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Our Words: Creative Freelancing, the Good, the Bad and Shaping the Future


From photographers, to sound engineers, to filmmakers and musicians, creative freelancers are critical to the talent pipelines and sustainability of the arts and culture sector. However, the freedoms and enjoyment of working as a freelancer can prove highly precarious as a career - with many of the vulnerabilities exposed and exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research project

In 2020, Coventry and Warwick universities undertook commissioned research on the contribution of creative freelancers to the creative industries for Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) with Creative United, the Coventry City of Culture Trust, London Borough of Waltham Forest and Northumberland County Council.

Led by Professor Nick Henry of Coventry University, the team researched the contribution of creative freelancers to the creative industries. The research involved interviewing 84 creative freelancers on their freelancing experience and business models pre, during and (thoughts on) post-pandemic. Outputs to date include a national webinar and a paper published for the PEC.

However, there has been little room in these outputs to express the words of the freelancers themselves. In this follow-on project led by research team member Dr Kevin Broughton, the research team will now unite arts and culture, social science and business and management in a further creative output entitled “Our Words: Creative Freelancing, the Good, the Bad and Shaping the Future."

“This collaboration offers an innovative way of presenting findings from our research project to the interviewees themselves and the target audience of policy makers, as well as engaging a broader public. Creative freelancers often describe their experience of the joys of creativity and freedoms of freelancing, but also highlight the low pay rates, loneliness, high uncertainty and the stress of precarious working lives. This project's output will support the legacy outcome for City of Culture of supporting the building of a local sustainable and resilient sector. This needs to entail greater recognition of and support for under-the-radar freelancers, who represent a critical – yet precarious - part of our much-lauded creative and cultural industries.”

Dr Kevin Broughton

The artist

The research team will collaborate with Frances Yeung (founder of YIKKI Studio), a Coventry-based visual artist who focuses on how cultural exchange can create positive perceptions, and deepen understandings and trust between people from different cultures.

Through art, Frances endeavours to help create real-world social changes. By bringing the stories of creative freelancers to life through collaboration, the team hope to enhance awareness of the issues, challenges and opportunities raised by the research findings to broader audiences. In doing so, it is hoped this approach will further influence those who are tasked with supporting the vital work of creative freelancers in the UK economy.