Saturday 8 February

(Notes taken by Annette Brook on behalf of the session setter.)

We discussed a variety of areas relating to this issue and I left before the end of the session however, here are some notes:
Not all social ills can be tackled in one go by every individual or each separate theatre company (and nor should they be). Often when someone questions an issue/area of discrimination and becomes more visible as a result they are then attacked. Those who do address such issues can become 'gatekeepers' which can also be problematic. Should they be required to be in charge (of say Deaf Theatre)?

Equality law currently protects certain characteristics including: race, age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability and religion. Class is not, currently, one of these protected characteristics.

Recent projects featuring Class: Common (Theatre Company) tackles working class issues and work with working class artists – they also included a question on Class in a survey; Scottee (performer) has also done a successful show on Class at Edinburgh Fringe ( There was a recent Arts Council England report (Elevate) on widening participation.

In the past, good examples of Class-based work includes: Duckie’s show ‘The Class Club’ (Barbican 2005); 784 John McGragh; Theatre Centre in the 1980s with their ‘Mixed Company’; Theatre of Black Women was needed in the 1980s as not all feminist theatre spaces were welcoming.

Funding is an issue but it is often the language used prevents those who cannot access these codes from completing these applications. Language can be weaponised; there needs to be less emphasis on forms. Class is not always about economy – it is often about access to knowledge – and knowledge, as they say, is power. The cuts to arts education are crucially damaging – exposure to arts at a young age is vital.

It is worth stressing at this point that being Middle Class isn’t a bad thing. It is about addressing the barriers that prevent everyone accessing the arts. The industry can perceive Middle Class as negative – but it is about the access to knowledge.

lass intersects all other areas of discrimination. It is perhaps a more relevant barrier than all other characteristics. Can you exclude Race though when talking about Class? Should we be having a conversation about whiteness? In Scotland, all leaders of NPOs are white – it would be nice to smash this up a bit.
How do you identify as a particular Class? Which questions should be asked? Does Class come and go as a topic? It is incredibly important in Belfast.

The notion of a hierarchy was discussed. Is it surface level, box ticking just to secure funding? Is there BAME tokenism “we have one Black employee we’re ok now”? Good for annual reports. You cannot ‘come out’ as Black. You can be white and a minority voice (such as Jewish). We use the white-gaze to talk about all these things. Different experiences have to be unpacked with great care. We tell ourselves we’re “white and middle class and we’re helping these poor people” to legitimate ourselves; to make us feel ok. We inhabit a superior space – we need to be prepared to be the change we want to see. What made us (the arts) the missionaries? What made us responsible for all society’s ills? In lots of theatres there might be a number of Black actors on stage but none in other parts of the building. Big venues struggle to provide the same level of care as smaller ones often do.

There are two issues: facility (pricing, outreach – i.e. the mechanics of running a theatre) and material (programme choices: how do we take the familiar and programme it in a new way?) In England, if not further afield, there is the sense of a ‘default human’ – one way of approaching the world is to be more like this default another way is to say some structures need to be changed.

Hierarchy is a patriarchal construct.

Is the notion of the white working class being left out of all sorts of opportunities a way of the Tories’ dividing and ruling? Are the Working Class fighting amongst themselves when there’s a bigger issue at stake.
hange is needed at Board level. There is a fear of losing something if you make something more diverse/ accessible when in fact everyone gains. You may need to let go some control.

In conclusion: Class is complex! Possible to be unsure of which class you are and those unsure will not be on monitoring forms.