Two movements, both alike in dignity…

DISCLAIMER: the following are my personal views and mine alone, they do not reflect the views of any of the groups cited or individuals who work with me elsewhere.

I am currently part of the leadership teams of two grassroots groups striving to shake things up in the theatre sector: Migrants in Theatre (UK-wide) and Theatre Directors Scotland (as the name suggests, Scotland-only). Each group has specific aims, needs and demands, but there is a lot that overlaps between them. Both groups are reasonably young – though both have been unofficially running for longer, TDS launched in 2018 and MiT launched in 2020, mid-pandemic. Both groups are unfunded and entirely volunteer-run. Both groups intend to address gaps in the sector, identified through hundreds of hours of unpaid research. Both groups had important meetings with sector leaders this week.

I have been thinking a lot about the dynamics between people in salaried jobs in theatre and freelancers/people on zero-hour contracts for the past few years, but this difference has been massively exacerbated in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting closure of theatres. I have written elsewhere* about how much a missed opportunity for meaningful reflection and renovation this whole year has been, but today I am feeling particularly bitter about it and the reason for that is that the MiT meeting left me energised, whereas the TDS meeting left me feeling despondent.

Throughout my 14 years in the UK, I have always been unsympathetic towards London. When asked why I decided to live in Scotland, my usual reply is ‘because it isn’t London’. I should explain that this is not necessarily a dislike of London itself, I just never stopped being a small town girl that doesn’t feel comfortable in giant metropolitan centres. If I had to go back to Brazil, I wouldn’t want to live in Rio or São Paulo for the same reasons. Granted, I stayed in London for 9 weeks a few years ago, on an unpaid internship as Assistant Director to a rather peculiar and extreme person, which was not exactly the most pleasant of experiences, and that may have influenced my perception of London as a place to live and work as well. But this afternoon, seeing the London ADs coming on screen, readily asking the MiT group, ‘what do you need? How can we help?’, engaging as active partners in the movement, was so refreshing and left me wishing sector leaders in Scotland were more genuinely interested and less reluctant about taking responsibility for changing the game.

I could move, I hear you say, but Scotland is much more than theatre to me. It’s where I built a community of people that matter to me more than many of my blood relatives in Brazil. I could follow the government’s advice and retrain, I suppose, but that would mean throwing years of training in the bin and abdicating from the sector I’ve been so hellbent on improving. Besides, I am stubborn and suffer from a sort of Don Quixote Syndrome.

There is no conclusion to this Friday night rant, which was going to be a twitter thread but I decided to compile my disorganised thoughts in one single text. Comments and ideas are welcome. If you are reading this, you know where to find me. I’d say buy me a G&T and we can rant together in the pub, but that’s not allowed this year, so I’ll take comments here, on twitter or via email – your choice.

*I have contributed a short essay to forthcoming book Scotland After the Virus, edited by Simon Barrow & Gerry Hassan, to be published by Luath Press in November 2020.

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