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Drama schools show strength in diversity (your views, April 27)

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which has the highest percentage of non-white teaching staff Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which has the highest percentage of non-white teaching staff
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The unveiling of the Diversity Schools Initiative (News, thestage.co.uk, April 19) is welcome and timely. It underlines the importance of challenging a status quo across our creative and cultural sectors that needs radical and urgent change.

The arts are enriched when all our stories and backgrounds are shared. At the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, championing diversity is at the heart of our values and what we do in practice every day. As Scotland’s national conservatoire, we embrace a commitment to improving diversity that aims to develop greater black, Asian and minority ethnic representation within our staff and student community.

We are equally committed to enhancing our socio-economics diversity and have a vibrant widening access programme that spans all ages. Additionally, we are committed to those who have been looked after at home, or in residential, foster or kinship care, as well as those with different physical abilities.

By nurturing the talent of a greater diversity of Scotland’s young people – as well as young people of great potential from other parts of the UK, Europe and across the world – their choices and life opportunities will increase, and they in turn will enrich and broaden their art and enhance all communities.

We strive to deliver on this commitment with an innovative range of measures, which include:

• Transitions 20/40 programme – increasing diversity and widening participation.

• Degrees such as our BA in performance in British Sign Language and English.

• Equality and Diversity Creative Fund, which promotes inclusivity and diversity within and beyond their own art form through funding new creative work.

• Fair Access Committee – tasked with widening access and participation across the institution.

• The recently appointed fair access manager joins an equality and diversity officer, a counsellor and disability adviser, and a student recruitment officer dedicated to pre-higher education, lifelong learning, as well as widening access and participation.

There is still a long way to go and significant resources are required to do it. At the RCS, we remain committed to achieving true diversity by delivering access to arts for all, enabling people from all walks of life to reach their potential and share their stories.

Through our arts we break down barriers, celebrate our identities, explore our differences, challenge injustice and share what makes us human. This ability for the arts to cross boundaries and draw people together seems even more relevant and critical to society today.

To echo the great Maya Angelou, “in diversity there is strength”. We must not forget it.

Jeffrey Sharkey
Principal, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Upfront agency fees are legal

John Byrne is wrong to say upfront joining fees are both illegal and a scam (‘Should I be suspicious of my agency?’, April 20). If they were, agencies such as The Stage Castings and Spotlight would be a scam and be committing criminal offences.

Where an employment agency is acting on behalf of the work-seeker, as opposed to acting on behalf of the hirer, and where it complies with the employment agency regulations, an employment agency can charge work-seekers an upfront fee, but only for employment in the entertainment industry. So, for example, it would be illegal for them to charge fashion or photographic models an upfront fee.

Byrne is also wrong to advise those who feel that they may have been ripped off to go to Trading Standards.

Employment agencies do not come under Trading Standards (consumer) legislation; they come under Employment Agency Standards, part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Ray Hoppkrofft
Modelling Information Service

Quicker in the old days?

In June, Grange Park Opera’s splendid Theatre in the Woods opens (News, thestage.co.uk, April 19), having been completed in 11 months, with some decorative features to be added later.

By comparison, the Hackney Empire was completed in just over nine months in 1901.

That may give pause to reflect on the difference between the eras, but let’s hope both enterprises sail on happily into the future.

Mark Woolgar
Email address supplied

Quotes of the week

Noma Dumezweni at the Olivier Aards. Photo: Pamela Raith

“I am able to live a life encompassing freedom of expression because my parents fled the apartheid regime. I didn’t know what they had gone through until I was a bit older, because what parents do is try to protect their children. They were able to give me my freedom of expression.”
Actor Noma Dumezweni, speaking at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards 2017

“When I started working in theatre, the West End was something I had absolutely no connection to at all. Now, the West End enables audiences to see some of the best shows from the subsidised theatres – it’s where some of the top work can get wider access.”
Director Vicky Featherstone (Evening Standard)

“It’s hard to live in London and be a jobbing actor. Because I don’t come from a wealthy background, I needed money. I felt I needed to take work in order to live, so I was making the wrong choices.”
Actor Gemma Arterton (Times)

“Writing opera off as elitist is absurd. The expense of the posh seats may exclude people for financial reasons, but there are plenty of ways in which it is still accessible: Glyndebourne’s autumn tour – or the Upper Slips at Covent Garden for 10 quid. DVDs or HD broadcasts are no substitute for the real thing. As a student, I went to Covent Garden to hear Pavarotti in Tosca. The experience of being in the same room as that astonishing voice has never left me.”
Actor Roger Allam (Telegraph)

“I want to fuck up culture. I want to provoke culture. I feel that will make us more human, so we’re able to see each other in ways we can’t ordinarily. By creating that rupture in culture, we reveal our true humanity to each other. It’s not about the best version of who we are – it’s about the rawest version of who we are.”
Madani Younis, artistic director of London’s Bush Theatre (Guardian)

“I get paid to do what I love. I couldn’t sleep at night if I wasn’t doing something with that position. It’s like an interview: wouldn’t it be boring if you had to come and talk to me about my dresses or what movie I had to plug? Can’t we talk about something more interesting? You want to talk about what the fuck is going on in the world.”
Actor Denise Gough (Vanity Fair)

“People still want to talk about it now. The irony of me working in theatre for 50 years and they remember you for that TV show. But that’s America!”
Actor Mikhail Baryshnikov on being approached in the street by Sex and the City fans (i newspaper)

What you said of Facebook

About theatres being urged to tackle diversity despite the cost…

It’s all very well telling people they have to do something “despite the cost”, but what about theatres that can barely keep the lights on? The policies Poppy Burton-Morgan suggests will come at a cost to those who work for companies where pay is already outrageously low.

If we start setting diversity targets for public funding – as has been suggested by many – regional theatres in areas that aren’t very ethnically diverse will shut down.

To me, this would be the perfect being the enemy of the good.
Calum Darroch

About the tour of Shout! The Musical being cancelled after two performances…

They’ve launched without getting core funding in place? What shining assets to the world of production they are.
Ged Quayle

About our Green Room discussion on technical rehearsals…

Tech days can be exhausting, so it’s important for actors to conserve energy. At the worst tech day I ever experienced, the director re-blocked, reworked and gave notes all the way through. It seemed to go on for ever and left the cast confused and disorientated. That night was our first preview.
Amanda Reed

It takes an age, it’s exhausting and everyone is a little frayed, but, as an actor, it’s where I get a window into the creative process of the rest of the company.
Laura Simpson

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