Meet the female creative leaders being Up Front about their experiences at the top
A new series of online talks from female bosses in the creative sector aimed at inspiring other women? Sounds right up our street!
By Becky Hardy
Scarborough’s community producing company, ARCADE, has recently announced that it will be hosting a series of online talks called ‘Up Front’ – aimed at women, (trans and non binary inclusive) working in the creative sector.
With the ambition of helping women feel inspired and professionally ‘recharged’ as we begin to edge cautiously out of lockdown, ARCADE’s ‘Up Front’ series will feature a number of high-profile female creative leaders. It is hoped that, by hearing from successful women within the creative sector, other women in the North will feel emboldened to go forth from this pandemic and create.
‘The theatre sector is dominated by men at the top,’ explains Rach Drew, Co-Director of ARCADE. ‘The Women in Theatre Forum Report suggests that only 31% of Artistic Directors are women, and they are also underrepresented in theatre criticism (10%) and on boards (33%). As 50% of the population, we need more space in the rooms where decisions are made.
‘Systemic sexism can mean we are less likely to be considered for leadership roles, less likely to apply for leadership roles and, if we get them, the statistics show we will be paid less. There are also issues relating to motherhood and the expectations of employers around maternity, returning to work and the perceived cost of this to a company – not to mention the presumption that somehow, after giving birth, a woman is no longer capable of handling the same amount of pressure or commitment to a role.’ These are all the challenges women currently face in the creative sector that Rach and everyone at ARCADE hopes the ‘Up Front’ talks will begin to challenge.
So when and where are these talks available? Things kick off at 10.30am next Thursday 31st March, with the first talk of the series: Up Front with Emma Rice, hosted by Rachael Abbey. A groundbreaking theatre director best known for her work at Kneehigh Theatre, Emma was Artistic Director of The Globe and now is Artistic Director of her own company, Wise Children. Host Rachael is a writer, performer and Co-Artistic Director of Hull-based theatre company, The Roaring Girls. So it’s safe to say we can expect plenty of female boss inspo!
As the series continues, other guest speakers include Jess Thom – writer, artist and part-time superhero as the Co-Founder of Touretteshero – alongside indie artist and One Tenth Human associate Toni-Dee on Wednesday 21st April; and Esther Richardson, Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre, alongside ARCADE’s very own Rach Drew on Thursday 20th May.
‘We feel it’s particularly important to aim the talks at women, as there’s a shared experience and understanding when it comes to the difficulties faced,’ Rach says. ‘We want the talks to feel supportive and galvanising – making space for women to talk about the issues that they’ve encountered and how they overcame them. We anticipate that many will have experienced sexism, as we have, and the conversation around that changes with men in the room.
‘Certainly, there are some men who are much better than others when it comes to the treatment of the women they work with. But we have to remember that sexism is systemic, and acts of sexism can be completely unconsciously done – women can also be sexist. It’s baked into how we, as a society, operate.’
All of the online talks will be live-captioned and hosted in a relaxed style, with the aim of being as inclusive as possible. Tickets are also Pay As You Feel, with all money donated going towards the continuation of the Northern Girls project, which ARCADE and Pilot Theatre ran together in October of last year to support emerging local women writers.
‘I hope we can give people a bit of a break from their day, a chance to listen to other people who have similar challenges and to realise that they’re not alone,’ says Rach. ‘I’d love them to find a sense of solidarity and unity with the other women speaking and listening and for them to be emboldened and empowered by this.
‘In an ideal world, an experience shared at the session will help someone to combat a situation of their own. The talks are all about exploring leadership in new ways, from different lived experiences and perspectives that challenge the norm. Ultimately, we hope sessions will feel like a cup of tea with a friend, relaxed, informal and, in a small way, somewhat cathartic.’
Now, where do we sign up again?
The first talk of the series, Up Front with Emma Rice, will start at 10.30am on Thursday 31st March.