COMMON: COMMENTS

When joining COMMON's family as a Patron, we ask these established, working-class artists to write a short comment about our work and what drives them to support COMMON as an organisation. These COMMON: COMMENTS from our Patrons can be read below.

 
 
 
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JAMES GRAHAM

OLIVIER AWARD-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT

"Socio-economic diversity in the arts is a tough fight to fight. It has and continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing theatre in the UK, and our industry is all the poorer for its lack of accessibility and inclusivity of working-class artists. 

There were problems, challenges, and impossible hurdles when I was starting out from this kind of background, from a deprived community, but it's only getting harder for the next generation of ferociously talented artists. 

I have been so impressed and inspired by the work of David Loumgair and of COMMON, and wish an organisation like this had existed when I was in my early career.

I admire its mission, its punchiness and its ideas. I admire its desire to work with existing companies and venues in fuelling this conversation, and collaborating with them to come up with solutions. I admire its national focus and its commitment to regions outside the capital, working with communities across the UK who have limited access to the arts. 

As an artist from a working-class background, I am thrilled to join COMMON as a Patron to support this cause, and can't wait to see what ideas are generated and the progress we can all make together."

 
 
 
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Stef o’driscoll

theatre director & artistic director of nabokov

“I believe that theatre needs urgent change to remain relevant and popular, and for that reason I’m a huge champion of forms like gig theatre, which creates an alternative experience for people who don’t think theatre is for them, and combats the elitism that still exists within the theatre industry.

I am proud to be a patron of COMMON, just as much as i am proud of my working class values and status, and that is EXTREMELY PROUD.

It is vital that organisations like COMMON are addressing the barriers that working-class humans face when accessing the arts, and that they are actively working with theatres to ensure that working-class artists have equal ability to gain opportunities needed to build a sustainable career in theatre.

We have a lot of work to do, from grass-roots up and from the top-down, but with organisations like COMMON we hope theatre buildings and companies in the UK will be equipped with the knowledge to make long-lasting, genuine change - starting now.”

 
 
 

MATTHEW DUNSTER

OLIVIER AWARD-NOMINATED THEATRE DIRECTOR

"I was born and raised in Oldham.  My Dad worked as a draftsman at a small local truck firm, and my Mum worked as a clerk for various catalogue and wholesale grocery companies. I went to a large comprehensive school in Oldham and left at 18 having skilfully flunked my A levels.

After three years working in debt recovery for North West Water, I managed, through persistence and lucky timing, to get a place at Bretton Hall College, Leeds University. In 1995, a year after graduating, I moved to London.  Because I’d experienced the hell of North West Water, I decided to take a risk and never accept any job that wasn’t either acting, writing, directing or teaching drama. It meant all my energy went in the right direction. I could only do that because from '91 to '94 my fees were paid by the (Tory?!) government, and I received a maintenance grant. Also, once in London, I could ‘sign on’ and get Housing Benefit. A different world.

Anyway - I’ve been working in some theatre somewhere pretty much continually ever since. But when you’re perceived as having done ‘OK’, it can seem distasteful to talk about the difficulties you've faced along the way.

The thing that I’ve been saying for years, and that I know is one of the things COMMON is also rooted in, is that 'class' is invisible. This is one of the reasons class is so seldom talked about, as something that can either ease your path through this industry, or provide extra obstacles and challenges.

I’m from a working-class background. I was the first person, not just in my family but in my extended family, to study for a degree. I moved to London. I’m now a (middle class?) Londoner, and it is from the perspective of a theatre practitioner living in London that I have viewed how much more difficult it is for certain people, from certain backgrounds, to get a foothold both in the industry and in the capital city.

COMMON wants to create and lead conversations in that area. I want to be a part of the conversation.

One issue with the concept of ‘identity politics’ is that it might mean we stop talking about ‘politics’. But, identity politics burst out from a feeling of unfairness, and if, as COMMON are, we look at the challenges that exist for people who identify as working-class, then surely fairness - leading to equal opportunity, leading to equal representation and a sustainable living - is the best kind of politics. Socialism!

I’m in."

 
 
 
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LOUISA DAVIS

SENIOR PRODUCER - KING'S HEAD THEATRE

"'Diversity' is a term which is regularly used in the theatre industry, and across the country people are working hard to create, produce and support theatre which is more reflective of our society as a whole. However, class as an area of diversity has been historically ignored in this national conversation, and by doing so we miss out on collaborating with some incredible artists, learning of deeply inspirational and under-represented experiences, and seeing some truly powerful work on our stages.

If we want the theatre industry to be truly reflective of our society, inclusive of all the communities and classes which live within it, then we must recognise the importance of including socio-economic diversity in this national debate. It is perhaps often overlooked, due to not being a 'visible' area of diversity, however I would argue that it is the area which has the most complicated impact on artist's attempts to build careers in the UK theatre industry.

I come from a working-class background, and was never in as comfortable a position as others around me. Compared to others, it felt like I had to work much harder, or go the long-way round, to be able to do what I was truly passionate about. The barriers never seemed to let up, it was a struggle to get to a point where I knew I could be successful and sustainable. I was fortunate to have access to some generous opportunities during my early career, which helped me reach the position I am in today, but without these I don't think I would be.

Sadly, those opportunities which helped me forge a career in theatre are becoming less and less frequent, and this is precisely why I am proud to be supporting COMMON and the urgent work they are undertaking."