Asking For It And Meaning It
This weekend I had a chat with 2 directors here in Liverpool who I have seen the work of and rate as better than the vast majority of directors their age in London. Both of them have assisted or associated at major institutions in London and both of them, on the back of their credits as makers and assistants and their ideas of the impacts they want to have on their communitie, deserve to get the opportunity to make work for other people and be hired as associates and assistants across the country on a regular basis.
First thing to say is that large organisations in London need to see the roles of assistants and associates as opporuntities to give experience to artists from across the nation, and from across a bunch of different communities, in which they can further their experience and take their learnings back to enrich their worlds. I know some do and are really good at that but it needs to entrenched in their development policy; they are in our nations capital and need to remember that thier audiences aren't just London dwellers but people from all over country and the world. They're serving them and, as such should be serving the nations artists as well. I actually think the Old Vic and the NT and the YV and Headlong and the like aren't terrible at this it's just worth reminding ourselves.
The main point of this is that I was interested to hear about something they both said which I thought was paramount of our persuit of diversity, equality, and theatre becoming a safe space for everyone to access as viewers and audiences and that is that they both said they got imposter syndrome. This is something I have had constantly; I still feel guilty when people buy tickets for things I've made. I still feel like I don't belong when I go into fancy Film and TV offices. I still feel like I'm a novelty voice in a room because they don't engage with the North. Still feel unattractive around beautiful people. Still feel uneducated around people with degrees. Still feel a load of shit... And I'm a white middle class male. So fuck knows the complexities that people with other backgrounds bring to the table. I'm not going to give anything away about the identities of these people other than they're both awesome.
How we solve this is two fold; obviously people shouldn't be made to feel like that when they go into meetings for jobs. The application process should be practical not intellectual. We need to rethink how we talk about these jobs away from cerebrality and towards something that allows makers to demonstrates what they bring to the table and what they hope to take away from it. Who they are, why a job would tangibly benifit them, and what they would bring to a room.
The second thing, and this is the main point of what I wanted to write, is something that comes from us. There is a writer I know who I think is fine. They work at the highest level you can imagine in British Theatre an in Europe and America. They're young. White, female, posh, university educated, private school, doesn't have to work etc... When i asked them how they landed those jobs she simply told me "I know why I wanted it, prepared, and asked for it". That is the mentality that doesn't exist in my peer group. My friends never ask for jobs they turn up and ask to be validated as an artist and there is a difference there. It is hard when the world sets up a power order that entrenches us to feel like we're not enough. But I wanted to write this to say this:
If you read this and think "that's me" it's you we need to hear from and not people like the writer I described. We move forward by hearing your perspective and you asking us to come together not by poshos asking us to bask in their genius.
The wealthy have many advantages over all of us. They can watch loads of art. They don't pay rent. They are clever. They are connected. They are a myriad of things. But what these 2 directors, and you, have that they don't is perspective and a community that needs you. We just need their confidence to ask for it. When we meet for jobs we have to say this is me and I'm doing this so I can better my world and the world of people around me. We need to be able to have the faith in our selves to say I know how to do this job and I can offer you my perspective as a human an artist and we will all be richer for it.
I'm telling you now; you have more right to space than posh people who only know posh people. We have had generations of it. This moment in history is about the democratisation of the Arts away from an establishment of Artists and Audiences and towards a theatrical communities that serves everyone. In knowing that know that your space is as valid as anyone elses and that imposter syndrome is the result of this society telling you you are not enough when you are MORE than enough. You are the antidote to the tyranical reign of a london centric posh establishment. You are what will save the Arts for your people. You need to have the confidence to value yourself. If you can honestly do that then what will be will be applying for jobs. The right thing won't pass you by but at least you know that you're worth it and you can do it when the right thing does.