KCTMO – Playing with fire!

Horrifying to see the fears of the Grenfell Action Group realised today in the most tragic of ways. The only thing worse that the devastating, ongoing situation at Grenfell is the fact that it was predicted and that nothing was done to avert it. Thoughts are with those affected, their loved ones, and our amazing emergency services still battling the blaze and treating the injured. Stories of humbling acts of bravery and harrowing loss continue to leave me speechless.

Grenfell Action Group

fire

It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the  KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of  looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.

Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation…

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Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is “Thriving or Surviving”.

All of us face struggles throughout our lives, and we all have mental health – it’s time we take care of it and pay it the kind of attention we pay to physical healthcare. Good mental health is more than the absence of a mental health problem.

MentalHealth.org.uk has a range of tips, guides and resources to help look after your own mental health and support friends, family and colleagues.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

This is one of their current campaigns:

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Don’t take ‘fine’ for an answer. Every week 1 in 6 of us experiences mental health problems. For FREE tips on good mental health, text TIPS to 70300 (terms).

When people ask how we are, we often reply with “I’m fine”, even when we’re not.

A study of 2,000 adults commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation has found that the average adult will say “I’m fine” 14 times a week, though just 19% really mean it.

Almost a third of those surveyed said they often lie about how they are feeling to other people, while 1 in 10 went as far to say they always lie about their emotional state.

It also revealed that 59% of us expect the answer to be a lie when we ask others “how are you feeling?”

Join the conversation on Twitter this Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW17

If your mental or emotional state quickly gets worse, or you’re worried about someone you know – help is available.

You’re not alone; talk to someone you trust. Sharing a problem is often the first step to recovery.


Whoop ‘n’ Wail’s founders win the Cambridge University Press”Channel the Bard” competition!

In 2016, as part of their Shakespeare 400 commemorations, Cambridge University Press invited submission of short plays inspired by the works of the Bard. Ali Kemp and Deborah Klayman of Whoop ‘n’ Wail Theatre Company submitted their short play, My Bloody Laundrette to the “Channel the Bard” competition, and were delighted to win!

via Winners of the Cambridge University Press “Channel the Bard” competition! — Whoop ‘n’ Wail


Break ups, lesbians and procrastination

Whoop 'n' Wail

Friend of Whoop ‘n’ Wail, Lizzie Milton, tells us all about her playwrighting debut, female-centric comedy, and the importance of paying her actors:

Lizzie Milton Lizzie Milton

The Breaks in You and I is a lesbian break-up comedy. It is my debut production. It has a cast and crew comprised exclusively of women and I am paying all of them.

We are watching TV and it happens. It drops. All inside of me. I do not love you. In fact, I think you repulse me a bit. You know what triggered it? You farted. Right in that good bit in Being John Malkovich. And I know it seems like a little thing, but it becomes this whole big metaphor for our relationship. You, my darling wife, are dispersing your shit molecules all over the good bits of my life.

I started this piece during my MA in Writing for Performance and…

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Hashtag 52 plays by women

#52playsbywomen!

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On Monday, a brilliant new international theatre parity advocacy call to action launches on social media: #52playsbywomen. This international campaign has been started by American writer Laura Annawyn Shamas.

Could you see a play by a woman a week for a year and tell everyone about it on Twitter? (Readings count and if there are not enough performed plays available by women writers in a specific region, reading a play by a woman playwright instead that week is fine.) This should last for a year, so that each participant will have experienced #52playsbywomen.
The rules are simple:

I. Pledge to see a play by a woman (including woman-identified) playwright each week for a year. If you’d like (optional), you can announce your pledge on social media, something like:
“I pledge to see a play by a woman playwright each week for one year to support #52playsby women. Follow…

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Mind your own womb

Nadirah Angail

pregnant bellySomewhere there is a woman: 30, no children. People ask her, “Still no kids?” Her response varies from day to day, but it usually includes forced smiles and restraint.

“Nope, not yet,” she says with a chuckle, muffling her frustration.

