I love the arts.
A swift jab from Cupid’s arrow in my youth and it’s been my strongest love affair. Nothing beats the few seconds when the lights go down in the theatre, the communal laughs and cries, the cathartic sorting out of our collective human shit.
The cinema silent and still after a film. Nobody daring to move. We watch the credits together, strangers held by the heavy force of what we’d just seen.
Hour long debates with my Dad on the latest drama, documentary or series and screaming ‘yeah but wasn’t the writing unreal, Dad?!’
It’s my church, my collective, faith.
I’m in love with the arts and no matter how many times I try to escape them in search of an easier life, I’ll always come back, tail between my legs, begging for one last chance.
You’ll understand why it breaks my heart to see the state it’s in. It’s 2016 and it’s still rich white men at the top. You can claim otherwise but it’s everywhere. From the runners and assistants right up to the development teams, channel controllers, big name actors, producers and directors.
And yeah, whatever, history, way things were blah blah blah.
It really needs to change.
A few things are changing. There are people who’ve worked hard for this for years.
But on the large scale a BAME play here, an all Asian play there, a decently funded ‘poverty porn’ play annually. Is that really representation? Granted it gives underrepresented creatives more work and I’m all up for that but how can we truly change this sector with more rules and further separation. It has to go deeper than box ticking.
We need a revolution from the bottom up. I don’t need people on £100k+ at the top of huge companies and corporations telling me what my country looks like and when we’re allowed to show proper representation. I know what it looks like, I live in it.
I long to see a typical ‘bums on seats’ play at a regional theatre with black, white, asian, mixed race, disabled actors all putting on the show and nobody even batting an eyelid. There’d be no major PR around it or a jovial slap on the back of the theatre for ticking the E&D box. It should just be the normal, shouldn’t it? Same with TV and film.
Whether you’re black, white, asian, mixed heritage, male, female, rich, poor, gay, straight, lesbian, disabled, disadvantaged, disheartened or dissatisfied we’re all drinking from the same waterhole and trying to make it last.
Are we simply going to wait for someone to give us the opportunity to represent ourselves?Do you want to box yourself into a bracket and hope that it’s the one in favour this year or do you want to break the system? Do you want to be a pawn or a bishop?
I’m sick to the back teeth of researching successful people in the arts and finding the Oxbridge connection. As Caitlin Moran says, surely all the clever, talented and driven people didn’t all come out of the same school?
The one difference I notice between privately educated and publicly educated individuals is entitlement. I feel damn lucky if I get paid to act or write whereas others believe it is their right and often it gets them further. Self fulfilling prophecy or what?
Let’s teach our comprehensive kids entitlement and see what happens eh? Sounds ridiculous? Well Cameron needs lessons in the price of milk and how to glottalise his t’s so maybe we should get entitlement on the curriculum.
Funding cuts and a general lack of money are making it impossible to ask companies to take risks. Risks haemorrhage money if they don’t pay off and nobody can afford a failure.
I went back and listened to Neil Gaiman’s #MakeGoodArt speech yesterday and it reminded me that at the heart of it all it’s the art that counts.
So what do we do?
Firstly, we all strap on our biggest, most badass warrior face and claw in for the long fight. We need to talk, discuss, shout and cry. We need to get together and figure out how we can make changes to encourage diversity and equal representation that isn’t tokenism.
Secondly, I think we all need to put our money where our mouth is.
Nothing is going to get better if we don’t go back to basics. We need to get into schools and youth clubs and tell children that they are talented, welcomed and needed in this industry.
We need to make sure that the comp school kids know they’re just as ‘entitled’ to art as the privately schooled kids and by the time they grow up you won’t need an Uncle Horatio in development at the Beeb to get ‘in’.
We need to tell them that it’s the art they should be most concerned with. Become obsessed, become brutal with your work and become your own best friend. We need to tell that failure is okay. ***
We need to become mentors and counsellors and by God if you’ve got to a pretty comfortable position in your career then you really need to help us with this.
Lastly, I urge us all to remember why we fell in love with it in the first place and cultivate that in others. Don’t bow down to the business because the business needs you. We are bigger than they give us credit for and we can win.
We can’t be scared of the revolution. We can’t worry our opinions might lose us work. We have to be the ones to kick this off and make it stick
Life and careers are way too short to simply do what you’re told.
*** (If anybody wants to act on this idea I’d love to get into schools and start this, contact me)