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Scottish Theatre to develop toolkit to combat abuse

The Federation of Scottish Theatre will take the lead in supporting the theatre sector in Scotland to take practical steps against the abuse of power, including bullying, harassment and sexual abuse, in the industry.

FST is today issuing an open call to participate in a series of workshops to develop codes of practice and guidance for the performing arts in Scotland to combat abuse in and around the workplace. FST’s Chair and the Chief Executive of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Alex McGowan, said: ‘There can be no place in our sector for abuse. FST is well placed to bring together the resources, experience and expertise of our membership to develop a toolkit that will help us to ensure that we create safe spaces for creativity to flourish in all our work places.’

FST is the development body for professional dance, opera and theatre in Scotland, bringing the sector together to speak with a collective voice, to share resources and expertise and to promote collaborative working. We are working with other industry bodies including Equity and UK Theatre to ensure our responses are co-ordinated, productive and cover the range of voices we need to inform this work.

Senior figures in the industry warmly welcomed this approach:

Jude Doherty, Chief Executive, Producer & Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron Theatre, said:‘Everyone is entitled to feel safe, valued and respected in their working and social environments. In our industry, where work and social occasions are so often intertwined and where we have so many people working in a freelance capacity, it is particularly important that we have a robust code of practice and a framework for reporting that leaves no-one exposed or unsupported. As a member of FST, Grid Iron support the call for our industry to band together to ensure that the performing arts sector in Scotland is no place for harassment, bullying or exploitation.’

Lu Kemp, Artistic Director of Perth Theatre, said:‘This moment in time could signal a seismic shift in how we, as a society, think about power. It is right and meet that we lead in responding, as a sector, in action as well as words. At Perth Theatre, Horsecross Arts, we look forward to rigorously examining our own practice, and challenging what too often goes unseen and unexposed. We depend on the guidance of the FST, and on the shared learning of our colleagues across the sector, to help us develop best practice.’

Jemima Levick, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Stellar Quines Theatre Company, said:‘Over the past few months, we have all heard horrifying and heart-breaking revelations that shed light on the darker side of our industry. Now we have shared, it is time for action and change. FST’s leadership on this matter will enable us to collectively decide on and bring about useful, lasting processes and policies that assist us in finding the language to call this behaviour out.’

Belinda McElhinney, Producer of Barrowlands Ballet, and Vicky Rutherford O’Leary, Producer of Curious Seed, said: ‘Although the focus of press coverage to date has been on film and theatre, it is vital that the issues shared with, and specific to, dance are fully recognised and addressed. Recent research has demonstrated a wide range of challenges, from subtle feelings of disrespect, to clear examples of deeply rooted patterns of manipulative and abusive practices. Now is the moment to come together with FST and our wider community to make real change.’

Orla O’Loughlin, Artistic Director of the Traverse Theatre, said:‘It is only by making the abuses of power within our industry visible that we can have the conversation that can lead to change. By coming together as a sector, we have it within our power to generate, and hold a safe space for, a vital conversation about how to make the environment in which we work safe and fair for all. At this tipping point moment it is crucial that we are ready to take a long hard look at where we are as an industry and how we can work together to ensure things are better in the future.’

Andrew Panton, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dundee Rep, said:‘We strongly support all endeavours to eradicate any abuses of power in our places of work. We must show solidarity at this moment of heightened awareness and support the FST in ensuring safeguards and guidelines are put in place.’

Alex Reedijk, General Director of Scottish Opera, said:‘We wholeheartedly support the Federation of Scottish Theatre’s initiative to lead and co-ordinate a practical and effective response to combat abuse across our sector. It is imperative that we work together to ensure a safe and supportive working environment for everyone in our industry, and FST is perfectly placed to lead the collaborative development of appropriate codes of practice, guidance and safeguards.’

Jackie Wylie, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the National Theatre of Scotland, said:‘It is of vital importance that FST and Scottish Theatre sector come together to address issues around abuse and harassment within the culture sector. In tackling these issues the cultural sector, as a public platform for discussion, can also lead the way in generating further debate and action across society. This is a moment of potential social change and like other historic shifts progress can only happen if we act together. The National Theatre of Scotland is committed to ensuring that workplaces, theatres and rehearsal rooms are safe spaces for artists, practitioners, freelancers and employees, where abuse of any kind is not tolerated.’

To find out how you can get involved, visit our Combat Abuse – Call for Participants webpage.

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