“Well, don’t wait forever. That clock is ticking, ya know,” the sage says before departing, happy with herself for imparting such erudite wisdom. The sage leaves. The woman holds her smile. Alone, she cries…

Cries because she’s been pregnant 4 times and miscarried every one. Cries because she started trying for a baby on her wedding night, and that was 5 years ago. Cries because her husband has an ex-wife and she has given him children. Cries because she wants desperately to try in vitro but can’t even afford the deposit. Cries because she’s done in vitro (multiple rounds) and still has no children. Cries because her best friend wouldn’t…

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Sorry Nicky, I’m out.

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Dear Nicky Morgan,

Please accept this as written notice of my resignation from my role as Assistant Head and class teacher. It is with a heavy heart that I write you this letter. I know you’ve struggled to listen to and understand teachers in the past so I’m going to try and make this as clear as possible. In the six short years I have been teaching your party has destroyed the Education system. Obliterated it. Ruined it. It is broken.

The first thing I learnt when I started teaching in 2010 is that teaching is bloody hard work. It’s a 60 hour week only half of which is spent doing the actual teaching. It eats into the rest of your life both mentally and physically. If it’s not exercise books and resources taking over your lounge and kitchen table it’s worrying about results or about little Ahmed’s home life keeping…

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A matter of consent

Whoop 'n' Wail

Playwright and long time Whoop ‘n’ Wail collaborator, Dan Horrigan, tells us about his play, Face the Camera and Smile, which features in this month’s 50/50 at the Arts Theatre, London as part of the Women In The West End Festival.

The 50/50 Festival caught my attention because it’s a welcome and required concept – present work where the balance of genders is equal, what you see on the stage is a parity. In it’s way it is contributing to a sea change taking place right now in British Theatre – to do with representation.

I am currently redrafting my play Face The Camera And Smile, a scene from which is part of the 50/50 Festival. It was previously shortlisted for The Kings Cross Award for New Writing in 2009. It was also treated very kindly by Writers Avenue with readings of the first 20 minutes…

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Is it easier to be a male Feminst?

It is likely that, if you have decided to read this article, you already know the answer to this question.

When Ross Putnam started his Twitter account @femscriptintros on the 10th February, I doubt he expected that he would have 50,000 followers after just a few days. Today, almost 62,000 are following his tragicomic verbatim postings, citing real descriptions of female characters, all focussing on the physical attributes rather than the actual character.

To those of us in the performing arts, Putnam is highlighting something we have all known for years. As an actress, casting breakdowns looking for “girl, beautiful, 20s” have long drawn groans, eye rolls and despair – even from women who fit the bill. Ever emailed a director and asked for more info on “girl”? I know many who have, and the response has generally been a tumbleweed, or an answer that defines her by her relationship to the male protagonist.

Casting: Looking for three actresses for great roles! We are casting – John’s mum, John’s wife, and John’s sister.

Casting: Female, 20s, prostitute.

I paraphrase, but I could produce hundreds of old breakdowns that match the above. The female characters are so often described by what they are, and not who they are. “Mum”, “Gran”, “Girlfriend” or just “Woman” are common role titles. Ask any actress you know and she will tell you she has had to make up a name for a role she has played so that it looks like more than a walk on when she updates her CV. Few male actors I know have had to do that, although that is certainly less true if they are non-white.

What has been interesting about Putnam’s contribution is that people are listening. The Mary Sue highlighted this in a recent article – which admirably Putnam immediately retweeted on his feed – women have been highlighting this for years, but once a man added his voice people sat up and took notice. Amongst numerous others, anonymous actress @proresting has been posting depressing casting breakdowns on her Tumbler since 2013, but is yet to achieve a quarter of the followers Putnam achieved in two days:

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As an advocate for Gender Equality in the arts (and all areas of life) I think it is incredibly important to involve and include men in the conversation.When Ali Kemp and I started Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents…, our mission was to encourage playwrights – male and female – to write scripts that pass the Bechdel Test. In our view, we were not going to change the face of UK theatre without changing the way that all playwrights write and characterise – and with only 17% of plays staged penned by female writers, that had to include playwrights of both genders. That said, it remains incredibly important that women are heard and their thoughts and contributions valued without male endorsement.

Last year, Clementine Ford wrote an interesting article about the differing reaction to male and female feminists. Sadly, it still holds true. As I highlighted in a previous post, women are still routinely trolled, villified and threatened for their contribution, whereas their male counterparts are lauded for their efforts. This is not to discourage men from joining the debate and supporting gender equality – far from it – but despite it’s positive impact, the coverage that The Jane Test has garnered in comparison to female activists in the same arena serves to highlight the ongoing battle.

