It has been a sobering month. From Laurence Fox to Andrew Sabisky to the recently published Arts Council England diversity report that revealed a “disappointing picture”, the world is not feeling like a great place for those of us who are not white, middle-class, male, cis and able-bodied… Yes, that’s rather a lot of us.
ACE’s report shone a light on what, anecdotally, most of us outside of that chosen, privileged demographical sweet spot (where the world is yours for the taking) know from daily life – that there is not enough space for us and our stories in this industry. It also crucially points out that the big players need to do more.
I think what fuelled Lozza’s now famous eye rolling and anti-woke vitriol is that everyone seems to be talking about the need for more and better representation and inclusion.
It’s week upon week of Groundhog Days in the world of diversity campaigning. We know we need to do more, we keep saying it and yet we never actually do it. I think we’re probably all a little bored of hearing it now.
But in the case of Fox and Sabisky that boredom is turning nasty. And that’s a cause for concern. A little light erasure of Sikhs from one of British history’s largest narratives here, or a small helping of eugenics there.
History tells us that these things add up to awful, cataclysmic events. And it’s important to recognise the cumulative weight of all this sidelining, denial and silencing.
It’s important to recognise the cumulative weight of sidelining, denial and silencing
I swore off Question Time a while ago – I fundamentally disagree with its wilful provocativeness. So I was in no way surprised to read about Fox’s turn on the show, doubly so because I, like most people who’ve crossed his path professionally, have memories of his ‘robust’ conduct from a turn on Lewis a few years ago.
It was gutting, though, to see my profession represented in him. The air time he has generated far outstrips any of the incredible, positive work of some of the warriors in our world who are making real change, from Riz Ahmed to Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway. Why is that? Because the structures are so broken. They need to change. The way we make, fund, pay for and organise work needs to shift dramatically.
We need to ensure that entry points are accessible to all and not pull up the ladders (compare Guildhall with RADA, for example).
We need to guarantee fair, living wages to all emerging artists, so those other than the ex-Eton offspring of acting dynasties can survive the jobbing early years.
We need to make work in a way that doesn’t exclude the many. We know that bullies bully because they are scared – the Sabiskys and Foxes of the world are presumably terrified to feel their privilege slipping through their sweaty fingers. But just as teachers need to step in and stop the nasty kids from being nasty, the industry needs to step up and stop this. Now. There has been enough talk.
Stephanie Street is an actor, writer and co-founder of Act for Change. Read more of her columns at thestage.co.uk/author/stephanie-street/