#WakingTheFeminists Meeting Calls For Gender Equality In The Arts
The Abbey Theatre hosted a discussion today surrounding the gender balance problem in the theatre industry.
This afternoon people gathered excitedly outside the front entrance of the Abbey theatre as press and TV cameras sat ready and waiting, with passers by stopping to ask what was happening. A group of female theatre professionals unfurled a banner emblazoned with the words "WAKING THE FEMINISTS". It was the beginning of an emotional and powerful afternoon of stories.
The main stage played host to Ivana Bacik who MCed the event, and included speakers like Lian Bell, playwright Deirdre Kinihan and director Grace Dyas. The atmosphere inside was brilliant, with each speaker on stage having 90 seconds to talk about their experiences of gender inequality in the theatre industry and across all spheres.
Bell, a set designer and arts manager who sparked the debate online, made an impassioned opening statement to the packed theatre: "Two weeks ago I started posting my thoughts online about gender equality because I was tired of quiet conversations in corners. I didn't realise how much anger and frustration I had about the situation, but apparently I do. We all do. We can't keep watching talented women artists being overlooked." After Bell many more actors, directors, writers and activists took to the stage to speak powerfully and honestly about the inequalities they have faced in the past and continue to struggle with today as women. "I worked as Resident Assistant Director here at The Abbey at the beginning of my career. I was proud to work at my national theatre, alongside brilliant people. But there’s brutality to working on a stage for nearly two years and in that time never working with a female director, and never on a play written by a woman", Una Murphy, theatre director told the crowd. "I want more women’s scripts staged, more women putting them on the stage, and more women on the stage. Many more. The time is now", added Dearbhla Crotty. "It’s not good enough, and we all know the imbalance is everywhere. It runs frighteningly deep" - Ali White, playwright. "I want to thank all the women who spoke for me on stage when I couldn’t speak for myself. I have experience out and out misogyny"- Grace Dyas, theatre director. After the women had spoken comments from the floor followed, including one from the Director of the Abbey Fiach Mac Conghail: "Today was historical and I am extremely humbled. I failed to check my privilege… society is overwhelmingingly biased towards the male narrative and visibility is key here. We need to make an urgent commitment to generate balance".
The afternoon ended with an amazing singalong to the Aretha Franklin classic, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and women working in Irish theatre are not asking for it, but demanding it.