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Theatre’s working culture ‘passively endorses harassment’ – report

The #metoo campaign has helped bring sexual harassment in the industry into the open. Photo: Shutterstock Photo: Shutterstock
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A “passive culture of endorsing bullying” is allowing inappropriate behaviour to thrive in the industry, a new report claims.

This is one of the conclusions of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre’s Encouraging Safer and More Supportive Working Practices in Theatre report – which brings together advice and guidance on how to tackle harassment and abuses of power in the sector.

The document includes a list of 10 principles aimed at encouraging more supportive working practices in theatre, which highlights the responsibility of individuals and organisations in making places of work safer.

In addition, the report reveals the findings of a series of forums that have taken place across the country, which were attended by more than 200 people.

The report concludes that “bullying and abuses of power were seen to be prevalent” and that inappropriate behaviour can be found at “all levels” across all areas of the industry and in all genders.

“There can be a passive culture of endorsing bullying. Leaders may encourage new entrants not to challenge, perpetuating the culture with statements such as ‘That’s just how they are’ or ‘We have extreme characters in our industry’,” it states.

The report also concludes that “incidents are likely to be under-reported”, with individuals concerned about the repercussions on their employment. This tallies with The Stage’s own harassment survey, which found that the majority (67%) of people who had suffered some form of harassment or bullying at work did not report it.

Exclusive: Study reveals extent of harassment in theatre

Self-employed individuals also reported feeling “powerless or isolated” and unaware of policies or procedures they could access.

The forums also heard that stressful working situations could “excuse or lead to unacceptable behaviours”.

SOLT and UK Theatre have established a support line from for people working in the performing arts industry. This is free of charge and will provide a resource to anyone needing support and advice about bullying and/or harassment.

What are SOLT and UK Theatre’s 10 principles?

10 principles to encourage safe and supportive working practices in theatre:

  1. Everyone is responsible for creating and maintaining an inclusive workplace that is positive and supportive. We do not tolerate bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment in theatre and the performing arts.
  2. We value inclusivity, appreciate difference, and consider people equal without prejudice or favour. We build relationships based on mutual respect. We will all work to give and receive feedback in a constructive way, which we know will improve creativity and productivity.
  3. We recognise that harassment may be unlawful.
  4. We accept our responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other relevant legislation.
  5. We will aim to ensure that everyone working for a company or an organisation, or on a project or production, is fully aware of the expectations that relate to acceptable behaviour and recognise that the manner in which they perform their role is just as important as technical competence or creative ability.
  6. We will ensure that processes are in place for the reporting and investigation of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment.
  7. Where bullying or harassment is found to have occurred, we will take appropriate action against bullies or harassers.
  8. We understand that reporting bullying or harassment can be intimidating. If anyone comes forward to report behaviour which might amount to bullying or harassment we will endeavour to investigate objectively, respect confidentiality where possible, make the process of reporting clear and straightforward and take action when appropriate. Individuals who have made complaints of bullying and harassment or participate in good faith in any investigation should not suffer any form of reprisal or victimisation as a result.
  9. We will respect each others’ dignity, regardless of the seniority of our role in an organisation.
  10. We will ensure that these principles are embedded at the early stages of careers in theatre and the performing arts, to ensure that a safer, more inclusive working culture becomes the norm.
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