Centre for Work, Organisation and Society Themed Seminar: The Impact of COVID on Performers

The Centre for Work, Organisation and Society (CWOS) warmly invite you to this themed event on The Impact of COVID on Performers.

  • Wed 9 Jun 21

    12:00 - 14:00

  • Online

    Join this seminar

  • Event speaker


  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Centre for Work, Organisation and Society (CWOS) Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Dr Sophie Hales

This seminar brings together insights from various researchers in EBS to discuss the impact of COVID on live performers.


This event is free to attend with no need to register in advance.

We welcome you to join us online on Wednesday 9th June 2021 at 12pm

This themed event will consist of short presentations from various speakers sharing their work on the impact of Covid-19 on live performance. Abstracts for each presentationand further information can be found below:

Programme of presentations

Performing During/After Lockdown: A Study of The Impact of COVID-19 on Live Performers in the UK

12pm - 12.15pm

Professor Melissa Tyler and Professor Philip Hancock
Organisation Studies and HRM, Essex Business School

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the UK’s performance and entertainment industries and has resulted in self-employed, live performers facing an uncertain future.

For the vast majority, the pandemic resulted in the almost overnight disappearance of their livelihoods as their diaries emptied and their phones stopped ringing.

Yet while the concept of performance has traditionally rested on an engagement with live audiences, spatially co-located, many performers have found ways to adapt, entertaining the public throughout the lockdown via live streams, virtual singalongs, couch-cabarets and such like.

This has helped to sustain a vital sense of connection as well as an income stream for many.

This project considers the social, economic and cultural consequences of COVID-19 by documenting the impact of the pandemic on the working lives of such performers. It also explores how some have adapted to this on-line environment, and identifies the support they, and the industry, will require in order to sustain recovery

Freelancers in the Dark: The Social, Cultural, and Economic Impact of COVID-19 on UK Theatre Freelancers

12.15pm - 12.30pm

Dr Holly Maples

East 15 Acting School

Freelancers make up the bulk of the UK’s theatre ecosystem, serving in a wide variety of vital roles such as writers, actors, designers, producers, technicians, sign-language interpreters, workshop facilitators, front of house staff and countless more.

They form an essential body of talent for the field, with the experience and skills needed to keep the sector operating and moving forward.

The effect of the social and physical restrictions put in place in March 2020 to curb the spread of the pandemic had immediate and severe effects on freelancers’ lives, careers, and well-being which are likely to have long-term consequences for them and the sector as a whole.

These effects played out in a social field marked by existing inequalities; inequalities which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and state and sector level responses.

This project aims to document, investigate and analyse the experience of theatre freelancers across the UK during the pandemic, in order to help them and the sector develop resilience, create more effective policies and structures, and help build a more supportive, inclusive, and vital theatre for all parts of the UK.This project investigates the social, cultural, and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on independent theatre workers across the UK.

Capturing the social impact and value of arts and culture – the case of a local theatre

12.30pm - 12.45pm

 Dr Rebecca Warren

Accounting, Essex Business School


Theatres are feeling an increasing pressure to measure and value their social impact in economic terms. This project focuses on working with a theatre in a participatory manner to explore the impact of this pressure, how a theatre can respond, and the social impact of theatre.  
We are exploring the role of social accounting methodologies to look at what should be measured and valued, who should be included in that measurement and valuation, and how measurement should occur. Which also is informed by the following question: Should we measure social impact? 

‘Playing the changes’: process and affect in improvised performance  

12.45pm - 1pm

Dr Casper Hoedemaekers 
Organisation Studies and HRM, Essex Business School.

Prompted by months of lockdown, in which we have worked and socialised in a highly mediatised context, this paper presents a reflection on the nature of live performance drawn from my own experience. With a central focus on my presently-dormant practice as a performing musician, and interspersed with parallel reflections on teaching in the classroom, I explore experiential, affective and aesthetic aspects of live performance.   

A key notion in this exploration is the presence of improvisation in live performance. This involves intentional, instantaneous creation of the performed work within specific conventions and pre-agreed parameters. Improvised performance is a process of co-production which significantly involves the other performers in various ways and implicates the audience in a temporal and spatial sense in the performance. A key aspect in this co-creation is the experienced presence of others, and the simultaneous acts of performing and listening in particular.   

Through my own experience, I will examine notions of structure, expression, communication, time and space as they make themselves felt in the context of live performance. I will also reflect on the affective aspects of such performance, using notions of resonance, embodiment and interpretation. Doing so creates possibilities for reflecting on different methodologies and practices of improvised performance, and how separate voices sounding out as part of a collective can be further crafted, developed and enabled. In this, I will also consider the role of mediatisation and its effects on performance under the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

‘Not 'Up in the Air': The Experiences of Female Aerial Performers and COVID-19

1pm - 1.15pm

Georgie May Rider 
PhD Student, Organisation Studies and HRM, Essex Business School

Female aerial performers have experienced the impact of COVID-19 on their industry. Before the UK lockdown in March 2020, many aerialists were travelling and performing shows or putting on showcases worldwide. Through conducting 22 semi-structured interviews surrounding their experiences of risk-taking based on narrative accounts and photos of their aerial, the women interviewed had discussed the impact COVID-19 had on their work. This was prominent in mainly two ways. Firstly, the women had discussed how they had undertaken other jobs, such as teaching roles with aerial or related classes, including dance, flexibility or contortion. Others had used this time to focus on their ‘side hustles’ during the pandemic, that is, focusing on other businesses or projects they were previously involved with. For example, making kit bags or jewellery.  

The second way in which the women discussed being impacted by COVID-19 was through having to adapt their teaching from in-person to online classes. Some had discussed how this transition was hard for a number of reasons, including aspects of safety, not being able to touch or guide students physically and it just not being enjoyable for them but it being possibly their only income. The impact of COVID-19 has become a huge theme of the research to date, contributing towards shaping an understanding of the social, cultural and structural characteristics of women’s voluntary risk-taking.  

Questions and discussion

1.15pm - 2pm

All Participants

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