Under-representation and attitudes to change

This blog will be shorter then usual as we have work to do.

It's February and I'm in Hull until the end of the 2018. In Theatre years I am planning for this time next year. It's what we call an exit strategy, a plan. I'm a firm believer in using whatever resource you have, well, and limiting waste - especially time. Which is why I cut to the chase, get to the nub of it. I have an impatience that need not tip into frustration if I simply share my viewpoint and truth and listen keenly to those I disagree with, as well as those who stand with me towards change. 

I want to talk about the nature of being underrepresented. I used to imagine (that's my job) a kind of super galactic gate that rotates every few years, where those brave enough to try to navigate through the gate AND survive were either admired, revered, laughed at and/or eventually mourned. Artists and creatives who are underrepresented entering in as the first of any 'group' is an odd and scary place. 

Back in 2016, together with Hull Truck Leadership, I did some deep and searching work checking the environment of Hull Truck Theatre and what they were up for, in terms of change. In my time here at Hull Truck I have been more than welcomed and taken the countless opportunities to learn, use my leadership skills and share my Artistic practice. But this opportunity was never just about whether I could survive and thrive at Hull Truck Theatre, it was whether I could survive and thrive in the UK Theatre industry.

What I observe right across the UK - in multiple industries other than Theatre - is that when change begins, upset follows.

For the underrepresented when packing for an environment that you are underrepresented in you brace yourself for questions about your customs and beliefs and, if you're lucky, your own needs. You work with the assumptions your peers may have that you only know about your own cultural heritage when you have been immersed in the 'main' cultural offer all your life. The disappointment and frustration felt is like steps for a wheelchair, you haven't been thought about, or if you have it's in terms of the allowances and the adjustments that have to be made to 'welcome' you in. Can you imagine? Some of us don't have to. We who were excluded were a far distant blip on the radar. We are now in a place where an emerging light of action is finally shining and the revelations and consistency in the change are making some people upset.

Here are the 'groups of upset' toward change.

A) I always knew about you, it wasn't me, I was trying to help, I've always championed difference, I'm different too, I know what it's like, I'm your friend, now let me speak over you to tell everyone else.

B) I don't see difference, you're just another colleague to me.

C) Really don't understand the point of you, why you are here and what am I supposed to do about it?

Of course, being one person telling it from where I see it, I may have missed a few options. That's because I'm one person telling it from where I see it! This is why I speak to a number of my peers up and down the country and overseas.

I must mention Group A* star who don't belong to the 'groups of upset' or if they did, they didn't waste time staying there too long. They listen, then apply their knowledge toward change in practice. They adjust what needs to be adjusted, whether that be language, widening the radar or stepping to the side and sharing opportunities. They look towards the horizon not in fear but in genuine excitement and pride. Together we create the environments where those who have the talent are more than welcome, they are home.   

As for the rest, have a good think on your position because change is here and more is coming - with or without you.

For all the Group A* stars - I'm looking forward to continuing our work together. I can’t imagine it was an easy journey but I’m so glad you’re here.

For all those who are underrepresented, remaining unheard, off the radar, I hope this resonates and that your belief remains steadfast as the world catches up with you.

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