Page 1: Participant Information and Consent

The Economic, Social, and Cultural impact of the COVID19 Pandemic on Independent Arts Workers in UK theatre ('Freelancers in the Dark')

Survey Introduction

This research project investigates the social, cultural, and economic consequences of COVID19 on independent arts workers across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Please visit the website for more information. 

There are 32 questions and it takes around 20 minutes to complete. It is open until 12PM GMT February 28th, 2021. 

The purpose of this survey is to:

  • Investigate the experiences of freelancers in theatres, especially since March 2020
  • Report back and evaluate the data collected from throughout the UK.
  • Help the sector develop a plan to address the challenges facing theatre and arts freelancers in 2021 and beyond
  • Facilitate communication with support networks across the UK
  • 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
  • Foster further support networks and guidance to freelancers both regionally and nationally.

Please read the below information for survey participants and indicate your consent to take part at the bottom of this page. You can find out more information by contacting the project team by email on Please email this address for accessible versions of the survey, including large text, audio and offline.

Definitions used in the survey

'Freelance': Anyone working in a non-salaried role in theatre or someone who combines some forms of payrolled contracts with self-employed work. We also use the phrase 'Independent Art Workers' (IAWs)

'Theatre and other arts': Recognising that freelancers often work across art forms, 'theatre and other arts' is used to designate that at least some of a freelancers work is in theatre

'Since March 2020': This signifies the beginning of the COVID19 epidemic in the UK, and related social measures. 

Participant Information Sheet

Before you decide whether or not to take part, it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully.

What is the purpose of the study?

This research project investigates the social, cultural, and economic consequences to independent arts workers across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The purpose of this survey is to investigate the experiences of IAWs like yourself, and to report back and evaluate the data collected from throughout the UK. Our aim is to not only document the collective strategies of IAWs during and in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, but also help the sector develop a plan to address the challenges facing IAWs 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 IAWs both regionally and nationally.

Why have I been invited to participate?

Our aim is to gather as much data and reflection from Independent Arts Workers working in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. We are looking to connect with those self identifying as theatre freelance workers from all roles (some working across roles), including producers, designers, directors, actors, playwrights, technicians and theatre makers. Our survey is reaching across the United Kingdom reaching as many IAWs as possible, and we also hope to have 300 focus group participants and 50 one on one interviews.

Do I have to take part?

Your participation in this research is entirely voluntary. It is up to you to decide whether or not you wish to take part in this research study. If you do decide to take part you will be asked to indicate whether you consent at the bottom of this page. You are free to withdraw at any time, without giving a reason. To do so, simply close your tab or browser and none of your information will be saved. (There is a 'Finish Later' option to save your progress to complete later.) As all responses are anonymous we will not be able to identify your data to remove your answers once they have been submitted. 

What are the possible benefits of taking part?

There are many potential benefits to participants in this study. We are bringing together experiences and reflections of freelance theatre arts workers from throughout the UK, including England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. The potential to build further support networking between freelancers, and also to allow freelancers to voice their experiences and concerns back to the Arts Councils, arts networks, and the government may build better communicational lines and foster potential for change to funding streams and larger institutional support addressing the impact of COVID19 on Independent Art Worker's careers and livelihoods. We also will invite participants to end-of-project industry led research events across the country to further dialogue and networking.

What information will be collected?

Our study investigates the social, economic, and cultural impact of COVID19 on the work and livelihoods of independent arts workers. Through our large scale survey, our interviews and focus groups we will be examining the effects of the pandemic on theatre arts workers and asking whether they vary, based on factors like age, background, ethnic group and location. Our data collection investigates how individual theatre-makers are supporting each other through the pandemic, and exploring the various networks that existed before the crisis helping freelancers, and how are these networks transforming during this time. We will also investigate the effects to theatre arts workers creative practice as well as livelihoods. We are also gathering creative responses to the pandemic to allow arts workers to voice their experience in a variety of ways suitable to their medium. We will make a short film of these creative responses solely with participants’ consent and use this to further awareness raising of the issues and importance of freelance arts workers for the larger community and government and arts funding bodies.

No cookies are used when survey respondents complete surveys on this platform.

Will my information be kept confidential?

All research data will be kept securely at all times. PCs, laptops and other devices used for the study will be password protected and the study’s data files encrypted.  When working remotely due to COVID19 travel restrictions, the data will be held securely in a Box folder and transferred daily to a University of Essex secured shared drive to avoid data breach risks, technical malfunction, or theft. Please see here for security information about the online survey platform. 

