Badge of Honour

In a week when the Society of London Theatre and their Olivier Awards have been in the media for the wrong reasons, it is all too easy to overlook the announcement made shortly before the Awards night about SOLT's plans to support dignity at work.

By 'wrong reasons' of course I refer to the omission of Sir Peter Hall from the in memoriam tribute to theatre figures who passed away over the last year.

It was indeed an ignominious error not to check the completeness of such a sensitive list, SOLT's embarrassment, I trust, compounded by the omission of others too, which I discovered on reading industry newspaper The Stage, namely dancer and choreographer Scott Ambler and actors Roy Dotrice and Tim Piggot-Smith.

Without minimising the impact on bereaved friends and family of this indefensible omission, I would think it excessive if SOLT's efforts to eradicate harassment in the entertainment industry goes unmentioned because of it.

Not-for-profit London theatre industry representatives SOLT and theatre and performing arts membership organisation UK Theatre have published a set of principles and zero-tolerance guidance.

The principles have been developed from BFI's for the film industry and from working with a number of theatre organisations who have come out in support of the principles, including the Association of British Theatre Technicians, BECTU, Casting Directors Guild, Equity, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Independent Theatre Council, Musicians’ Union, Standing Council University Drama Departments, Theatre NI, One Dance UK and Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

The Ten Principles make for a fairly dry but short read but their scope is wide, taking in employers, employees, workers, freelancers, volunteers, directors and trustees.

In summary, they promote a safe and inclusive workplace with, importantly, shared responsibility for establishing and perpetuating an inclusive and supportive workplace in which bullying and sexual / harassment is not tolerated.

As well as providing Dignity at Work training, good practice and up-to-date policies and procedures for preventing and dealing with harassment and bullying will be made available.

Also of practical assistance is a Support Line which is being piloted for a year. Available free of charge to people working in the performing arts industry, it will offer support and advice to those experiencing bullying, harassment or other issues in their workplace.

It will have been easy for participants at last weekend's Olivier Award ceremony to put on one of the Time’s Up badges being given out to audience members, cast and crew.

Such a sign of allegiance is easy and—at the risk of cynicism—expedient.

Demonstrating zero tolerance to bullying and harassment and creating an environment where people feel safe when they report inappropriate behaviour is going to be a lot harder.

Agreeing principles doesn't sound a very exciting starting point but it is a necessary one without which the envisaged "lasting and meaningful change" would flounder.