Today is International Women’s Day and the theme this year is #EmbraceEquity.
Equity is important to anybody involved in the performing arts and entertainment, after all it’s the name of our trade union, and I cannot think of a word that better represents the key principle of an industry that I am proud to be part of.
The word equity speaks of justice according to natural law or right, with freedom from bias or favouritism. It can be confused with another powerful word, equality, and while the two words are often used together there are differences.
We strive for equality of resource and opportunity, but equity recognises that every person has different circumstances, and we need to address these before we can achieve true equality.
The performing arts offer unique opportunities for people of every age and background, we provide a voice for the unheard, a platform for the unseen, a home for everyone irrespective of influence, we ask what you want to do, not what can you do.
We are inclusive, not by chance, but because we have worked hard as an industry to be inclusive and much of this work has been undertaken by strong women.
Joan Littlewood is a name that you might be familiar with, and if we are talking about strong women, I think you’ll struggle to find a better example. In 1941 Joan was banned from broadcasting on the BBC, she was subject to an MI5 investigation and was branded ‘persona non grata’ by many of the most influential people in society.
Joan was branded as a national security risk.
First, it points to the power of theatre that ‘the establishment’ could consider her this dangerous, but it also acts as a demonstration of a strong woman refusing to knuckle under, play by the rules of others, change her style or God forbid betray her principles.
Today, Joan Littlewood is universally, and justifiably recognised as the ‘Mother of Modern Theatre’, with a blue plaque and a statue at the Theatre Royal, Stratford.
Joan Littlewood believed in equity and equality, she was fearless and formidable.
I am proud to be part of the same industry as Joan and the countless other women that have made, and continue to make the performing arts such an inclusive home for so many people.