All participants will be informed at all times who will have access to their research data, both during a project and after it has been completed. The research team are the sole members accessing the data.

All data gathered from project participants will be held at the University of Essex in their secure server for 10 years after the study and will be destroyed at the end of the period (any paper documentation will be shredded). However, the University’s Research Data Management Policy requires that research data are made available for access and re-use where legally, ethically and commercially appropriate, taking note of any relevant safeguards. 

It is a requirement through our funding body, the Economic and Social Research Council, that we will share anonymized data on the UK Data Service Platform and we will submit and include data-sharing of our survey and interview data sets. We will share the anonymised creative responses through platforms available that allow for sharing raw functional imaging data ( Accordingly, the raw dataset gathered in this research project will be made publicly available either through such a data-sharing platform, or alternatively by publication in a journal that allows for publication of supplementary data materials. In line with general principles of sharing data after publication and on request, we will make the data sets available to other researchers, and industry partners, after publication, to allow for alternative analysis and replication of the findings.

Personal and sensitive data in our research project will not be made available publicly.

What is the legal basis for using the data and who is the Data Controller?

The legal basis for processing your data is by consent, and you are not obligated to give this consent and can opt out of the study at any time as required by GDPR guidelines. None of your contact information will be shared with anyone and only used for communication with you about the study and for anonymised data gathering.

All datasets will be collected, handled and stored according to the highest standards of research practice. This will include standardization of quantitative and qualitative procedures including data collection, storage and data protection. We will ensure that data is processed confidentially and in a standardized way. All data will be stored anonymously at University of Essex. The university has appropriate back-up procedures in place, which will ensure long-term availability of the data sets. We will work in close collaboration with University of Essex administration to guarantee that all ethical and data protection requirements are fulfilled in this process.

The Data Controller is the University of Essex, and please contact Sara Stock, University Information Assurance Manager ( in regards to Data Control. 

What should I do if I want to take part?

If you are interested in participating in our survey, please do so through this form. You will also be invited to join our mailing list to hear about more ways of getting involved.

What will happen to the results of the research study?

Our industry events and report will publish the research findings to regional and national organisations responsible for funding, championing, and protecting the sector and providing support for IAWs. Our website and workshops will function not only as means of data collection but also as a platform for recommendations, best practice, and support opportunities for IAWs. Our academic articles will further disseminate research findings focusing not only on the wide-ranging impact of COVID19 on IAWs, but also on strategies for innovation and adaptation across the industry, and changes to working practices as theatres and arts venues re-open. Our published record of research participants’ creative responses reflects upon—and speaks to—the deep rooted and transformative experience of the pandemic on IAWs. We will not only document the collective strategies of IAWs during the pandemic, but will raise wider sector awareness of the challenges facing independent arts workers in the aftermath of COVID19 and beyond, and facilitate communication, support, and networks across the UK to increase the resilience of the sector.

The information provided by you in our research study will be used for research purposes only. It will not be used in a manner which would allow identification of your individual responses. Your participation is voluntary and you can opt out of the study at any point. 

Who is funding the research?

This research is being funded through the Economic and Social Research Council.

Who has reviewed the study?

Permission for informed consent of research participants will be documented before using any data, and all data will be processed in line with ethics guidelines and IRB Approval for the Humanities, Ethics Sub-Committee at the University of Essex or the University of Essex Ethics Committee.

Concerns and Complaints

If you have any concerns about any aspect of the study or you have a complaint, in the first instance please contact the principal investigator of the project, Holly Maples by email on If are still concerned, you think your complaint has not been addressed to your satisfaction or you feel that you cannot approach the principal investigator, please contact the departmental Director of Research in the department responsible for this project, Rosie Klich, by email on  If you are still not satisfied, please contact the University of Essex’s Research Governance and Planning Manager, Sarah Manning-Press by email on

Name of the Researcher/Research Team Members

Dr. Holly Maples, East 15 School of Acting (University of Essex)

Prof. Rosie Klich, East 15 School of Acting (University of Essex)

Dr. Josh Edelman, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr. Kurt Taroff, Queen's University Belfast

Dr. Ali FitzGibbon, Queen's University Belfast

Dr. Laura Harris, Manchester Metropolitan University


1.1. Please indicate if you understand the research project and would like to participate in the survey. Required

Please note that you can quit the survey at any time by closing the browser or tab. Your answers and data will not be stored. You can also select 'Finish Later' to request an email link to complete the survey later. It closes at 12PM GMT February 17th, 2021.