You hear advice to check your privilege. You consider your situation. It reads as follows: male, white, self employed in the arts, and 37 weeks pregnant. Wait! One of those needs reviewing. There are things that even a self-made producer, trained by years of sharp elbows and attention-grabbing, can't lay claim to. I'm an expectant father, yes, but in the context of my work, the chances are that far, far less will change for me once this baby arrives. I'm not the pregnant one. Obviously. How much has my expectation of this moment affected how I've planned my career as a creative producer, and what will it now add? Do these answers change for women?
I work at management level in a West End and touring production house - PW Productions - and I also co-own The Heritage Arts Company, with two other enterprising young men, and together we own and run VAULT Festival. Annie, my wife of 14 months, has just given up work as a therapist.
We discussed me leaving work. I'd never thought about it, and being honest, the thought of it terrified me. I tried to get to grips with it - giving up a year of work - but I really, really struggled. I realised how much I've been programmed to expect a life of 'old-school masculinity', desk- and duty-bound.
I wanted to find out how other people have dealt with that thought process. So I talked to Cristina Catalina, a young producer/actress with a six month old baby, and Matthew Spencer, an actor with a toddler. Cristina produces shows at fringe houses across the country, including at VAULT Festival. She hadn't prepared to leave work either, but took inspiration from her mother, a Romanian actress who went back to work within months. It was the norm. When she was touring, the literary secretary of her theatre collected breast milk donated by other mothers and delivered it to Cristina's father. So Cristina benefitted from a family history, and perhaps wasn't too worried.
Matthew, who I know from his excellent performances with Headlong and now with The Woman In Black, and his partner purposefully avoided too many details. A stubborn determination to make it work around their professions - both performers - saw them through the pregnancy. In fact, Matthew and his growing family were touring with 1984 in America before little Laurie was seven weeks old!
Annie and I decided that she would stop work for a while. At a point where her new business in workplace wellbeing had found its first three clients, she agreed to hand it over to a colleague to keep it dormant and manage her absence. That's a huge difference. My plans next year include a major change to the structure of VAULT, a large capital project in the West End, and at least two other quite major schemes. Basically, I blunder on, and Annie stops.
How the reality measures up to these plans is different too. Cristina is strident about income - a self-employed person can only work 10 days during the time in which Maternity Allowance is allocated. This makes things hard for self-employed arts professionals. Matthew highlights how support for a working actor parent is very limited. 'An unsuitable lifestyle, unsociable hours and being away from home is the norm for a jobbing actor. Subsistence money is fine for one, but bringing a small family with you destroys the weekly pay packet.' Matthew also notes that he's been on commercial pay since Laurie was born - "It would be an altogether different story making it work on subsidised theatre wages."
Annie and I will make it work somehow. If VAULT goes well enough, we'll be fine. If it fails, we won't. Stay tuned, I guess!
But the real question here requires me to be a little braver. At VAULT, at PW Productions, at every arts organisation I've ever worked in or observed, it is almost inevitably a senior team of mostly men, and a second level staffed by women. I feel like I'm at the division point between the sexes in the arts - it is this moment, this next year, that makes these divisions.
The reason is a well trodden path - I will continue working; the parent who suspends their job will lose out on that experience and any later benefits of that experience: promotions, opportunities etc. The wedge is thus placed, and largely, workplaces are going to favour one side of that edge, and that side is populated by men.
How are we going to bring better equality to top levels of arts organisations? I know there are directors and artists who are insisting on creating work in a more feminine way - not necessarily feminist, but in a way that, however arbitrarily, isolates and excludes masculine ways of working, and cherishes feminine approaches. I think it might be time that management responds. This might be through changing the way we use targets, accountability, and reporting. It may mean changing workplace values or pastoral care. I wonder how VAULT can be a leader in this, and I'd challenge the public to identify ways in which the festival appears to act in an exclusively masculine way. Come to this years festival and show us - perhaps we have a snowblindness, a maleblindness, and we're not seeing how we can make these changes. Perhaps there are better ways to work!
As for me and Annie, I've managed to negotiate a good paternity leave, and then, yes, I'm returning to work. Annie's business will run under a caretaker for the better part of a year and then we'll think again. Approaching fatherhood has given me new perspective on the patriarchy, and new energy to try and make the world a better place. I'd hope my son - a son! - can grow up in a world where he won't suddenly find out that he's been programmed to be desk and duty bound, like a little masculine toy soldier.
VAULT Festival takes place 25 Jan - 5 March 2017 at The Vaults, Leake Street with additional performances at Network Theatre and Morley College. Tim Wilson explores his fatherhood in 'Hurly Burly' at VAULT Festival on March 1st 2017. Tickets are on sale now from VAULTfestival.com