Today we’d like to apologise to all the people that we haven’t paid for their time and labour1.




1. When we started Quarantine we decided to pay everyone for their time and labour on a project, no matter what their past experience, their reason for getting involved, their age etc etc. It was a deliberate attempt to move away from situations that were exploitative and to frame our decision to (sometimes) work with people who weren’t conventionally trained performers, who perhaps hadn’t done anything like this before, as both an aesthetic and political choice in the work. We had to often battle for resources and to re-frame the work with venues and promoters as a result of this.

Our work has never been driven by a goal of encouraging people to take part in the arts, or to help develop their self-esteem or to train them up. These things might happen as a by-product of course – we hope that everyone, ourselves included, comes away from a project with a productive experience – and we try to take care of everyone that we work with.  We work with people – trained or untrained, artists or not – because they are the right people to explore a particular idea with. That’s what drives the invitation, frames the starting point.

There are words that we’ve avoided using for 20 years in connection with our work in order to help shift the landscape away from rigid paradigms of practice and hierarchies of value and style that still exist in the theatre infrastructure – though they’ve shifted a little since 1998. The people you see on stage in a Quarantine show are performers, not participants.  We rarely work with actors with a dramatic training or experience because their skills aren’t appropriate for our approach to making theatre.

On a couple of occasions we haven’t paid people. On our first project, See-saw, we paid travel expenses only to the 75 people involved in Glasgow. For EatEat it wasn’t legally possible for us to pay a wage to the asylum seekers involved. Most recently, we didn’t pay the “volunteer performers” of Summer. and Spring. in our quartets in Manchester and Norwich. Again, we paid travel expenses and provided a meal at every rehearsal.

We debated this decision at the time. We went ahead because we wanted to make a work of scale that we couldn’t have done had we paid a fee to each performer. From conversations we’ve had, we don’t think that many people felt exploited and of course there’s a complex set of questions around volunteering to do things in society. We don’t want to stop people from volunteering. But that’s not the point here.

We regret our decision not to pay. It changes the relationship with the individual performer and it can change the perception of the audience and it doesn’t help change a system that’s too narrow in its definitions.

We apologise. We won’t do it again.

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