Breaking the silence about Bullying in the Arts

An invitation from Improbable, Anne-Marie Quigg, Ellan Parry and Frances Rifkin

The first study of workplace bullying in the arts revealed that in UK theatres and arts centres two in every five employees had been targeted by a bully. This is an invitation to people in all roles working in the arts to discuss the issue of workplace bullying.


Anne-Marie (Author of ‘Bullying in the Arts’, Gower, 2011)

Having worked in the cultural sector in a variety of roles all my professional life, I became interested in the way some people, especially managers, behaved towards colleagues. I decided to find out whether workplace bullying was as prevalent in the arts as research had demonstrated it was in other employment sectors, such as the armed forces, the health service and higher education. It turned out to be more prevalent than any of these.

We want to talk about bullying problems with artists, audiences, venues and funders, so that we can put actions in place to provide better support in and for the cultural sector.


Frances (Chair of Equity’s ITAC, theatre director)

I’m a member of Equity and look to it to support me but, and it’s a big but, how do we overcome our personal fears and issues about complaining, being picked out by employers and colleagues as “difficult”, “uncooperative”? The pressures affect artists at all levels. Over my career, I’ve been bullied and fired by people who should have had more self-respect. The question I have to ask myself as a director and workshop leader is: “Do I ever bully? Would I realise if I was doing it?” We need to allow ourselves into the equation too. As chair of Equity’s Independent Theatre Arts Committee I’ve had lots of opportunities to think about the issues – come and join us.


Ellan (Scenographer)

I called a session at D&D this year called Dealing With D*ckheads, after dealing with, or witnessing what I saw as a succession of people getting away with, even being rewarded, for horrible, horrible behaviour. It was a fun and fascinating session, but perhaps the most useful thing to come out of it was the word ‘bullying’. I think we have a problem with bullying in our industry, and a big part of that is not seeing it when it happens. We not only tolerate it, sometimes we seem to encourage it, reward, fetishize and maybe even take perverse enjoyment in it. We use words like ‘drama’, ‘creative process’, ‘diva’, ‘artistic integrity’, ‘rule-breaking’, ‘risk-taking’, when often what we’re really talking about is people just behaving badly. Behaving in ways that would clearly be called bullying if we were all still at school. Behaving in ways that other industries and workplaces would deem completely unacceptable. What is it about our industry that allows this? Are we all so proud of being allowed to swear and wear painty jeans to work that we’ve forgotten how to be decent to each other? Are we afraid that all our creativity will wither and die if we’re not allowed to throw tantrums and screwdrivers? Do we all just need to grow up?

Come and have an argument about this. Come and have a nice calm chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit. Come with a friend, or even better, an enemy: we need to talk.

This Devoted and Disgruntled Open Space satellite event takes place on June 3rd at Ovalhouse, from 6:30 to 10pm.

It’s free, and you don’t need to book, just turn up.

If you have access requirements, please contact or call 020 7240 4556.

Monday 3rd June 6.30pm at Ovalhouse Theatre

Address52-54, Kennington Oval, London SE11 5SW

Phone020 7582 7680


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This entry was posted in Arts, Creativity, Culutral organizations, Research, Workplace Bullying and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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