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. Many organisations think change is impossible or too radical, we at OFEN 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 and wrestle 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.
Decolonisation means also recalibrating what success means to us. It widens the definition to include a consideration towards how our decisions impact future generations, how our work contributes positively to our community, how we hold ourselves accountable. It is also about liberating ourselves to feel healthier – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually- at work and in our lives, and about providing a workplace where our priority is for others to feel the same. This is linked to indigenous ways of thinking.
*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
Here are some goals we have in our work at OFEN
and our work for other people and projects:
We will strive to make sure our shows offer disability access, access to non-hearing versions, involve viewer flexibility to allow exit and entrance if needed, and do not involve images that are triggering and offensive to some people and cultures. The following points outline how we will do this.
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.
We want to show society like it is today, showing diversity and going beyond non-disabled bodies and gender binary onstage. Since the most recent extent of immigration in Europe it is more important than ever to show minority representation. It is also of extreme importance that the industry goes beyond cultural appropriation and shows awareness towards certain imagery that is culturally sensitive.
Attention to bathroom access
Gender neutral bathrooms will or encouraging people to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity is important. Some have suggested that allowing people to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity will increase the risk of sexual harassment and assault against women, but in 2018 a report published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy suggests that harassment and assault are generally perpetrated by cisgender males against cisgender females.
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 should include at least 50% BAME (black, asian & minority ethnic) and non-male members, as well as increased diversity in all departments most importantly at the top executive level and then on every level down.
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.
Within a small group or project, there is a problem with diversity being token, or a perfunctory or symbolic effort. The non white non disabled gender non conforming artists we have worked with have been some of the most sparkling talents with so much knowledge, wisdom and perspective. We hope to continue to champion these people and also create projects of people in the future that are rainbow.
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or at our instagram.
OFEN Co-Arts Platform, 25 February 2021