Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme Launches 'Fair Play'

The initiative aims to tackle class inequality in theatre.

By: Apr. 15, 2024
Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme Launches 'Fair Play'
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RTYDS's Artistic Director Sue Emmas has announced the launch of Fair Play a major new initiative to be developed over two years to tackle class inequality in theatre.

Emmas will be joined by directors Stef O'Driscoll and Caitriona Shoobridge to spearhead this much needed plan of action and urgently address this often-overlooked area of inequality in theatre.  Now more than ever working class voices in the arts need to be heard.  

Sue Emmas said “Our  experience over the last 15 years suggests there is profound institutional ignorance about the nature and complexity of the barriers faced by artists from low socio-economic backgrounds, compounded where this intersects with racism, sexism and ableism. This bias is also felt most acutely by mid-career creatives who may have broken into the sector as emerging artists, but then face an unequal struggle to compete and succeed. We firmly believe that this is the area of the industry where we want to work next to make real difference.

I am delighted that Cat and Stef have agreed to join us this year to develop Fair Play. As well as being exceptional artists, they bring ideas and energy and will also mean that we have their invaluable and relevant lived experience in the leadership of RTYDS. We would also love to hear from regional theatres and theatre companies who share our desire to address this inequality and help design and deliver the Fair Play project. We also want to hear from freelance creatives who would want to hear more about our future plans. Join us in shaping and delivering Fair Play.

We have also reached out beyond the cultural sector to expert voluntary organisations experts offering information and practical support to people facing financial insecurity.”

Since it was established in 1960, RTYDS has supported the professional development of directors at all stages of their career and many of the UK's leading producing houses have artistic leadership teams that have benefited from the scheme. They are now being invited to support Fair Play in creating a more diverse and equal landscape for financially marginalised directors and theatre makers.

The Office for National Statistics shows that only 7.9% of creative workers have a working class background and the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre concluded in 2021 that class-based exclusion is more pronounced in the creative industries than any other industrial sector.  That the scale of the crisis is huge, and the sector would need to employ 250,000 more working class people just to become as socio-economically diverse as the rest of the UK economy.

Fair Play will seek to challenge the systemic financial, social, cultural and organisational barriers that prevent theatre makers from low socio-economic backgrounds from sustaining careers and fulfilling their potential as leaders. It will bring all its experience, processes, and networks together to support creatives from low socio-economic backgrounds and to empower regional theatres to use their own agency to tackle inequity and to ensure the future leadership of British theatre is more reflective of our society. 

Director Caitriona Shoobridge said: “The punitive nature of the benefit system is stopping the careers of artists in their tracks.   Whether that's people who are economically marginalised; or people coming from a low socio-economic background, disabled artists or people with lived experience of the care system or the criminal justice system. We need a much greater understanding of this across more organisations if the industry is to retain these artists.  I am thrilled to join RTYDS as Co-Creative Lead alongside Stef to develop Fair Play and to make a real difference on a national scale.”

Director Stef O'Driscoll said: “Truth is, we're tired of banging on about class. We just want direct plays and do our job but, post covid and amid the cost-of-living crisis, sustaining a career in theatre has become increasingly harder for creatives from lower socio-economic backgrounds. This industry is becoming more elitist by the day, and something has to change. To create a more equitable industry we can't do this alone. We are grateful to RTYDS for leading the way with their support, infrastructure and resources so we can support artists and leaders to sustain careers and fulfil their potential.  We call out to others to follow suit.”

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