Heading back into rehearsals for our new and improved street-dance and circus Jungle Book I'm feeling very proud of having created a theatre company that can accommodate the particular caring responsibilities not only of it's two Artistic Directors (we have two little boys - Noah and Finn) but also of our employees. The initial Jungle Book rehearsals back in March spanned the Easter holidays so we were joined by the wonderfully well behaved daughter of our lead performer for two whole weeks. Similarly during tech she and the daughter of our costume designer were made to feel very welcome by the Theatre Royal Windsor as they ran around backstage. Tech week is always a hard time to juggle family and work commitments - especially as a single parent (which both costume designer and lead performer are) so I hope our example helps both parents and the sector realise that family friendly working practices don't always necessitate huge costs, simply a little thought, care and flexibility. And being prepared to schedule in advance and not change rehearsal calls at the last minute - yes it takes a bit more organisation but it's perfectly achievable.
As we're now deep into summer holidays the children will be pretty much permanently in attendance during the next three weeks when we take over London Wonderground. It helps of course that Jungle Book is a family title so there will be hundreds of other children also running amok, so we've also decided to deck the kids out in some bespoke Metta branded t-shirts to help us keep tabs on them all among the melee.
With the wonderful PIPA campaign raising awareness and campaigning on behalf of parents in the performing arts and Family Arts Campaign doing similar work across the sector for family audiences it's a great time to be sharing family-friendly practices. Contrary to popular belief we don't often have our own children in rehearsals - they're still a bit too young not to be a distraction - but having an 11-year-old in the room for two weeks of the process not only made it possible for our lead performer to accept the role at all, but crucially gave us a wonderful sounding board for the work. I would definitely welcome children in the room again, and would recommend it to any company considering employing a parent.
I've long extolled the virtues of babies in meetings - ours have been in countless meetings with venues, funders - in several instances our Arts Council Relationship Manager meeting us in playgrounds to accommodate this - even on occasion with potential cast members. Not everyone is as happy mixing their professional and personal lives - as someone who runs a company with her husband that was always going to be a given for me. Including our family in the process of making theatre has enriched our work, has enriched our brand (several years later there are still venues who remember us as 'the ones with the baby') and has enriched the lives of our children who are exposed to an extraordinary range of experiences and are also now highly fluent in circus terminology.
So if you're a parent in the performing arts - it's all possible.
And also - come and see Jungle Book - you and your children will all be very welcome.