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Waking the Feminists: ‘Gender equality in Irish theatre achievable in five years’

Campaigner Lian Bell. Photo: Waking the Feminists Campaigner Lian Bell. Photo: Waking the Feminists
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Campaign group Waking the Feminists has claimed that gender equality can be achieved in Irish theatre in five years.

It made the announcement at a public meeting in Dublin’s Liberty Hall on March 8.

Sarah Durcan of Waking The Feminists referenced the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report, which states it will take 118 years for the pay gap to close.

She claimed gender equality in Irish theatre could be achieved in five years if the sector adopts greater confidence in women’s ability and box office potential.

Durcan asked: “If theatre and the arts can’t lead cultural change, when it’s our bread and butter, what chance do other sectors in Irish society have?”

The campaign’s leading voice Lian Bell described it as “a day of taking stock”, with partner organisations revealing research results on gender in Irish theatre.

A pay scales survey conducted by lobbyist group Theatre Forum suggested that most workers in Irish theatre are women, but that men stand a better chance of earning above €35,000 a year.

Imbalance was also proven to exist in the output of plays produced. Based on research by Irish Theatre Institute, women authored just 29% of new plays produced from 2000 to 2014.

Robust statistical information on gender in Irish theatre was said to be scarce. Further research is to be led by researcher Brenda Donohue and dramaturg Tanya Dean in partnership with Irish universities, aiming for completion by October 2016.

Bell also announced that Lucy Kerbel of Tonic Theatre was willing to set up the company’s Advance programme in Ireland later this year. Advance puts in place an investigation and action plan for theatres’ senior management to identify and tackle gender imbalance. Past participants in the UK have since committed to making changes in their programming and working practices.

Waking the Feminists was born last November out of an outcry over the lack of female voices at the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre.

Speaking in Liberty Hall, Abbey board member Loretta Dignam announced that a sub-committee is to draft a gender policy.

The outcry has since reached the rest of the sector.

Roisin Stack of Galway’s Druid Theatre said the company has a strong record on casting female actors but “isn’t so hot” on female writers.

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