Advance 2014 – What We Did

Advance ran between October 2013 and May 2014. It tasked 11 leading theatres from across England to proactively explore how they could achieve greater gender equality on their stages.

Crucial to the success of the programme was the ‘buy in’ it achieved from the participating theatres’ leaders; each theatre’s contribution to the programme was led by their Artistic Director, Chief Executive, or a senior member of creative staff. Read more about the theatres that took part.

The focus of Advance was kept purposefully tight: it centred on individuals employed in artistic, and generally freelance, capacities by these theatre i.e. as directors, writers, actors, designers (including lighting, sound and video) and other ‘creatives’.

The focus of Advance was kept purposefully tight: it centred on individuals employed in artistic, and generally freelance, capacities.

Our previous research told us it was here – rather than in administration, participatory work, producing, or stage management – where women are significantly less likely to be represented than men, particularly at top level in the best resourced, most prestigious theatres. And given that for audiences, their primary interface with the industry is what they see and hear happening on stage (rather than in the wings or administration offices) who it is that is getting to make work there, felt like the best place for Advance to initially focus. It may be that future iterations of the programme explore other areas such as women in technical theatre, or women in leadership.

Advance was designed to foster collaboration, cross-fertilisation of ideas and mutual support between the 11 theatres. Over the course of six months, they took part in group and one-to-one sessions, conducted intensive research, and were facilitated to examine collectively and within their own organisations how they could move forward. There was a focus on creating new approaches, on innovation, and on looking beyond the theatre industry as well as within it to find ways to create change.

Following the completion of Advance, the theatres have all now put into place firm plans for new ways of working that they will begin to implement over the next 12 months. Advance was tracked by a team of academics from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Read more about this here.

+ More about the process
+ Why these theatres?
+ See what each of the theatres did

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