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Kenneth Branagh calls on Windsor Fringe to “re-examine” discriminatory recruitment process

Kenneth Branagh. Photo: Johan Persson Kenneth Branagh. Photo: Johan Persson
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Kenneth Branagh has called on Windsor Fringe to re-examine the application process for an award in his name that saw a director rejected because of her gender.

As reported by The Stage this week, a director applying to work on a winning entry to the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing at the Windsor Fringe was declined because of her gender.

Following this, Equity labelled Windsor Fringe’s decision “shocking and discriminatory” and called on Branagh to reopen the selection process so that a “fair and non-discriminatory decision can now be made”.

Branagh has now moved to address the situation and has called on the festival to look again at the application process.

His agent Charles McDonald told The Stage: “Ken Branagh is opposed to all forms of discrimination. In his 13 years of sponsoring the New Writing Award, he has had no direct involvement in the selection process, which is entirely autonomous.”

He added: “He is grateful that the matter has been brought to light and support’s Equity’s call for the process to be re-examined.”

A spokeswoman for the Windsor Fringe told The Stage the director was not rejected because she was female and added that the event has “always been opposed to any form of discrimination”.

“In the 13 years of our drama award, we’ve received nearly 3,000 scripts from 38 countries (evaluated anonymously) and our three annual winner’s directors have always been chosen on merit.

“For 2016, our winning writers are two women and one man, and our selected directors the same,” she said.

She added: “We wish to clarify that none of the three winning writers made any stipulations as to the gender of the directors chosen for the winning plays, and to reinforce that our email was inappropriate.”

Equity’s and Branagh’s calls follows news that the fringe festival declined the application from Olorunfemi Fagunwa to direct one of three winning plays in its Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing because she was female.

In an email to the director, the fringe stated that the committee and the writer had “agreed that a male director would be better for this play”. The festival later apologised, and said it was the result of “extremely poor communication and lack of judgement”.

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