Festival Theaterformen is an international theatre festival that takes place once a year. For eleven days in the summer, it presents 15-20 plays. The plays often deal with social themes. They have generally not been produced in Germany, but in different countries and on different continents. The Artistic Director, Martine Dennewald, invites plays and artists to Lower Saxony. The festival wants to provide the visiting artists and the audience with an environment where no one is disadvantaged. The festival team wants to take critical action against discrimination. The following text describes what the team does in order to achieve this aim.
CRITICAL ACTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION GUIDELINES
Version: October 2019
We, the Theaterformen team, rise to the challenges and themes that artists articulate with their work year after year. We want to meet their demands down to the very last conceptual and organisational detail. Their imagery, their cultural, geopolitical and social contexts form the basis of our work.
As an institution, as a partner in discussion, as a work environment, the festival should not remain hidden behind the artistic works it presents: it is not possible to hide behind the scenes and be dogmatic, manipulative, dictatorial and inaccessible when we ask for a critical, cooperative, respectful and friendly relationship to each other on the stage. Our actions as a festival team should be orientated to this artistic demand.
Festival Theaterformen should be a space of solidarity, where there is room for discussion and an exchange of views without having to be the same or conformist. We want to shape Festival Theaterformen so that a close and constructive relationship between festival staff, artists and the audience is made possible.
HOW can we implement this position in our everyday working lives?
Discrimination – such as racism, sexism, classism and ableism – takes place on an individual, structural and institutional level. We want to work against discrimination with our actions on all these levels. We are in a process in which we question our work and our actions. To this end, we have obtained professional support and external feedback. We are prepared to recognise how we ourselves are involved in discriminatory relationships.
WHAT should we do for that?
When planning the programme and selecting the plays, in our hiring policy and publicity work – in all areas of our work that we actively plan – we intend to work actively against discrimination. If discrimination occurs, we are fundamentally on the side of those affected and will align our actions accordingly. We use our privileges to act critically against discrimination. We will regularly assess our capacity to act in this regard. Because our capacity to act is limited by institutional and financial factors and by time, we cannot meet all expectations completely.
The current festival team will remain the same until July 2020, after that the Artistic Director will change. The opening up to anti-discrimination action is a process that began in autumn of 2018 and will now continue until July 2020 under the leadership of Martine Dennewald. All members of the team aim to bring the knowledge they have acquired during this time with them into future jobs and to make an impact elsewhere.
We are publishing our thoughts here to make our intentions transparent, criticisable and verifiable and describe in the points below some areas of work in which we can take critical action against discrimination. These guidelines for critical action against discrimination are a revised version of the ones first formulated in April 2019.
Process consulting for critical action against discrimination
As a festival team, we undertook training in critical action against discrimination in five training blocks that took place between September 2018 and September 2019. The work with the Institute for Discrimination-free Education (IDB) included reflecting on work processes within our institution as well as an analysis of our publicity work, the way we handle discrimination in festival work and the formulation of possible anti-racist strategies for the future.
To date, members of the team have taken part in workshops on accessibility, critical whiteness, empowerment, classism, gender-neutral language, critical action against discrimination in international culture work and surtitling for the deaf. Further anti-discrimination training courses will be made possible and financially supported.
Working environment and hiring policy
We value a working environment sensitive to discrimination, in which we actively pursue solidarity in our working relationships with each other. We encourage people with experience of discrimination to apply to work with us and strive to provide a working environment that is critical of discrimination. Conflicts should and can be solved in a collegial manner, insofar as the person affected wishes, in one of the monthly awareness meetings. When conflicts occur that require the support from outside the festival, the festival management is responsible to obtain that support – for example a mediator.
In order to be able to incorporate feedback and criticism into the anti-discrimination process and to further develop our organisation, we ask for feedback on various levels – in meetings with employees, via feedback forms, which all the artists and seasonal employees receive, and in discussions with the directors. We also ask external consultants such as employees from the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung for specific feedback regarding the productions. Every piece of feedback is received and assessed. The feedback received is accessible to all team members. Anyone can express themselves in this regard in the awareness meetings. In these meetings, we also discuss necessary steps to be taken. The Artistic Director of Festival Theaterformen is then obliged to decide on what action to take as a result. Martine Dennewald (firstname.lastname@example.org) can be contacted at any time regarding these matters.
Working with other organisations
If possible, Festival Theaterformen will work with organisations that employ People of Colour or disabled people. Collaborations will be planned so that there is added value for both parties. The festival’s efforts to create a working environment critical of discrimination would not be possible without the work of many organisations that work exclusively or primarily in this area. Within the boundaries of its possibilities, the festival wishes to be an allied partner for these organisations.
Festival Theaterformen will create an awareness team, which is visible and can be spoken to during the eleven days of the festival. The awareness team is the first point of contact for people affected by discrimination and/or who have witnessed discriminating behaviour. The awareness team offers support for those affected during the festival and is in contact with the festival management. The awareness team is available to all the artists and anyone taking part in the festival. For theatre projects that are commissioned by the festival and produced locally, the festival offers critical support: during rehearsals, the shows and wrap-up, we will provide the international directors and local participants with an external expert in discrimination issues.
Procedure in concrete cases of discrimination
In cases of discrimination, we are fundamentally on the side of those affected. The perspectives, wishes and needs of those affected guide our actions. In cases of conflict, we will involve a third party, who can act in support of the person affected. We will ensure the person is protected and has the ability to withdraw. We will assess whether our actions are in the best interests of the person who has experienced discrimination. Actions punishable by law will be reported.