Madani Younis: ‘Theatre leaders should give up their roles to make room for the less privileged’

Madani Younis. Photo: Richard Davenport
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Bush Theatre artistic director Madani Younis has claimed theatre leaders should be willing to step down from their roles to make way for people from less privileged backgrounds.

Younis also criticised the language used around inclusion and participation in theatre, arguing that the terms “disenfranchised” and “marginalised” have become “euphemisms for not being white”.

He was speaking on a panel about the future of the arts in London as part of a seminar at Glaziers Hall organised by Policy Forum for London.

“To see change in our sector, we have to ask an uncomfortable question, which is if you really believe in change, then those men and women who are currently in positions of power need to give up space in order to allow others to come in,” Younis argued.

He added: “It is kind of grotesque hearing the most privileged in our society talking about the needs of the working class and the most diverse while sitting in positions of privilege, and for me, in order for things to ultimately change, we need to make more space.”

Younis also criticised the way that community and local engagement work has been perceived in the industry.

He said: “The terms disenfranchised and marginalised have been used as a euphemism for otherness. The industry speaks about these groups in general terms, because it only understands how to be specific when identifying the white working class rather than describing the existence of a deaf and disabled and hard-of-hearing working class. Or a British asian working class. In turn, this undermines our understanding of the working-class struggle in our country.”

Younis added: “It’s one thing trying to remember to breathe in the deathly choke-hold the middle classes currently have on the cultural sector, it’s another when listening to the stereotyping, homogenising tropes that cascade out of certain privileged folk’s mouths when talking about marginalised communities.”