Home World Equality groups urge cultural elite to give up Garrick Club membership

Equality groups urge cultural elite to give up Garrick Club membership

0 comment
Notable members of the Garrick Club – in pictures

Cultural organizations and equality campaigners have called on figures from the arts world to give up their membership of the all-male Garrick Club, saying it undermines attempts to reduce gender bias in the sector and actively encourages inequalities.

More than half a dozen groups expressed concern at the revelation that several cultural leaders, including the president of the English National Opera and the chief executive of the Royal Opera House, were part of the exclusive club.

Vick Bain, the founder of List F and campaigner for gender equality in music, said: “The fact that so many of the presidents and CEOs of our top music organizations are members of such a club should ring alarm bells about their true beliefs and attitudes towards gender equality. »

Matthew Dunster, co-chair of Stagemakers UK, said: “It is depressing that people from the arts world want to be members of such a club. »

A spokesperson for Her Ensemble, an organization which campaigns for equality in classical music, said: “This ultimately undermines much of the progress the industry has made and encourages inequality. »

Their comments come after the Guardian revealed Garrick’s closely guarded list of members, the first time in the organization’s history that it has been revealed.

Politicians, senior civil servants and legal professionals are joined on the list by actors Brian Cox, Matthew Macfadyen, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Suchet and Damian Lewis.

The president of the Royal Ballet School, Christopher Rodrigues, his counterpart at the English National Opera, Harry Brünjes, the general director of the Royal Opera House, Alex Beard, and the artistic director of the Wigmore Hall, John Gilhooly, are also there. members.

Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, defended Garrick, of which he was once a member, and criticized the pressure which led to the resignations of MI6 chief Richard Moore, cabinet secretary Simon Case and OBR chief Robert Chote of the club.

He wrote in the Daily Mail: “Come on guys, what happened to you? It’s always sad when people give in to bullies, but there was something particularly tragic about the Garrick Three.

However, he recognized the desirability of admitting women into the all-male club.

Many organizations contacted by the Guardian said the presence of the elite of the British cultural sector among the members of a club which still refuses women’s membership was a sign that it did not take gender equality seriously. serious.

The Garricks host a drama club dinner every year, with about 40 members and one plus one for each, often their wives. It brings together West End producers, actors, writers and directors.

A senior West End female producer has expressed her frustration at being asked to attend social events hosted by male colleagues at the club. Reports about high-profile arts figures have “led to cringing and rolling of eyes among many women in West End theater”, she said.

“The club has dozens of members from the world of theater – actors, directors, screenwriters and producers. I find it rather sad and depressing that some members of the Garrick Club still want to maintain this space reserved for men.

Gabriella Di Laccio, the soprano and founder of Donne: Women in Music, a charitable foundation dedicated to gender equality in the music industry, said: “Real change requires tangible actions that dismantle these outdated structures…this moment should serve as a call to action. so that all members of society set an example.

Jennifer Tuckett, an academic who has just completed a five-year research project into equality in British theatre, said her analysis showed that male leaders recruiting from within their networks and unconsciously excluding women remained a significant problem.

She said: “Gender inequality is not addressed with the seriousness needed in the arts… a problem that approaches like that of the Garrick Club would only exacerbate. »

Arts Council England (ACE), which funds English National Opera, Wigmore Hall and the Royal Opera House, said “personal memberships of this type are a matter for the individuals concerned”.

An ACE spokesperson added, however, that as a distributor of public money “we are making clear that we hope our investment will support cultural experiences and employment opportunities for everyone in England, whatever the circumstances. where they live, their origins or the amount of their money. they have it in their pocket.”

The Garrick has been contacted for comment.

The criticism follows an open letter signed by more than 60 lawyers across England and Wales who say membership of the Garrick Club “perpetuates systemic discrimination against women”.

You may also like