Monday 16 September 2019

Royal Court Theatre: It’s time to confront abuse of power in our own industry

The London-based theatre is staging an event to allow people to share their own experiences of sexual harassment.

Harvey Weinstein (PA)
Harvey Weinstein (PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

One of Britain’s most famous theatres has announced its own response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The Royal Court Theatre said it is “time to confront the abuses of power that have been occurring in our own industry for years”.

It is holding an event to give people the opportunity to share their own experiences  of sexual harassment.

The theatre’s artistic director, Vicky Featherstone, said she had been “shocked” by how many people who approached her with their own stories were fearful of ramifications if they spoke out.

“Following last week’s revelations concerning Harvey Weinstein, it is time to confront the abuses of power that have been occurring in our own industry for years,” she said.

“I tweeted last week to ask what we should be doing and I was overwhelmed by the open and candid response from the many people who got in touch with me, sharing their stories and suggesting courses of action.

“What shocked me most was how many of those who approached me were fearful they’d be named and also of the significant negative implications speaking out could have for them.

“Despite those fears, they wanted to have their voices heard to prevent such abuses happening to those coming after them.”

The Royal Court held a meeting on sexual harassment in the theatre industry last year, where it agreed a  “verbal code of conduct” which “eliminates the so-called grey areas that so often allow people to get away with abuses of power.

“That session gave those who are subject to such abuses clear avenues to confidently take further action,” Featherstone  said.

“Sexual harassment, predominantly carried out by those in power to people in positions junior to them, is systemic. It is across every part of our society. If it is not dealt with in an open way we have no hope of change, and change must happen.”

The Royal Court will be holding an industry-wide session, “to pass on what we have learnt … and to learn best practice from our peers” on Saturday October 28.

The event will also be a space for “those of you who wish to have your stories heard”.

It has created an online forum where people “can safely, and (if you choose), anonymously tell us your stories”.

“Whether you consider it a big or small thing, if someone in a position of power over you has made you feel sexually compromised, or at all uncomfortable, then be brave, tell us what happened. We will take care of your story,”   Featherstone  said.

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