My twitter and facebook timelines are full of angry, unhappy, arts people, theatre people in particular. They’re pissed off at The Globe and at the board of The Globe.
And I really get that people are angry and upset for Emma Rice, rightly, but this is how it is. This is how it is, day in, day out, at ALL of our major arts institutions, publicly funded or not. Innovation is stifled, bravery is challenged, daring is toned down, the possibility of failure or even faltering is anathema, the new is feared, the different is watered down. People are asked to dream less, aim lower.
None of this is done intentionally, not one of the people involved in these enterprises came into the arts to do anything less than reach out to people, bridge gaps, narrow divides, make a difference. Really they didn’t. Everyone I know in the arts, from serious big bloke funders (and yes, they are almost all blokes) to the newest of emerging would-be writers is in it, not to get rich, not to self-aggrandise, but to contribute, to create.
They are trying to do this in a context of austerity (lie), cutbacks to local government (cut Trident), fear of the other (Brexit insularity), and so of course they, and the institutions they work in, are scared.
They are trying to do this in a society in which the straight, white, middle class man is seen as the norm, instead of the minority he is. (Add up all the women, all the disabled people, all the not-middle-class people, all the LGBTQI people – he is most definitely a minority.) Which means that anything that deviates from the mainstream is seen – not as representative of the diversity and multiplicity of us all – but as daring or brave or deviant or wrong or just too damn different.
The thing is though, it’s all joined up. The people who are angry with the Globe’s board, also need to be angry about the appalling lack of women and BAME and disabled people running any of our arts institutions. The people who think this isn’t on need to look at ALL of these boards, and see how white and straight and male and able-bodied they are. Check the front benches and top tiers and the CEOs and know that it’s all joined up.
Many of us have known for years that our arts ecology wasn’t doing enough to bring everyone in, to enable everyone to access the arts – not just as paying audiences, but as participants. (nb – given paying audiences primarily benefit the arts & artists, ‘audience development’ is a fairly selfishly arts-centric form of ‘access’). That lack of genuine access is why some of us created Fun Palaces, to make the work we love doing accessible to many others, so they can also try doing it. Artisting, not just audience-ing. That’s one way of being more open, being more inclusive, being the diverse we actually are. It’s my way, our way, but it definitely isn’t the only way.
There are loads of ways for us to be braver and bigger and stronger and more open and more inclusive and to challenge the tired, tedious, traditional norm. Let’s see some more of them. Let’s see some of this righteous (and right!) ire put to good use. I’m already storming my citadel (the one that says artists are special people, not everyone). What’s yours?
If you don’t have a citadel at the ready, here are a few to check out :