Advance brought together the Artistic Directors, Chief Executives, and senior creative staff of a cohort of 11 theatres: Almeida, Chichester, Festival Theatre, English Touring Theatre, the Gate, Headlong, Pentabus, Royal Shakespeare Company, Sheffield Theatres, the Tricycle, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and the Young Vic. These theatres recognized that something was preventing talented women in the theatre industry from rising to the top. They wanted to understand why this was the case, and then lead the way in addressing it.
From October 2013 to May 2014, Tonic and Central worked with these theatres to make this aspiration a reality. They designed and guided them through Advance, a six-month period of research, reflection and activity which tasked them to take an interrogative and methodical approach to understanding the root causes behind the comparative lack of women in key creative roles. Rather than settling for quick fixes or advocating a ‘sticking plaster’ approach, Advance tasked the theatres to understand not only where barriers to female talent exist within their organisations, but why.
Having concluded the programme all the theatres now have concrete but considered plans in place for how they will create change. They are working towards progress within their own organisaions but are also beginning to consider how, as a cohort and with Tonic’s ongoing collaboration, they can drive for industry wide change.
Gilli Bush-Bailey, Professor of Women’s Performance History at Central, said of the project, “Acting largely as (silent) witnesses to the proceedings of Advance Away Days, our tracking enabled us to gather data that can inform future developments for Advance and be useful in evaluating the processes used on the project. But we hope that will be only part of a dynamic research process that will continue to pose questions, stimulate enquiry, and fuel projects that directly engage with the many reasons that gender equality Is still an issue in our creative theatre industry.”
Professor Bush-Bailey, Dr Low and Dr Grochala are continuing to develop a ‘dynamic research’ model that not only documents Tonic’s work but also identifies and articulates questions that Advance might pursue and tracks the impact of the project in realizing gender equality in the creative theatre industry.
To learn more about Advance and to read about Central’s involvement with the project, please visit: http://www.tonictheatre-advance.co.uk/