ABTT reports on its first MAKE A DiFFERENCE Conference on Recruitment & Retention

5 June 2023

The ABTT’s first MAKE A DiFFERENCE conference took place at the Albany Theatre on Friday April 21st, 2023, and we are delighted to announce the release of the Conference’s full report.

70 industry delegates from across the country and a range of companies, venues, organisations and institutions were in attendance to discuss the industry’s current recruitment and retention challenges.  The Conference Report outlines the issues which were discussed and the actions that were suggested. It also reports on some things that have already happened as a result of the conference day.

The “Make a Difference” conference day was developed in order to find a way to better host and join-up some of the great thinking that was happening throughout the year in ABTT seminars and at the ABTT Theatre Show.  It was also intended that the conference would not only further nurture these discussions but would also provide a more proactive and positive platform to encourage actions and stimulate the development of working solutions. By providing time away from the busy workplace and the buzz of a trade show, it was possible to create a better environment to think, consider and commit.

A short survey was conducted prior to conference day to explore the thoughts and opinions of a wide range of practitioners on the current recruitment and retention challenge faced by the sector.  437 responses were recorded and the data from this survey was presented to the conference delegates at a pre-conference meeting on March 31st. (The survey data can be found in the Recruitment & Retention Survey Report here).  The survey data was used to guide the design and structure of the conference day.

The conference was delivered and facilitated by the academic staff from Guildford School of Acting, the drama conservatoire of the University of Surrey.  The delegates took part in a full day, discussing job security, education & outreach, pay, staff feeling valued, support in the workplace and work life balance.  The conference report outlines the key themes raised and discussed in response to each topic.  We are pleased to be able to share some of the actions that have already occurred as a result of the conference. We are also looking forward to receiving further updates from delegates as they employ the thoughts and ideas which arose from the conference to work towards new goals and actions to tackle our current recruitment and retention challenges.

There will be a seminar to share some of the key points from the conference, and a chance to ask questions, at the ABTT Theatre Show at Alexandra Palace on 8th June, 12.45 – 1.30pm in the Londesborough Room.

Head of Technical Theatre Arts at GSA, Jo Franklin commented:

We were delighted to be able to support and facilitate the first ABTT MAKE A DiFFERENCE conference.  As an institution training and educating the next generation of theatre technicians and managers, we want our graduates to look forward to a sustainable and rewarding career in the live entertainment sector and to be the innovators of the future. So it’s essential for us to collaborate with industry partners to find practical solutions to the challenges we all face.  This report is an excellent summary of our next steps in making our workplaces better, retaining the brilliant work force we already have and attracting the best new talent.”

ABTT Co-Chair Mig Burgess Walsh commented:

“It was simply amazing to be a part of the team facilitating this proactive conference day.  The response to attend was overwhelming, so much so that we had to secure a larger venue to host so many people.  The day was full of enthusiasm and energy, and we all left inspired and hopeful to work on ideas that will help with recruitment and retention.  Enjoy reading the conference report and seeing some of the good work that is already coming about as a result of the MAKE A DiFFERENCE Conference.”

Robin Townley, ABTT Chief Executive, commented:

“The MAKE A DiFFERENCE Conference was a great example of the collective strength of the live performance sector. The ABTT was very pleased to be able to help facilitate this important conversation with the tremendous support of colleagues from Guildford School of Acting and everyone at The Albany who so warmly hosted the event at short notice. A lastminute change of venue was necessitated by the number of participants who so generously gave of their time and energy to attend participate and wholeheartedly commit to the process of finding and committing to actions for change.  I should also like to thank the very kind support of the post-conference refreshments by Ambassador Theatre Group. Helping to bring everyone together is something that the ABTT is very pleased to do and it is tremendous to partner with members of the ABTT family to do this.”

Guildford School of Acting  and The Albany are ABTT Affiliate members and Ambassador Theatre Group is a Platinum ABTT Industry Supporter.