Widening Participation

RTYDS is especially keen to support and nurture new and emerging directors from backgrounds and circumstances that reflect the diversity of contemporary society and are currently under-represented in theatre.

To ensure that theatre companies reach as wide a demographic as possible, we have drawn up a short but hopefully helpful checklist. If you have any additions to these guidelines please let us know.

Each theatre company will design their Introduction to Directing project and/or Three-Month Placement to reflect and respond to the needs of the groups they wish to work with and tailor the content and process to their particular needs. There is no intention to prescribe how theatres should seek out and contact potential participants.

RTYDS aims to collaborate closely with all the participating theatre companies and provide whatever support and advice is useful. This could include:

  • Advice and support both before and after submitting an application.
  • Brokering partnerships between building based theatre companies and smaller companies.
  • Access to a database of directors who have the relevant skills and experience to lead workshops for new directors as well as a database of artists who are from under-represented communities.
  • Provide short good practice guidelines (see below) on identifying and contacting diverse groups.

If you would like to discuss any of the above then please contact Davinia Jokhi (Project Producer) or telephone 0161 883 0296.

Guidelines for Good Practice

Identifying Individuals and Groups

Research has shown that ambitions for diversity are more likely to yield good results if a company/project tackles one area of diversity at a time and the recruitment process is tailored to maximise diversity. It may therefore be useful to identify one group you wish to engage with and look at social and institutional barriers to engaging – these may be related to race, ethnicity, faith and religious beliefs, disability, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, economic disadvantage, caring or parental responsibilities, philosophical beliefs, or life style choice.

You will know which area of under-representation is particularly relevant to your theatre company’s creative, geographical, and social needs.

Recruiting Participants

If you have education and creative learning expertise within the company you may well have existing relationships and networks that will be integral to the process of recruiting the participants. However, if you have a limited number of existing partnerships, you could consider contacting one or some of the following:

  • Create links with Further Education colleges and schools and colleges running BTEC Performing Arts courses. These schools and colleges will have contact with students that have left and are presently making job and career choices.
  • Find and meet local groups who already engage with young people for example those that support refugee young adults, siblings who are separated in care, young people who are in hostels etc.
  • Contact arts and theatre organisations who are already engaging with the groups you want to contact (e.g. youth theatres, youth offending teams, youth clubs, organisations supporting young adults who are NEET) and can signpost young people towards the opportunity.
  • Create a partnership with agencies and organisations who work with young people/adults who are culturally excluded or work with culturally specific groups.
  • Find and meet organisations set up for young women at risk or working with young women who have experienced domestic violence.
  • Make relationships with Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services
  • Advertise in targeted local community communications, such as Job Centre Bulletins and noticeboards

When planning how to contact these groups or individuals you could consider:

  • Utilising local authority groups, websites and networks that focus on opportunities for looked after young people and young people who are carers.
  • Use social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter – ask other theatres, groups, or individuals to retweet and share information about the opportunity.
  • Use tickets to attract local groups – offer free tickets or reductions to groups to make contact with them for the first time. Make sure you choose the right production for first time theatre goers.
  • Use current networks of young people to contact other young people and act as ambassadors.
  • Make contact initially with an email and follow up with a phone call.

Extensive and glossy literature is not required. The information can be communicated simply but clearly. The establishment of meaningful, personal and tailored relationships is much more important than expensive marketing. However, simple A4 posters can be useful to communicate the opportunity. Face to face campaigns such as having a presence in a street market or a local supermarket can be very successful.

Be clear who your project is for. Putting the information in your theatre’s foyer, programme or publicity material will only attract those who already know and have a relationship with the theatre. This will not necessarily widen or diversify participation.

When thinking about the structure of the project you could consider:

The barriers that might prevent people from taking part such as language, cost of travel, anxiety about stepping over the threshold of a building that is unfamiliar and may not feel welcoming , familiar or “for them”. The structure of your project needs to address these barriers and respond to the participants potentially complex lives. For example, you might consider providing food, flexibility in terms of start and end times, contributing to child care costs, providing exact travel details or meeting the participants before they come in the building. The budgets may need to cover costs of meal and travel allowances. Also some groups or individuals may require additional staff to provide one- to-one support or access needs such as BSL interpreters.

It is vital to consider the longer-term strategy when creating a relationship with the group and the individuals contacted. Initially it may take some time to establish trust and it is important to spend time on face to face meetings with organisers and participants. It is important to listen, to be clear about expectations and not to over-promise. It is useful to think about the legacy of the project and the ongoing relationship with participants depending on capacity, resources and on-going projects. This might include sign posting participants to other projects and opportunities.

When thinking who could run the projects you could consider:

Engaging a director who reflects the diversity of the group. RTYDS has a database of directors from diverse backgrounds that have experience in running projects for new and emerging artists. Please contact Davinia Jokhi for suggestions.

When planning the content of the project, it is useful to recognise that many of the young adults will have little experience of theatre to date. Those participants who have had theatre experience are likely to have been involved as an actor or performer. This could be used as an effective way to begin on familiar ground and then move into uncharted territory. The involvement of professional actors can be a good way to pass on skills and create strong relationships. This can be deepened if they are in a show that young adults can see at the theatre and this can add another dimension to the accessibility of the project. Where possible some of the actors should be from the under-represented community the project is aiming to work with.

In essence the above considerations suggest that you identify who you want to work with and make relationships with the organisations who support these young adults. The way to research these groups will be different in different regions. However, local authority’s websites are always a good place to start. Often the research has a domino effect as contact with one person leads to another. Who to contact will obviously be led by the focus of the group the theatre company wishes to work with.

If you have any examples of good practice you think we should include please let us know.

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