Singin' in the Rain chorus

Singin’ in the Rain at Chichester Festival Theatre, 2011

Founded in

1962

Artistic Director

Jonathan Church

Since 2006

Chichester Festival Theatre logo

Profile

Chichester Festival Theatre’s mission is to create world class theatre experiences that inspire, engage, entertain, empower, inform and challenge our audience, the artists we work with and the many different communities who engage with and participate in our work. Risk, ambition and innovation are at the centre of a theatre making approach that pushes theatrical boundaries and presents audiences with a broader perspective and understanding of twenty first century Britain whilst celebrating the power of tradition.

+ www.cft.org.uk

Company type: building based

Company Type

Building based

With two auditoriums:
Festival Theatre (1316 seats)
Minerva Theatre (310 seats)

Public funding graph

Public Funding

£1,640,973

Arts Council England subsidy for the 2013/14 financial year.

Location: Chichester

Location

Chichester

Productions

6

Opened in 2013

Staff

Core staff

Our Question

There are more women succeeding in getting new plays on stage at the entry level of the profession than there are at a mid-career level. Is there a disconnect between early success and career progression within the wider sector? If so, what are the barriers to more established female writers getting their work on larger stages and how can Chichester Festival Theatre (and other regional producing theatres) contribute to addressing this disconnect and gender imbalance?

CFT took note of Advance research done by Tonic and the Almeida Theatre on the representation of women writers on London stages in 2013. CFT acknowledges that it doesn’t have a track record for actively commissioning mid-career level female playwrights for its stages. Over the past eight years, CFT has sought to increase the number of commissions for female playwrights. Understanding why there is such a gender imbalance will help to inform how best to seek out mid-career female writers and help to overcome any conscious or sub-conscious barriers which might lead to these writers being overlooked.

What We Did

“Unsurprisingly we learnt that there is a clear difference between the percentage of women being commissioned to write for the mid scale/larger stages in comparison to men.”
KATHY BOURNE, ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

Investigation

Jenny Roberts (on behalf of CFT) interviewed playwrights and literary and artistic associates from within the industry. All were asked a series of open ended questions. The answers were collated and a report written based on the findings.

What We Learned

Unsurprisingly we learnt that there is a clear difference between the percentage of women being commissioned to write for the mid scale/larger stages in comparison to men.

Reasons for this differed from venue to venue. However, there seemed to be a consensus on the following:

When women are approached about a commission, there appears to be a trend in proactively approaching young, new women writers rather than focusing on mid-career women writers. If women writers haven’t managed to get their work produced by a certain point in their career, then it is much less likely that they will go on to have a successful career, particularly on the bigger stages.

Venues don’t always offer the best support for women writers, who are less likely than men to request help and guidance from the venue and literary departments. The overall experience can prove to be quite negative and venues don’t therefore always get the best out of their women writers.

Men tend to promote their work with more confidence and come across as more convincing with their arguments as to why venues should programme their work.

In choosing what to write about, men choose subject matter which traditionally has been considered more suitable for the larger stages.

At a particular point in their career, women often have to turn their attention to childcare. For a period of time, work is of secondary importance, either through choice or necessity.

Historically, more plays by men than by women have been produced and when programming and commissioning, venues look for a successful track record in a playwright. Hence, more men are likely to be approached than women.

What We’re Doing in Response to What We Learned

CFT has made a commitment to commission more women writers, over the next five years. However, in order to address the gender imbalance in terms of the size of venue presenting plays by women writers, CFT intends to share information with other venues about who they are working with and which women writers appear to have potential.

In addition, CFT will take full advantage of the excellent relationships it has with literary agents who have a pool of female writers wanting to work at producing houses such as CFT.

Without a literary department, CFT has not always had the time to focus on gender balance when it comes to finding writers to commission. However, the appointment of a new Creative Producer will help enable us to engage writers with whom CFT currently has little or no relationship. Part of the Creative Producer’s role will be actively to encourage female writers to pitch ideas to CFT. It is also her responsibility to see more work by women writers which is already being produced elsewhere.

Is This Work a Step Towards a Bigger Goal?

Whilst we have chosen to focus on women playwrights, CFT intends to try and address the current gender imbalance across the creative industry. As an organisation, we have already made some progress by questioning the make up of each creative team and have created opportunities for women within each team, where possible.

CFT is keen to work closely with other venues to ensure that there is a pooling of knowledge in relation to women creative personnel. There needs to be a collective responsibility for changing a current trend where men still monopolise the key creative positions.

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