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Criterion Theatre

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the Criterion

Statements and policies that set out our positions, procedures and actions.

 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan 2020-2021

Introduction: Is there a problem and what can we do about it?

We have so much we can be proud of in the Criterion Theatre. We put on exceptionally high quality productions, we are not afraid of taking risks and do not restrict ourselves to ‘safe’ shows, and in so doing have much more varied and up to date programming than many of the theatres in our local area. We are a real family community and there is a democratic, all-in character of the Criterion which means that everyone involved in a production, front and back stage is deemed to be important. We have a policy of open readings and open auditions and do not pre-cast. We play to high percentage audiences and have remained financially healthy for a number of successive years now. We are amongst the tiny number of theatres across the country who have actually been able to produce live work over the period of COVID pandemic. We will be able to survive this economic downturn, and better than a lot of arts organisations.

However, our creative teams, our crews, our casts, our volunteers and our governance structures are almost exclusively white, middle-class and above 40 years old. Our programming is almost exclusively plays written by white authors. We are a relatively closed community, with little reach outside of the Earlsdon, Styvechale, Cheylesmore nexus. We do not represent the diverse communities of the city in which we are based either in our personnel or in the stories we represent. When we know how deeply embedded racism is within our society, this is no longer an acceptable status quo.

We need to demonstrate change in our diversity profile both as a moral and ethical imperative, but also because we are missing out on the creativity, artistic challenge and wider talent, that comes from embracing the widest possible range of stories and experiences. If we want to continue to grow into the future, we need to look more widely.

We almost certainly need to ask different questions…rather than:

“How can we get new people into the theatre?” or “How can we get more volunteers at the theatre?

It might be:

What are we willing to change?” “How can we be meaningful to new people?

Our EDI Goals for the next year

We have to really think about what is possible in this first year and try not to aspire to achieve too much which is just then destined to fail.

Given that our lack of diversity in race/ethnicity is our most obvious and pressing weakness this will be our focus in this initial year as we realise this is the area we need to make most progress. However this does not mean we will not be working towards the inclusion of other excluded/under-represented groups. Many of the strategies within our action plan require us to be above all explicitly cognisant of diversity aspects of our practice and this will hopefully lead to thinking through implications across all diversity strands.

By the time of the next Company AGM in 2021 we will aim to make measurable progress on the following goals around 6 key areas discussed by the EDI Working Group.

Ownership of the Action Plan

The EDI Working Group provides a crucial reference and support group for the Action Plan, but ownership must rest with the Board of Trustees and Heads of Department.

Understanding experiences of Criterion members of African and Caribbean; Asian, South Asian, East Asian and South-East Asian heritage.

  • Personally contact current and past company members, who we can ask in a sensitive way to let us know about their experiences of being at the Criterion and any ideas of what would help to make the theatre a more inclusive space.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY:

  • Collecting experiences and ideas in an anonymised written document.
  • Ongoing tracking of views at regular intervals to see the impact of measures put in place

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Artistic Director and members of EDI Working Group.

Added extra: think more widely about inclusion and gathering experiences of other under-represented groups/individuals with protected characteristics under Equality Act 2010 including in particular disabled people and LGBTQ+.

Thinking about and making changes to our culture

  • Undertake an EDI impact assessment of our public statements, major policies and practices: actually think about and talk about how can make these more inclusive. Can we do things in different ways? Can we understand why things happen in the way that they do? Are we stuck in the usual ways of doing things and thinking about things?

1. Public statements and policies

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Formal report to the Board and making necessary revisions to policies/procedures.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Gennie Holmes and Board of Trustees.

Added extra: have a mindful eye to check language and policies regarding other under-represented groups/individuals with protected characteristics under Equality Act 2010.

  • 2. Social Events including bar nights
  • 3. Cultural/arts events
  • 4. Marketing and engagement

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Reaching out to community groups more widely. Schedule events we can host at the theatre either virtually or physically when allowed. Widening our range of activities like play readings, social nights, book launches, talks, theatre workshops including for backstage skills etc.

But be aware of the balance in our overall programme-we need to host the majority of events rather than being a venue for other organisations/companies.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Social Events Team, Publicity Director, Customer Experience Director, Department Heads/Members who might want to organise particular activities

Added extra: have a mindful eye on opportunities to open up to other under-represented groups/individuals with protected characteristics under Equality Act 2010.

