Mar. 28th 2018

It's official: Tangled Feet is Fantastic for Families!

By Kat Joyce


We are very honoured to have been recognised with a prize for Best Family-Friendly Workplace Initiative' by the Fantastic for Families campaign.


Over the years the number of people in the ensemble with kids has grown to the point that there are now more children than adults in the TF tribe. So really, we had to adapt our working lives or we would just not have been able to carry on making work. The upshot of that is that, motivated by our long-standing commitments to working together, we've found loads of creative ways to accommodate people's parenting status.


The theatre industry can be horribly unfriendly towards parents and parents-to-be. I know of women who work at major buildings who privately report a culture where taking time out for motherhood marks you clearly as someone with no desire to succeed. I know actors who have been dropped by their agents during maternity leave because 'it doesn't seem like you want to return to work after your baby'. Others who've had to desperately scrabble around for childcare when production schedules are changed at the last minute. In an industry where there are always more creatives than there are jobs, and people often feel very precarious and disposable, many try to behave as if they don't have children, hiding their families out of sight. This is a real shame, as it means that talent and experience haemorrhage out of our industry as people (mainly women) find family lives incompatible with continuing to work.

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But as TF have found, if you are invested in people and committed to making a relationship work then it is often remarkably easy to make some accommodations so that they can continue being a valued part of the team. We've done flexible working, part time, having meetings via skype, bringing small babies in to work and strapping toddlers on in slings and cracking on with the tech. Ensemble working lends itself job shares and shared responsibilities. It's no hardship to plan a production schedule so everyone has a good few weeks notice. It's very often possible to accommodate someone arriving late or leaving early to pick up a child from nursery. What works for one parent might not work for another, so we've been very proactive about sorting out a solution for each person. 'How can we make this work for you?' is a phenomenally easy question to ask but takes a lot of people by surprise.


And the benefits are manifold. Parents, of course, bring a wealth of skills to the table: patience, ability to juggle, conflict resolution, silliness, and the ability to see the world from a different perspective. When people are freed of the stress of trying to juggle competing demands, they can use that energy creatively. Children in the room often generate play (admittedly, sometimes they are a huge distraction, but swings and roundabouts). But really importantly, people with children understand the pressures of having children, and how to alleviate them. If we want our theatres to be family-friendly places, open and accessible, then we need our theatres and companies to be family-friendly workplaces. One begets the other.


We’ve been out on the road over the last few weeks with our show for 2-7’s Need A Little Help. The show follows the life of a young carer who has to take on the caring responsibilities for her father. The theme of care, families and juggling life’s challenges is central to the performance as well as the creation and touring period (the cast and creative team features 4 parents). To us, it feels like the work has an extra layer of authenticity and love as it focuses on the challenges of being a parent and having a child, as well as being a child and having a parent and was made by parents with children in the room!


What’s been hugely satisfying is the type of tour we’ve been on – its part of a Strategic Touring Scheme named Hopper and takes early years theatre to meet early years audiences in rural settings. Most of the young audience in Watchet, Middlezoy, Taunton and Tidworth had not spent much time in theatres nor had this sort of theatre visited their place of care/education. We had so many comments that the children rarely got the chance to see plays and that it was so important that it connected with their family life and their family relationships. We were so pleased to share the work in this way and continue our commitment to families – both in the company and in the audiences we meet.


Special thanks to all our children and long suffering partners and wider families for their love and creative inspiration.

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  • The most accessible and original theatre company working in the UK today”

    The most accessible and original theatre company working in the UK today”

    The Stage
  • Tangled Feet offer a glimpse of magic”

    Tangled Feet offer a glimpse of magic”

    Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
  • For Tangled Feet, theatre is a contact sport”

    For Tangled Feet, theatre is a contact sport”

    The Stage
  • Tangled Feet, the masters of physical theatre”

    Tangled Feet, the masters of physical theatre”

    The Independent
  • They are defining the future of theatre”

    They are defining the future of theatre”

    The Edinburgh Guide
  • An astounding spectacle..a uniformly excellent ensemble…stunning”

    An astounding spectacle..a uniformly excellent ensemble…stunning”
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