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Royal Court to create industry-wide code to prevent sexual harassment in theatres

Vicky Featherstone. Photo: Mark Hamilton Vicky Featherstone. Photo: Mark Hamilton
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An industry-wide code of behaviour to prevent sexual harassment and abuse in theatres is being drawn up by Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone, in response to what she says is a “hugely problematic” situation in the sector.

It follows escalating allegations of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, which began with the Harvey Weinstein revelations and have widened to accusations made against theatre director Max Stafford-Clark and former Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey.

The guidelines, which will be published in a draft format by the end of this week, are being created following the Royal Court’s ‘day of action’ on October 28, at which members of the industry discussed how to make lasting changes around harassment and abuse.

The code of behaviour will aim to include ideas that will “stop the first level” of the problem, Featherstone said.

“It’s not appropriate to say to an assistant director, ‘Let’s meet for a drink after work and talk about how rehearsals are going.’ We will say that is not appropriate.”

Featherstone said she wanted to be “really fast and really bold” about getting a first draft of the guidelines out into the industry to be used by theatres, casting directors and in offices.

It will also be shared with drama schools, with which Featherstone said there must be a “major conversation”.

The Royal Court’s day of action also included an anonymous sharing of more than 150 personal experiences that have been submitted to the theatre in the past two weeks.

Of these, Featherstone said: “There are an extraordinary amount of stories of abuse both systemically and personally within theatre.”

She added that she had also been contacted by people in other industries including journalism, music and politics.

“Yes, it’s hugely problematic [in theatre] but it’s something that is across the whole of society and it’s really important to say that.

“In terms of the stories, nothing has shocked me… We’re talking about people who have power in an industry where the boundaries have been blurred. The only thing that is shocking about it is that it’s taken this long to have this conversation.”

The public sharing, called No Grey Area: Your Stories Heard, was curated by Royal Court associate director Lucy Morrison, who said drawing up a code of behaviour would be a way to “take the heat out of things”.

She added: “It’s really emotive and angry-making, but out of that you can pull some things that we can cool down about. Of course, it’s very complex but there are some things we can do quite quickly.”

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