Hull Truck Theatre announce strategy to increase workforce diversity

Hull Truck Theatre announce strategy to increase workforce diversity

Hull Truck Theatre have announced their ambitious equality and diversity plans as part of their commitment to opening up access to all aspects of the theatre. The theatre’s mission is to reflect the diversity of a modern Britain across all of its work, from on stage to audiences, participants and its workforce.

The theatre has launched a short animation detailing how and why it will be ensuring its doors are well and truly flung open to all. The animation was developed by the theatre’s Inclusion Action Group –  a working group with representatives from all departments and levels across the theatre. The plans include targeted work to nurture talent in Hull, building on the momentum of UK City of Culture 2017 to guarantee the city remains a hotbed of fresh ideas and opportunities for artists, arts professionals and audiences.

Hull is ranked as the 3rd most deprived local authority in England (from the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015) and new initiatives will focus on addressing socio-economic barriers to building a career in the theatre industry, as well as inequalities related to gender, ethnicity and disability. New initiatives include:

  • Three-week Technical Skills Training Programme for young people 18+
  • Annual careers day for local schools
  • Commitment to a 50/50 gender split in creative teams across HTT productions
  • Commitment to 20% of cast members for HTT productions being BAME or disabled actors
  • Partnership with Parents in Performing Arts to remove barriers for working parents and improve work-life balance for all

A Technical Skills Training Programme, launched in partnership with UK Theatre and running for four weeks in August 2018, will offer young people aged 18+ preparatory training for a career in lighting, sound and technical. The programme, funded by Natwest and UK Theatre and SOLT will directly respond to UK Theatre’s workforce review and address the lack of adequate training and technical skills shortage outside of London. All participants will receive accredited training, including an A.B.T.T. Bronze Award and an IOSH Working Safely qualification, and bursary support is available for candidates with the aim of increasing representation of our diverse and changing population. The programme will create a diverse pool of young people who can progress into apprenticeships, casual and freelance work across the growing number of local cultural venues, retaining talent in our region.

In October 2018, the theatre will hold its first annual Off Stage Choices career day for schools, to raise awareness of the range of careers available to a generation that have been inspired by Hull 2017.  Focusing on careers available off stage in the theatre industry, students aged 14 – 16 will take part in workshops and interactive sessions in areas such as production, technical, marketing and design. 50% of places on the day will go to students from schools in areas of high deprivation in Hull.

HTT is a strategic partner of Parents in Performing Arts (PIPA), and together they working to remove barriers which prevent parents from entering or being retained within the workforce. Feedback from staff focus groups was that the industry standard of 40 hours per week was prohibitive, not only to parents who had to manage childcare drop off and pick up, but also prevented other employees fitting in important well-being activities such as exercising and spending time with family and friends. There are many examples that employees perform better when they reduce the working week and build a good work-life balance, from May 2018 the theatre has reduced the working week from 40 hours to 37.5 hours in order to improve flexibility for all.

HTT is committed to presenting a rich diversity of creative voices and talent on its stages. From April 2018, the theatre will ensure that each season of home produced work will have a 50/50 gender balance across creative teams, including directors, writers and designers. They will increase the number of opportunities for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and disabled actors by ensuring that 50% of all auditionees for HTT productions are BAME or disabled actors. A new integrated casting policy states that actors will be considered for any role, and not confined solely to those written with their own personal characteristics in mind. Diverse artists will be auditioned for every role in order to more accurately reflect the diversity of a modern Britain.

Quotes:

Janthi Mills-Ward, Executive Director and Mark Babych, Artistic Director (Joint Chief Executives of Hull Truck Theatre) said:

“Our own journey into and sustaining a career in the arts has been relevantly smooth but that is because we have been lucky enough to have had the right opportunities at the right time. As joint CEO’s of HTT we are making a commitment to find ways to open the doors to the theatre to those who might not know where the door is, never mind know how to get through it. We recognise that theatre can only benefit from having a richer wealth of voices and perspectives, whether on or off stage, or in the audience.

We will remove barriers where possible and create new opportunities for engagement, whilst spearheading best practice in improving working condition to ensure the most diverse, engaged workforce of the future. Through the work of our Inclusion Action Group this commitment will be embedded across the organisation.”

Cassie Chadderton, Head of UK Theatre & Membership Development said:

“The theatre industry needs highly-trained professionals from different backgrounds, from all areas of society, and across the country. Our recent workforce review identified that there are a number of barriers preventing young people from taking up opportunities in this area, so UK Theatre and SOLT are proud to be supporting Hull Truck’s Technical Skills Training Programme, to see how the good practice from this project could be taken forward by others”.

PIPA Co-founders and Directors Anna Ehnold-Danailov and Cassie Raine said:

"PIPA is pleased to be working in partnership with Hull Truck Theatre to help identify and progress ways to make the business of theatre really work for parents and carers. When companies embrace the need for change, it's the first step towards improving the industry's diversity both on and off stage. Hull Truck is a change leader in this respect: they've not only embraced the need, but together we've drilled down into what we can practically do to embed flexibility at the heart of the business. It's a great new approach that will yield huge benefits - not just for carers and parents, but all HTT's workforce, and ultimately the artistic landscape."

To watch Hull Truck Theatre’s Inclusion animation, click here.