions and ideas.
The situation calls for solidarity and for everyone, both employers and employees, to try to reduce the risk of infection and to commit themselves to complying with official instructions. In particular, workers moving between different organizations must pay attention to complying with the guidelines, and organizations must pay attention to orientating staff in them.
Rapidly changing situations require flexible and agile solutions. Flexibility is needed from the employer, the employee and the public.
It is important to communicate in advance to employees why and how things change to get people committed to the change. It is also important to communicate openly to audiences about the continuity of performances and new safety practices, such as flexible ticket exchanges if spectators fall ill.
It is good to remember that a crisis situation can mean financial losses. We encourage operators to make creative solutions for the duration of this abnormal situation. For example, temporary local practices or, in some cases, in-house agreements, changes to job descriptions or re-resourcing could be alternatives to lay-offs.
Regional differences in the disease situation are made stronger during the current crisis. For this reason, we recommend local communication and cooperation between cultural actors as well as between cultural actors, decision-makers and regional administrations. Organizations face challenges from their own starting points, which is why the recommendations and action proposals presented below are suitable for different organizations in different ways.
Continuity of performance activities means no cancellations of performances and changes to the timetable and, on the other hand, that any changes and cancellations do not paralyse all activities. The aim is to minimize inconvenience for spectators.
In terms of performance continuity, the worst scenario would be the whole working group or even organization going into quarantine due to exposure, and the resulting interruption of rehearsals or cancellations of performances for two weeks, for example. Depending on the organizational model, different situations may be more difficult for some than for others (e.g. organization with monthly employees vs. organization with freelancer staff).
Risk of cancellation of presentations: Illness or quarantine of staff
- In a pandemic, taking care of personal safety reduces the risk of long-term quarantine for the entire working group.
- We recommend that the organization familiarizes itself and complies with the instructions on personnel safety that compiles good practices and recommendations for application.
- The risk of illness and quarantine can be reduced by means of various personal safety measures, the most important of which is staying at home at a low threshold.
- Other methods include: replacement arrangements, understudy, team isolation (reduction of contacts), hand hygiene, separation and restrictions on movement of shared spaces, adequate ventilation, possible protective equipment, identification and protection of risk/key personnel, remote rehearsals and small group activities, temporary limitation of permits to work elsewhere, increased planning, e.g. in rehearsal and mask schedules, continuation of remote work where possible and planning cooperation with occupational health. Occupational health services must be involved in assessing risks and verifying the measures to be taken.
- The risk assessment includes identification of key persons: who are the people whose illness or quarantine could paralyse the presentation or season? Who has special expertise (e.g. flying, pyrotechnics) or a task (main role, artistic design) that no one else has? How can the skills of these key people be shared, how can they be replaced and, in particular, how can they be protected?
- The protection of key persons may include recommendations to work remotely (especially for meetings and planning work) and various personal protective equipment.
- Another group that is good to identify is persons moving between working groups. Often, persons moving between working groups are also key persons, such as supervisors and the director of the performance, who must be in contact with many people. Who are the ties binding the work community that move from one working group to another and around the house?
- Also take into account the potential mental load on staff and its impact on performances (possible new castings and options) and cooperation with occupational health services and stewards/health and safety and supervisors. We encourage open discussion.
- We emphasize everyone’s responsibility in travel and other leisure activities.
- As a precaution, staying at home because of symptoms may cause further cancellations unless a proper and comprehensive alternate arrangement can be arranged. Provision must therefore be made for cancellations, changes and extra costs.
When a performance is cancelled:
Repetitive cancellations of performances can disappoint the public and affect the venue’s reputation. How, then, can you give customers the feeling of confidence that they are getting value for their money and time?
- The cancelled performance can be replaced by a ticket for another show, another performance on another stage on the same night, or even a ticket to another venue’s event. Cooperation between cultural organizations in the area is important. We recommend exploring the possibility of regional cooperation agreements.
- If the performances in the programme need to be cancelled for a longer period, a guest performance can be arranged.
- We suggest that, as a follow-up, exploring the possibility of creating a performance bank that flexible, easily moved performances can be ordered from.
- You can also offer the right to view a recording, either at home or live in the venue, giving spectators a communal experience.
Audience illness and attention to high-risk groups
The aim of audience safety measures and following official instructions is to prevent the emergence of infectious chains among the audience. However, if infection nevertheless occurs, confidence-building and responsible communication is needed.
- The most important means of preventing infection is free exchange of tickets for another day, so that no one shows up with symptoms.
- If infection occurs, the event organizer shall, as far as possible, have customers’ contact details. Data protection issues must be taken into account here.
There may also be demand for dedicated performances for risk groups, where all possible queues and crowding have been removed and the number of people limited.
In the state of emergency, society began to operated widely online, but theatre as a traditional art form has not in the past widely adopted the possibilities of digital expression in Finland. This is a natural time to expand operations as far as possible.
The field of performing arts is capable of innovative solutions but needs support and investment. Digital activity commits labour and resources, i.e., it requires investment and redirection of skills. We propose, as a follow-up, a seminar to identify and develop good practices.
Recordings and streaming can be sold to people who are not yet able to show up for one reason or another. Digital content is equally available in different parts of Finland. It makes art more accessible and can thus reach new audiences, regardless of distance.
Digital content, especially during a longer break, keeps the art in the audience’s mind and makes it want to return to the venue again when it can. Digital content tells the audience that the venue is open and continues to carry out its mission, the production of art.
In place of cancelled performances, streaming or recordings can be offered to the public as a gesture and partial compensation.
We propose, as a follow-up, exploring the possibility of creating a performance bank of the recordings of performances of domestic performing arts (theatre, opera, ballet, circus, concerts, etc.) which could in particular be performed when other means are not possible.
Substitute content could therefore be something other than performances by your own venue. At an organizational level, copyright issues, such as media contracts, must be taken care of.
Finances and the future
In these unusual times, anticipation of rapid financial changes is important.
Uncertainty about funding in the autumn and public behaviour also requires stimulus support for the performing arts sector, so that it can overcome the crisis and remain vibrant.
Active advocacy aimed at decision-makers is the responsibility of all actors.
The sector must be active to secure future funding. Each organization should strive for solvency. Artistic organizations must also examine the possibilities of additional funding from new sources and temporary coronavirus support.
Financially, the right decision for an individual organization might be taking a break during the worst phase or some other local decision. Organizations should tell stakeholders about these situations, backing up their decisions, and avoiding comparisons to other performing arts organizations.
We propose, as a matter of priority, making efforts to increase free-field cooperation opportunities with state-subsidized and national art institutions. It is essential to find ways of promoting the employment of freelancers, such through wage subsidies, to ease the unemployment situation resulting from the corona crisis. Extraordinary times require solidarity.
We recommend that financiers (e.g. Ministry of Education and Culture and other ministries, municipalities, Taike and foundations) and the performing arts sector discuss the financing during coronavirus and recovery from it. It is important to get decisions soon on how the financier, due to exceptional circumstances, will apply the criteria for central government transfers to local government in the coming years and other subsidies. The same certainty is needed for the funding allocated for 2020.
The text on ensuring continuity was updated at the meeting of the subordinate working group on 17 June 2020.
Group leader: Theatre Director Joachim Thibblin (Svenska Teatern) The meeting was attended by: Artistic Director Marika Heiskanen (Teatteri Siperia), Theatre Director Helka-Maria Kinnunen (Kajaani City Theatre), Senior Producer Taru Kirves (Svenska Teatern) and Production Manager Jere Pensikkala (Finnish National Opera and Ballet).