I’m planning. I’ve been looking at my invitations and opportunities for next year so far. I’m setting up meetings and searching for openings and adventures to add to my portfolio.
Last month I evaluated my time so far here at Hull Truck Theatre. I’ve been here a full year which, in real terms, means 124 days. I knew part of my role as Change Maker would be to discuss diversity. Change Makers is a positive action programme for leaders who identify as Disabled and/or from a BAME* cultural background. In our plan at Hull Truck we are working towards dashing the word 'diversity' so that it becomes embedded. Diverse? Diverse from what?
Part of my self care is to not attend copious amounts of conferences on diversity. I may attend specialist meetings, in smaller groups, with a level of discussion attached to action. I may even support my fellow Change Makers in their attendance at these conferences. But please, let it be known, I am not a free consultant on diversity. I choose to do my civic duty by serving as a Chair of Governors, supporting two Arts Boards and never knowingly dropping litter. I mentor at least one artist a year, for free.
I’m doing diversity and specialise in race, disparity in social economic backgrounds and the barriers this disparity can cause, gender and parenting.
Here at Hull Truck I am not the lead on this agenda, we all are. We all take responsibility, just like we do with safe guarding.
I thought I had diversity fatigue, I was getting a bit worried about myself. It may seem ingratitude to talk about diversity fatigue as a Change Maker but the truth is I’ve had it before, only this time I thought "Ok, I’ve got this. I can do this with this particular organisation from this particular City. This may make a difference with a genuine desire for change from the organisation I’m working with..."
I’m glad I did. Thankfully, because of this opportunity I am not burnt out and despairing. Watching organisations work without you on a subject you have some knowledge on is beyond frustrating - it’s disrespectful. After a year of serving alongside the Strategic Management Team, both challenging and championing their work, I’m excited by all the potential outcomes that diversity plus action can bring.
So what difference has it made being in this Change Makers role? Well...I have led and supported teams before, made decisions, lived by them so far. Here on a larger scale my experience and expertise has been valued and I have taken the opportunity of listening keenly to a talented team and learnt about what it takes to run a Theatre venue. We bounce, challenge, we confirm, we make decisions.
What I bring to the table is the talent of reading between the lines, widening the radar of networks and influence and a zero tolerance for BS. I work on the margins - sometimes not of my choosing - and now I find my margins are centred. Work that discusses decolonisation of the national curriculum and discussion and action regarding power and economics, being conscious of race and gender imbalance, supporting parental responsibility, awareness of and support talent that are currently underrepresented within the theatre industry.
The numbers are stacked against me in terms of using all I have learnt to run an Arts venue - have a good look at the latest Arts Council England Diversity in Leadership reports. If you haven’t already, ask yourself the question, how many Black women leaders do you see at Board level, Chief Executive or Artistic Director? Why should this matter? Because it signals a problem in the pipeline, a blockage in the system. We are not on the headhunter lists, we not being shortlisted, we are not even getting in the room. Have we decided not to bother, because even if we did, we’d be the wild card anyway? No. We are here and going for it, despite all the odds.
Leaders are speaking out now in real terms that have been built on years of discussion. Now is the time for action so that we can ultimately see the benefit for all. This angst ridden stand-off is done. The NPO’s have all written their creative case and we look forward to the continued results.
To Boards and decision makers far and wide, look around you. Go see the work, shake it up a little.
I’m in the theatre world. I’m a Director. It’s my job (as I see it) to observe human nature, the times we are in and then tell the stories about that. I pledged a long time ago to do my best by the people, for the people, and that includes how I choose to spend my time.
Here is my plan;
- I’d be delighted to be introduced to talent currently under the radar
- I’d be more than happy to come and see work that has considered content and cast for our diverse nation.
- I’d be proud to share a platform with my peers discussing our practice, followed by sharing the actual work.
- I’m very excited to do what I do best, which is in a rehearsal room, making work that moves our World.
I will write, direct, review, mentor, chair, reflect, discuss, apply and lead. In essence, I will do what I do that is action led.
I’m doing diversity. Every. Single. Day.
*BAME - Not really feeling this actually. Never really did.