A word from producer: Equality and diversity in theatre

A word from producer: Equality and diversity in theatre

Monday, 29 December 2014

Jenny King, producer at Touring Consortium Theatre Company, gives her thoughts on equality and diversity in 2015.

There are so many aspects to diversity and in the wake of Sir Peter Bazalgette’s impassioned speech on Monday, we at the Touring Consortium Theatre Company are mulling over its implications.

“We need to think about programming, the workforce, leadership and audiences, and how all these are interrelated.   …….. We need to reflect immigration and ethnicity, and recognise that there are substantial parts of society that are still largely invisible: disabled people, or older people for example – one in six of the population is now over 65.”
Sir Peter Bazalgette, 'Arts Council and the Creative Case for Diversity
Sadler’s Wells, 8 December 2014

UK 2015 is a hugely diverse society.  It is also a very unequal society.

Socio economic disparity creates cultural divides, racism, “ghettoization” of minority social groups.

• Britain has some of the lowest social mobility in the developed world – recent government figures show ‘our earnings in the UK are more likely to reflect our fathers' than any other country

• Social mobility hasn't changed since the 1970s - and in some ways has got worse

• 24% of vice-chancellors, 32% of MPs, 51% of top Medics, 54% of FTSE-100 chief execs, 54% of top journalists, 70% of High Court judges …went to private school, though only 7% of the population do

• There is a strong link between a lack of social mobility and inequality - and the UK has both.   Only Portugal is more unequal with less social mobility’

“Theatre is a class act.”

So says Joshua Conkel on the Youngblood Blog. But it's not a compliment.

While glad that people have been discussing "the dearth of opportunity for women artists and artists of colour", he suggests that "we've managed to ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Class." He argues that the overwhelming majority of those who work in the arts come from privileged backgrounds – they either have money, or went to a top university, or both. And the gatekeepers of the theatre world – artistic directors and literary managers – tend to pick people from that small pool.

In his remarkable book A Good Night Out. McGrath argues that while the Royal Court of the 70s made a point of nurturing a number of working class writers, it packaged their work in a manner that made it palatable for its pre-existent middle class audience. As a result, working class audiences were still excluded from the experience.

Perhaps the only way to solve lack of class diversity among artists is to do it hand in hand with encouraging an audience beyond its traditional middle class base.   Maybe only then will the theatre truly be a place where society as a whole can talk to itself.

I can feel another application to the Strategic Touring Fund coming on. ……