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Head of Association of Lighting Designers Johanna Town pledges to focus on diversity

Johanna Town Johanna Town
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A six-point manifesto been launched by the Association of Lighting Designers’ new head, who has pledged to engage with more people from diverse backgrounds.

Johanna Town, who stepped into the role at the beginning of the year, has released a series of aims for the organisation, which represents all lighting practitioners in theatre including designers, electricians and technicians.

As part of the manifesto, Town has pledged to connect more with people from diverse backgrounds and different socio-economic groups through education and outreach into schools.

This follows criticism from figures including set designer Jon Bausor that the design sector is “very white and middle-class”.

Theatre ‘needs more working-class designers’ – Jon Bausor

Town said: “It is the hardest area to address, unless we start from the bottom upwards, through education.

“We have to be an open door and we have to keep shouting that this is a viable career, because it is not seen as one.”

Town argued that design and other lighting roles are often overlooked when it comes to discussing career options in theatre.

She added: “Every theatre has an education department and every theatre does an outreach programme, with many receiving funding to go into schools and talk about drama and writing.

“There is nothing to stop a theatre taking one of their own technicians or employing one of us to talk about the creative and technical side of it too.”

Other manifesto pledges include promoting the work of the ALD more actively within the industry and creating a more outward and campaign-driven association.

Town said that many members of the public “do not understand” the roles of lighting practitioners, and that the ALD aims to make people aware that it is a highly skilled profession.

“People still think we walk in, there’s some lights there and we point them at the stage. I don’t think they understand how much more it takes to design a show,” she said.

The manifesto also includes a pledge to provide more opportunities for ALD members to develop and grow their careers, which follows recent criticism within the sector of a lack of career development opportunities.

Town also told The Stage that, as part of a new working group with unions BECTU and Equity and the Society of British Theatre Designers, the ALD was working to bring current union contracts for lighting practitioners “into the 21st century”, where most designers are now freelances rather than working in-house at theatres.

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