A note: a number of people asked who we were referring to as “not artistic”. We realise that this is probably a session in and of itself, so In order to prevent ourselves wondering too far from our topic, we kept to our definition as those within Venues or Theatre Companies who take backstage/support roles that mainly operate outside the rehearsal the room – from the cleaner to the marketing department, via the finance department.

When it comes to matters of bullying in the workplace, actors are represented by Equity in work place disputes, designers are represented by various Guilds etc. Who looks after those who work in the functions that aren’t particular to theatre?

Turns out the simple answer is BECTU. They represent all admin and support staff. Which begs the question to people know? Does BECTU need to start making this clearer to people?

Anne-Marie explained that her book (Bullying in the Arts) started with conversations with BECTU’s technical and administration members. They’ll be holding a Freelancers Fair on the 14th of June which may be useful to attend, and the Federation of Entertainment Industry will be hosting an event in November that BECTU will be taking part in, and will also be addressing these issues.

One person at the session explained that their organisation has recently been tackling an indemic bullying culture. It has taken a clear statement by the leadership team that bullying won’t be tolerated and they want to create a respectful environment. This has led to more investigations and a lot of people are nervous, however in the long term it is leading to a more cohesive workforce that is more effective and not fearful. One unexpected scenario has been Unions representing individuals on both sides of a bullying case. Which while appropriate and supported, has “put treacle” in the process to some extent.

We discussed the role of HR in tackling bullying. Some contended that HR were simply looking for an easy life. We questioned if they were being bullied too. We decided that HR definitely needs to be part of arts management training. We discussed what causes bullying within venues, and our best theory was that the rehearsal culture of harsh critique spills into the administrative sphere, often to the detriment of both rehearsal rooms and the creation of healthy cultures.