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Eerie hush descends on Work-a-Thon

Photo © Matt Salusbury
Massed freelances at work in the Tonybee Studios

A strange hush had descended on 54 freelances in two large adjoining rooms when I visited them at the Tonybee Studios in Aldgate on 13 June. Under banners proclaiming "Work-a-Thon for the self-employed" and "Lone Workers Unite", they toiled away at 54 different individual freelance projects

The Work-a-Thon participants, mostly from the arts world, had all bought their own laptops and Wi-fi was laid on, together with a giant Blueberry Mac from the olden days sitting on a desk in reserve. They all broke for lunch together at the same time - there being 54 different one-person enterprises involved, there was presumably no need for anyone to cover the phones on anybody else's behalf during the lunch break.

During working hours, the library-style silence that prevailed seemed to be much more conducive to getting stuff done than the collegial banter of a regular office. Freelances occasionally tiptoed out to make calls on their mobiles. As well as providing quiet, this attempt to set a record for the number of self-employed people working together also put out of reach all those tempting opportunities for procrastinatory dusting that working at home dangles before us, and helped address the isolation of lone working.

Photo © Matt Salusbury
Work-a-Thon's overflow space for yet more freelances

Work-a-thon participant Alison Branagan, author of A Pocket Business Guide for Artists and Designers, reported that the conversation over lunch was mostly about the "admin" side of freelancing. Other Work-a-thoners included an artist in residence who went round drawing all the punters, an undercover clown (not in costume) catching up with a day's admin on his clowning enterprise, and a composer working on a musical score on their laptop.

Work-a-thon is a concept which has potential, although it would need a lot of development, especially in the area of coming up with convincing answers to the obvious question: why?

Last modified: 05 Jul 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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