Yesterday (January 10) around 40 people from venues and theatre organisations across the country and sector gathered for the first of UK Theatre and SOLT’s open events to discuss how our industry can respond positively and responsibly to the issue of sexual harassment and abuses of power in the theatre industry .
When stories and allegations about sexual harassment and abuses of power first started to emerge, many people in the sector stood up in support of a theatre culture that empowers people to speak up, and that is safe space where everyone is respected and listened to.
So these events are an opportunity for colleagues to come together and talk about what makes a supportive working culture in theatre, to contribute ideas, and talk about how policies and practices can help make sure that any unacceptable behaviour is challenged and addressed.
We talked about the ‘wobbly lines’ of acceptability, the blurring of work and social life, and understood more about what might inhibit someone from coming forward if they’ve had a difficult experience. How do we make it clear to everyone working with us that they can speak out, and who to?
We talked about the particular challenges that working in theatre brings. How does a touring company support its staff when they’re on the road? Is some behaviour acceptable in the rehearsal room but not in the office? What happens when we’re challenged by the comments or actions of a member of the public, or a donor?
We talked about good practice, the importance of knowing what’s right for your organisation, and the difference between having a written policy and a living, breathing culture where everyone understands what is, and isn’t, ok.
While many people in the room had good practice to share, there was also a clear sense that – across the theatre and performing arts industry – we could do more to set a good working culture, to prevent abuses of power from ever taking place.
The fact that so many of you have signed up (you’re welcome to come along to one of the sessions in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester or Newcastle) shows how committed we all are to tackling abuses of power in our industry. We think it is vital that many voices from across the industry contribute to these conversations, so that lasting and meaningful change can take place.
The headline of the day was this; we want to be known as an industry that has a positive culture, and where everyone can work in a safe, and supportive environment. We all want to be part of a culture where issues are less likely arise and, if they do, the understanding is there, and the processes are in place, to ensure that everyone concerned can be properly supported.
UK Theatre and SOLT will support members, and the industry, to share and develop policies and practices that mean theatre is a safe and supportive working environment for everyone.
As well as these events we’re developing more in-depth training. We also have a checklist to help you review dignity at work policies and tailor your approach. We’re exploring options for an industry-wide support line, and an industry-wide initiative to support freelance workers. Find out more here.