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New guidelines outline how to protect the mental well-being of theatre workers

Wiltshire Creative has created a set of guidelines to help artists safeguard artists' mental health. Photo: Newscast Wiltshire Creative has created a set of guidelines to help artists safeguard artists' mental health. Photo: Newscast
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A set of guidelines to help theatres safeguard artists’ mental health has been developed by arts organisations in Wiltshire.

Wiltshire Creative, which comprises Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury Arts Centre and Salisbury International Arts Festival, has put together the guide for theatres and other arts venues to use when working with artists who have mental health needs.

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It is intended to bring about conversation and debate, as well as to make it easier for artists and venues to engage around mental health issues.

The guide has been developed by Jo Newman, associate director at Wiltshire Creative, and theatremaker Viv Gordon, whose 2016 show I Am Joan sparked the development process and who co-curated a symposium about artist well-being for Salisbury Playhouse. Gordon lives with complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the guide, organisations are encouraged to use positive language and avoid using dismissive or discriminatory terms when discussing mental health, and it is suggested that communication and listening skills are developed among staff members.

Other points on the guide’s checklist include offering artists a quiet space and a point of contact, as well as providing a welcome pack in advance and being willing to make reasonable adjustments to working practices such as rehearsals.

Wiltshire Creative said that organisations committing to equality and diversity should remove any barriers to participation for staff, artists and audiences, and that these guidelines will help to achieve that.

Artistic director Gareth Machin said: “Mental health is often missed out of conversations about equality and diversity, but working with Viv Gordon to create these guidelines has enabled us to challenge and develop our processes so we are more aware of the needs of artists with mental health conditions.

“We know that this document is just a starting point, but we hope that it will be a useful way to spark debate, will encourage other venues to do the same and, by removing barriers to artists with mental health conditions, will ensure that the work we produce and present is truly representative of our society.”

The guide can be found here.

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