How do we solve the lack of diversity in technical and production in the arts?

 12 March 2018

Fiona Greenhill is the General Manager at the Almeida Theatre. She talks about the need to create a more diverse theatre sector, and considers what arts organisations can do to help.

The Almeida Theatre has taken steps to create a more diverse workforce. Photo credit Philip Vile.
The Almeida Theatre has taken steps to create a more diverse workforce. Photo credit Philip Vile.

In the run-up to our 2018 National Conference, we are running a series of think-pieces by sector leaders about key issues affecting our creative industries and the future of the workforce. 

I’ve been in the industry for 25 years and in that time I’ve worked predominately with white stage and production managers, technicians, wardrobe staff and creatives.

BAME are woefully underrepresented, D/deaf and disabled even more so. Even now I’m not seeing a particularly diverse workforce coming through our Drama Schools and colleges. So what’s the answer?

Positive action can and does help. Each arts organisation needs to define what positive action is for them and be vocal about it.

Each arts organisation needs to define what positive action is for them and be vocal about it.

Is it that you want to better reflect your local community in your workforce? Is it that you want to encourage candidates from the socio-economically deprived areas of your local borough to consider a career in the arts? Do you want to recruit female technicians or BAME wardrobe staff?

Think about what it is and why and then do something about it.

I’ve been fortunate over the past 10 years to work for three very different arts organisations in three disparate London boroughs and I’m proud to have been involved with launching and running technical theatre apprenticeships at two of those venues.

But I’m prouder that of the eight apprentices we recruited and trained, over 50 per cent were female, 33 per cent BAME and that they are all now building careers in the industry.

Currently at the Almeida, we don’t run apprenticeships but we do have five entry level roles in the company and offer up to 15 work placements across stage management, wardrobe and participation each year, which is about to increase to 21 with the addition of placements in technical.

We are always exploring other opportunities we may be able to offer and ways to better target our recruitment to attract a broader range of candidates, and to interview as many as we can.

It’s not easy and we won’t always get it right. But, it’s worth the effort and we should all be making it.


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