‘Waking the Feminists’ social media campaign sees theatres commit to change

9 Jul 2018

Exterior of the Gate Theatre, Dublin. Image: William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

10 Irish theatre organisations have adopted new policies to boost opportunities for women in the performing arts.

It has been almost three years since the dawn of the ‘Waking the Feminists’ movement lit up Twitter and spread like wildfire across not only Ireland, but the world.

The movement scooped up a prestigious Lilly Award in 2016 for its grassroots digital campaign, which was described by Julia Jordan of The Lilly Awards as a “visceral explosion”.

Waking the Feminists: A movement driven by social media

The movement, spearheaded by Inspirefest 2016 speaker Lian Bell, was born after the unveiling of the 1916 centenary programme at the Abbey Theatre, featuring nine out of 10 plays written by men. This glaring disparity galvanised what became a major sea change in the theatre landscape.

Today (9 July), the voices of the thousands of supporters online will be vindicated by the Government, as Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan, TD, is set to launch a gender equality strategy for Irish theatre.

Theatre companies to implement new rules

The Abbey, Gate and Druid theatres, as well as Rough Magic, the Everyman Palace and Fishamble, have signed up to the new policy. In some cases, gender-blind readings and casting will apply, with women taking up roles traditionally played by male actors.

Unconscious-bias training for all theatre staff and a commitment to achieving gender-balanced programming within five years are also on the cards under the new strategy. Dignity-at-work clauses will be added to employee charters and ensuring gender parity in collaboration with third-level institutions is also an element of the agreement.

A step in the right direction

Bell described the policies as “a really significant step in embedding gender equality as an ethos into all of those organisations”, noting that these steps are only the first on the larger journey towards true equality and equity in the theatre world.

Exterior of the Gate Theatre, Dublin. Image: William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects