What can be done
28 March 2018
Naomi Obeng recommends actions to be taken at future festivals
It’s easy to feel like you’re not the person who can make a difference. I’ve loved seeing that discussions at NSDF aren’t just encouraged but they happen and continue to. Everyone is keen to talk and learn and understand each others’ work that little bit better. Everyone is also keen to talk about and understand the space we’re in. The physical space as well as the structure of this festival.
Creating a space here on Tuesday morning for people of colour, visiting artists and students alike to sit and talk about their experiences of the festival and of theatre was a necessary addition to these conversations. These are not dialogues likely to happen spontaneously at the bar or in the food hall. I mean, firstly they’re hard and complex and frustrating and angering. I don’t really want to be having angry conversations about racism as I’m tucking into my egg and cress, on the whole. They’re also tough to initiate, these conversations. How do I go up to someone and say, "Hey, do you feel like you’re systematically oppressed – what should we do?" just out of the blue, "What’s racism like at your uni?" or "Do you never know if you got the role because you’re good or because you’re black too?" Dedicated spaces to talk are so important in this respect. Having your experiences heard, understood and spoken in someone else’s voice has been empowering. We checked in with where we are, where we’ve come from, and where we want to head.
It feels weird to ask tough questions and demand changes of a festival that I feel like I only met about five minutes ago (writing for Noises Off definitely does something weird to the fabric of space-time). I don't wanna be the guy that’s banging on about the same representation, who’s telling stories blah blah blah (the blahs are not to diminish the importance of these topics, rather to convey how. Much. I. Have. talked. About. these. Things. Already.) questions and issues everywhere I go. I really don’t. I too just wish it was over and done with and I could get on with the universal aspects of being artists understanding the world and humanity and what it is I really don’t get about promenade performances.
The first issue of Noff has already raised the complex question of whose shows make it here. In addition to this, representation is very different at different unis and that necessarily feeds into the shows that make it here to NSDF. But there are things that can be done right now at student level and changes that can be make as to how this festival operates. Sometimes you just have to keep being that guy. And if anyone asks, Noff gave you permission to be that guy until things start to change.
We’ll be holding another meet-up on Friday at 10am to broaden and continue this discussion.
List of actions: Raising ideas with NSDF
- BME officer role on committee
- Demystify the selection process for everyone involved
- Work towards a diverse panel
- Promote NSDF at more unis by sending information to drama societies
- Invite artists of colour to lead workshops that aren’t necessarily about race (eg: Nina Segal)
Student level action
- Create a BME officer at your uni (highlight the economic benefit, other unis have them)
- Keep in mind that jargon is alienating and push for introductory sessions on the roles in theatre
Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca