The building blocks of consent – creating a framework for change

The building blocks of consent – create a framework for change

Brodie Turner at Consent Festival - credit Alexis D'Lea
Brodie Turner speaking at Consent Festival, a one-day event exploring what consent means for and how it impacts the LGBTIQA+ community and their leaders (© Alexis D'Lea)
by Brodie Turner, Consent, Safety and Inclusion Consultant
Date Published: 09 December 2019

The sense of personal power required to drive a creative team’s commitment to wellbeing, and generate enough engagement and goodwill to build resilience, is critically dependent on their understanding of consent - personal and professional, individual and collective, conceptual and practical. This is the hill I will die on.

My creative career orbits around exploring how the concept of consent is defined and applied. In my presentation to the attendees of UK Theatre’s recent Business Resilience conference, I used the example of how the 4-step consent model of ‘ask, listen, respect, reflect’ can apply to a creative project to implement wellbeing initiatives.

1. Ask your team what they need clearly, comprehensively and sincerely.

2. Listen to the response and prove you’re willing and prepared to take suggestions, criticism, sycophancy, apathy, frustration and even lies.

3. Respect the response, understanding that saying “no” places a great deal of trust in another person’s ability to respect that. People’s wellbeing needs to matter more than not wanting to feel ‘rejected’.

4. Reflect (and then act); you’ll have brilliant and not-so-brilliant ideas, and ideas you cannot action, or afford. You’ll need to set expectations and measures for success, you’ll have to employ short term initiatives with long term visions. Consider alternatives, test and evaluate, bring in external expert minds, make it more inclusive, make it more accessible, check-in, follow up.

Consent is a building block we can use to patch up a systemic flaw in our industry’s fabric. It’s not enough to unravel the tapestry, you have to teach the weavers a new pattern. We can ask artists to get eight solid consecutive hours of sleep, eat their daily fruit & vegetables and to not touch one another, but if they have no framework from which to internalise and interpret those basics, then we won’t see the change we know we need to manage this significant transformation to our workplaces.

Alexis D'Lea_Consent Fest shoot.jpg
Consent Festival (credit: Alexis D'Lea)

My work as a consultant combines creative production with best practice in sexual violence prevention, using consent-focused language as an underpinning for creative teams to collaborate and their projects to be delivered.

Countless conversations have yielded incredible insights into how key consent is as a tool for wellbeing, safety and creative expression - leading to my work with Hartshorn Hook, the production team behind the immersive adaptations of The Wolf of Wall Street and The Great Gatsby. Collaborating with organisational leaders, I package up a

bespoke program of workshops that build codes of conduct, consent process, policies and protocols, as well as train in inclusion, conflict resolution and mental health.

The purpose and result of this is for creative organisations to demonstrate a practical investment and commitment to wellbeing from the moment a project starts, whilst simultaneously protecting themselves by having someone with both eyes on the success measures. It isn’t about laying down the law, it’s about partnering in making the laws, which guarantees both the buy-in and culpability of your team.

This investment pays off in time - and therefore money - due to more effective conflict resolution, efficiencies in handling sensitive content, reduced attrition, and higher engagement from stakeholders.

By thinking as an industry, as opposed to individual businesses, and making practical progress forward in the wake of #MeToo, we future-proof the creative potential of the very people that enable our industry to establish, adapt, flourish, impact, and earn.

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The Theatre Helpline is a free and confidential 24-hour phone and email service supporting theatre professionals with any issue affecting their health and wellbeing: https://theatrehelpline.org/
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