Jane Test

It does feel like there is currently a rising awareness of the lack of gender equality, particularly in the arts, due to the contrbution of high profile women such as Meryl Streep, Rachel Weisz, Helen Mirren, Maggie Gyllenhall, Cate Blanchette, and Salma Hayek. Perhaps the positive response to Putnam’s contribution is a sign that the tide is turning? A recent YouGov poll highlighted that, in the UK, only 31% of people identified as a feminist, however 81% said that they thought men and women should be treated equally in every way. Maybe men are more comfortable associating themselves with the F Word, as the feedback from a declaration is generally wholly positive, whereas women risk a negative response that can range from complete dismissal to trolling and threats.

Women’s voices need to be both heard and given value – and not just when men agree with them. That’s not to say we are always right; but it would be nice if challenges to thoughts, statements and articles were debated on their merit rather than resorting to threats of (particularly sexual) violence.

In September last year, the University of Toronto’s  female students and faculty members were inundated with threats, including threats to kill, particularly those working in Sociology and Women’s Studies. Feminists such as Anita Sarkeesian, Rebecca Watson and Caroline Criado-Perez have been inundated with death and rape threats for merely expressing their thoughts about feminism and/or their professions. Last month, Vocativ.com published a breakdown of the threats Sarkeesian recieves in an average week. Author Luke Malone notes that this does not include 96 “containing general profanity and abuse “:

AS Threats

The number of women subjected to this particularly aggressive version of trolling cannot be guessed, but is significant. Emma A Jane’s article, “Rape threats and cyberhate? Vote no to the new digital divide” highlights the decision many women online have to make:

Gender, class and race are all key markers of difference and inequality in terms of digital citizenship. For many women, this manifests in a stark choice: put up with the deluge of misogynist abuse, withdraw from the internet or find ways of e-engagement that don’t attract attention – like tweeting in drag.

In a way, writer Alex Blank Millard did just that. In her article “IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Posed As A Man On Twitter And Nobody Called Me Fat or Threatened To Rape Me For Once” she highlights the different responses to male and female feminists online. For example, a woman, she was told she is both “fat and ugly” and, simultaneously, “too ugly to rape”.

Fat

For her experiment, Alex changed nothing other than her profile picture – to that of a white male. Her tweets remained the same, speaking out against systematic oppression, race, police accountability and domestic violence. The difference? No trolling. No threats. No one attempting to silence her/him.

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Although conducted two years prior to Millard’s, Anil Dash’s experiment “The Year I Didn’t Retween Men” also raises interesting complementary questions about (conscious and unconscious) gender bias after he discovered the vast majority of posts he was retweeting were from men.

Interest in Putnam’s @femscriptintros and discussion of The Jane Test continue unabated. This is a good thing, a positive step – perhaps it is a way into the gender inequality conversation for people who were not already involved. All attempts to highlight the gender equality gap – be that in the arts, gaming, inequal pay, etc. – are welcome and add power and momentum, but there is still an overwhelming issue about the validity of a woman’s lone voice. We mustn’t exclude or undervalue the contribution of 49% of the population, but the same must be true for the 51%.

Collaboration is key: activists need to link together to overcome, reach out to those with similar views, pool resources. When our voices join together they are overwhelming, and no amount of fear, misinformation or trolling will be able to silence us.

 

 

 


What’s in it for me?

Whoop 'n' Wail

Guest blogger, actress and award winning writer Dani Moseley says  if put yourself out there, you’ll find out.

Dani

Last year summer my best friend had started acting in short, one off theatre showcases and going on about how great they were and how I should get involved. I turned my nose up at the idea, thinking: ‘I don’t need to do work like that anymore’. I know, right, who did I think I was? Lol. But, work was getting quiet and I, wanting a change from just doing youth theatre tours, trusted her so, when director Alice Bonifacio, offered me the opportunity to take part in Whoop ‘n’ Wail Represents….The Launch, I slightly reluctantly took it.

Music Box 3 Dani taking notes from director Alice Bonifacio with actress Lizzie Bourne in Three Women in a Music Box by Dan Horrigan

I was cast in an all female three-hander, Dan Horrigan‘s Three…

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