Wednesday 21 February 2018

Abuse in the arts: the shocking truth

Scale of harassment revealed n Colgan accusers reject Gate probe

Gate Theatre
Gate Theatre

Maeve Sheehan and Philip Ryan

Harassment and bullying is widespread in the arts community, according to a "startling" Behaviour & Attitudes survey released to the Sunday Independent.

The findings reveal that almost 60pc of those surveyed, mostly women who are employed in the arts, say they have been bullied but that almost three-quarters have not reported it because they fear it might jeopardise future work opportunities.

Those surveyed reported in large numbers being shouted at as well as being the target of aggressive or obscene language, intimidation, social exclusion or isolation, offensive jokes and intrusion by pestering, spying or stalking.

The survey, conducted for the actors' union Irish Equity and the trade union Siptu, reveals huge numbers of respondents suffering from anxiety and depression, feelings of dread and not wanting to go to work, as well as sleep problems and increased alcohol use as a result of the harassment and bullying.

Last night, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys told the Sunday Independent she would be raising the results of the survey with the Arts Council, which her spokeswoman stressed was independent in its funding decisions.

This weekend there are growing demands that future arts funding be contingent on strict adherence to protocols designed to prevent such harassment and bullying.

The survey's findings reflect growing concerns in the arts community here that harassment and bullying is rife in an industry that has come under intense scrutiny since a number of women made allegations of inappropriate conduct against Michael Colgan, the retired director of Dublin's Gate Theatre.

The allegations in relation to the Gate Theatre include accounts of inappropriate remarks, touching and harassment, which were posted online by several women. Mr Colgan has not responded to text messages or calls from the Sunday Independent.

Last night seven women who went public with allegations of abuse of power or inappropriate behaviour against Michael Colgan, said they "question the independence" of the process put in place by the Gate Theatre to examine concerns. "Michael Colgan sat on the board of the Gate for many years. This undermines our confidence in the impartiality of the current Board," they said in a statement.

It is now evident that such allegations may be far more wide reaching within the arts community here.

A copy of the survey was provided to the Arts Council last year, but action on foot of the findings has yet to be taken.

The Arts Council, the government agency responsible

Sunday Independent

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