Changing our artistic programming

Useful EDI Criteria Considerations for Programming Plays/Play Readings/Visiting Productions

  • Ensure any play which does not deal directly with diversity issues is cast from a position of gender/race/ethnicity neutrality.
  • Think about whether the traditional/white dominant culture play can be transposed to a different/more diverse cultural setting.
  • Select a play that deals directly with diversity issues (which may require non-neutral casting-designation of specific race/ethnicity, gender, age or other protected characteristic.
  • Ensure that plays chosen do not uncritically reinforce a white privilege/dominant narrative.
  • Have some diversity characteristic criteria/targets: i.e. over the course of any one season, playwrights, cast and crew should be:
    • 50/50 gender balance, no more than 70% white English, generational balance. NB Is currently a particular challenge around race/ethnicity diversity in backstage/tech crews.
  • Have conversations with and take action to change the remit of the play selection group to ensure that we deliberately read plays by playwrights from as wide a range of heritage backgrounds, with particular focus on playwrights of African and Caribbean; Asian, South Asian, East Asian and South-East Asian heritage.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Cataloguing plays read to include relevant demographic characteristics so we can demonstrate a widened range. Include these activities in the Diversity tracker?

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Artistic Director and Play Selection Committee

Added extra: have a mindful eye to check programming regarding other under-represented groups/individuals with protected characteristics under Equality Act 2010.

As we put together a season of productions, undertake an EDI impact assessment of it to ensure that we are making efforts to tell as wide a range of stories as we can.

  • Make a commitment to have at least one play in every season which is by a playwright of African and Caribbean; Asian, South Asian, East Asian and South-East Asian heritage.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Include diversity criteria within the usual efforts to devise a varied season of plays by making use of the Diversity Tracker Tool. Demonstrate achievement of progress using the Tracker.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Artistic Director and Play Selection Committee.

Increasing the diversity of cast and crew

Ensure that are our casting and auditions policies and procedures and EDI intention within those policies and procedures are well publicised.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Visibility of relevant statements and policies on the website and within all audition calls.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Publicity Director.

Ensure that directors of any productions understand and implement policies around casting and auditions, especially around gender and race/ethnicity neutral casting.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Improved diversity in casting.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Artistic Director

Use the diversity tracker tool for all forthcoming productions https://www.theatrecastingtoolkit.org/tools/tracker/ and set an achievable target to increase the number of actors of African and Caribbean; Asian, South Asian, East Asian and South-East Asian heritage in Criterion productions – 2018=2/72 3%, 2019=2/52 (4%), 2020=3/34 (9%). Aspirational target of 26% which matches black and minority ethnic population of Coventry.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Actual positive change seen in the tracker.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Artistic Director and Play Selection Committee in liaison with Gennie Holmes, EDI Working Group.

Think about how to improve diversity within our production teams: reaching out to wider networks-links with universities, community groups?

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Increasing diversity in our crews. Include crews in the diversity tracker.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Production Committee.

Added extra: have a mindful eye to check opportunities to be inclusive to other under-represented groups/individuals with protected characteristics under Equality Act 2010.  

Widening our marketing and engagement

  • Widen the network of our advertising: make note of where we currently market our productions.
  • Reach out to F13, ACTS, Belgrade, Albany and City of Culture reps to raise the profile of the Criterion.
  • Reach out to wider community groups.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: Increased visibility of the Criterion in new networks: needs to be tracked and catalogued. Perhaps using surveys (audience, new members) to understand where people heard about the theatre.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Publicity Director

Added extra: have a mindful eye to utilise wider networks relating to other under-represented groups/individuals with protected characteristics under Equality Act 2010. 

Increasing the diversity in our governance structures

This includes both the Board of Directors (Trustees) but also Heads of Department.

PROGRESS MEASURED BY: to make strong efforts to try and fill at least one of the vacancies on our Board by someone of African and Caribbean; Asian, South Asian, East Asian and South-East Asian heritage, and someone under the age of 40 years.

A first step is that we commit to advertising outside of our usual networks -we have vacancies for Facilities, Customer Experience Directors currently.

Also commit to an advert for the participation in the wider production teams more widely.

Think about whether job share roles or the introduction of deputies could be useful here.

PARTICIPATION/OWNERSHIP: Board of Trustees, Production Committee

Added extra: have a mindful eye to check opportunities to open up positions to other under-represented groups/individuals with protected characteristics under Equality Act 2010.

 


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