Equity, diversity and inclusion are important to OFEN.
As a small organisation operating on a values and empathy based system, OFEN is able to integrate many processes and policies that we would like to see become mainstream in our industry. At OFEN we think that change is constant and inevitable and exciting, and we would like to inspire others to commit wholeheartedly to equity, diversity and inclusion, as if our lives depended on it, as in fact, many peoples do.
We are aware that we operate in a supremacy society, that racism exists is systemic, and that as white people we have multiple advantages in achieving career success in the arts. We have accepted that we are privileged and we see the huge work that needs to be done to decolonize our workplaces.
“In order to transform our society and our arts ecology, we need to look critically at the foundation of how they were founded: colonization. While it may be tempting to see colonization as a historical event, it is the structure of our society, and the water we swim in (see much more in Annalisa Dias and Madeline Sayet’s series on Decolonizing Theatre here). Many structures that we think of as ‘the norm’ or ‘default’ are manifestations of this structure. We take these structures for granted and assume that changing that norm is impossible.
But anything is possible, and, like we said to start, we already have everything we need. Moving from an extractive to a regenerative society means wrestling with the origins of our capitalist, hierarchical society and decentering our society’s dominant (white, male, cis-heteronormative, non-disabled*, upper-class) settler ideas and priorities. A decolonizing framework helps us understand the scope of the challenge to making widespread change – it requires not only a shift in ideas and action, but an entire reframing of the power structures within which those ideas and actions arise. This shift isn’t temporary or trendy, but a necessary and fundamental shift in our evolution.”
*according to disabled artist and activist Jess Thom, this is the preferred term as able-bodied indicates that those who are disabled are not able-bodied in their own way
The following four plans for Assisted Performancers are from the Royal Shakespeare Company which we find really inspiring:
Audio-described shows are for people who are blind or partially sighted. The action of the play is described through a headset by trained people so that you can follow what is happening at the same time as the rest of the audience.
We offer performances with integrated interpretation where the interpreter is directed as part of the action onstage.
A relaxed performance is where the ambience of the auditorium and theatre ‘rules’ are relaxed. These performances are ideal for people with learning disabilities or autism, or anyone who would benefit from a more relaxed environment.”
A chilled performance takes a more casual approach to noise and movement in the auditorium, but the performance itself is unchanged. This performance is ideal for people who feel more at ease knowing they can go in and out of the auditorium during the show, including people with dementia. This performance is for everybody and babes in arms are welcome.
ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY Assisted Performances LINK
Some of our goals at OFEN:
We want to show society like it is today, showing diversity and going beyond non-disabled bodies and gender binary onstage. It is also of extreme importance that the industry goes beyond cultural appropriation and shows awareness towards imagery that is culturally sensitive.
Attention to bathroom access
Gender neutral bathrooms or encouraging people to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity is important.
Pronoun and name usage
At OFEN, in an attempt to keep adding awareness to correct pronoun usage, we add our pronouns to our email signatures. We want to also support any trans collaborators gender transitions, listening to how they want to work and developing strategies for how they can manage work/life balance during this time and create more flexible work plans to suit their individual needs.
As part of hiring processes and when electing representatives for different functions, it is important that quotas are employed to counterbalance unconscious bias. We think boards especially, because of their role as decision makers and guides, should include minimum 50% BAME (black, asian & minority ethnic) and 50% non-male members, as well as increased diversity in all departments.
Within a small group or project, there is a problem with diversity being token, or a perfunctory or symbolic effort. If a board has three people, consider making 2 out of those 3 people minority representatives.
In all our projects whether it be group works of OFEN, our work choreographing for film or in any instance where we are leading a group, we will follow these inclusionary standards:
- No more than 50% white
- Maintain no more than 50% cisgender male
- Involve artists who don’t fit the non-disabled norm.
Training and accreditation
Gala is a trained and registered Confidant. Confidants are confidential advisors in the workplace who can direct people to the right forms of care, communication and intervention. Michal has trained in communication, conflict management and health management. We continue to expand on communication and inclusion as part of our leadership research.
We don’t have all the answers about how equity, diversity and inclusion should, or could look like.
How would you, or your theatre, or your community implement these ideas? What things are you doing which we haven’t thought about? Where have you already succeeded? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or at our instagram.
OFEN Co-Arts Platform, 25 February 2021