Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is committed to achieving greater equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of School life. Everyone should feel valued, respected and safe whilst training or working at the Theatre School; one of the five key values that underpins our culture is that all students and staff should feel they belong within our community. By striving for inclusivity in our teaching and working practices, we recognise that we can foster greater diversity and become truly representative of the city we call home.
The School’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Group leads on ensuring the School is taking positive action. There are three working groups made up of students and staff which consider the School’s culture relating to race and allyship, gender and LGBTQIA+, and neurodiversity and disability. Current students can find further information about joining the Action Group and who the student reps are on SharePoint (internal access only).
We are proud to be training the next generation of artists who together will shape the future of the drama industry. We recognise that making our courses and culture fully inclusive is a continual process of change: reviewing our existing practices, developing new ways of working, and evaluating our impact. The case studies below explain some of the progress we’ve already made in our journey to becoming a more inclusive community.
Over the past decade, the School has taken steps to decolonise and diversify its curricula, ensuring that work from a range of cultures, identities and viewpoints is explored. We are working closely with our partners UWE Bristol to adopt best practices in reviewing our teaching and learning.
Our programming committee now includes student representatives from both acting and production courses who work closely with the Artistic Director to ensure all student voices are heard. BOVTS has recently subscribed to Aurora Metro Books, ensuring a better range of contemporary plays by female and Black and Asian writers are available to our students. We regularly review the scripts we keep in School to ensure they are relevant and students are encouraged to request books for our library to buy.
In the 2021-22 academic year, BOVTS partnered with Tonic Theatre, a charitable organisation who are specialists in supporting arts and cultural organisations to achieve greater equality, diversity and inclusion. All our core staff have been trained in unconscious bias, allyship, and creating inclusive environments, whilst teaching staff have additionally benefitted from workshops in neurodiversity.
We’re proud that all our student cohorts now received EDI training from Tonic, ensuring our graduates are empowered to effect change within the drama industry. The School has committed to ensuring future student cohorts also receive this training, and that staff are offered refresher training.
Throughout 2020 and 2021 our costume and design departments have been working closely with make-up and wig specialist Sophia Khan, who has delivered masterclasses exploring the background, history and practicalities of working with different skin colours and afro hair. The School has also recently invested in new hair products and training heads, meaning our students can gain appropriate experience from the beginning of their training. Our resident lighting designer, Joe Stathers, has also run masterclasses for production students in how to appropriately light different skin tones.
We are passionate about ensuring our work engages communities from across Bristol and the West Country. We offer a number of free performances of our theatre in education productions, ensuring that children from areas in Bristol with the lowest attainment and progression to further and higher education have the opportunity to be inspired by our work.
We also regularly offer accessible performances of our main house productions, which may include captioned or signed performances for D/deaf or hard of hearing communities, and performances with gentler volumes and the house lights up for those who would benefit from a more relaxed environment. Our next access performances will be this summer, as part of our graduate season at Bristol Old Vic.
In 2020, BOVTS adopted a series of new recruitment policies to ensure our hiring processes are transparent, accountable and support the diversification of our staff. Candidates who meet essential criteria and declare a disability (as defined by the Equality Act, 2010) are guaranteed an interview, meaning BOVTS is now a disability confident employer.
Furthermore, we’ll take into consideration other protected characteristics that are under-represented within our workforce. If candidates are equally matched in the recruitment process, BOVTS will take positive action to diversify our staff. We’re also continuing to expand our network of freelance staff, ensuring our students have the opportunity to learn from industry professionals from a range of backgrounds and identities. For further information, please see our work with us page.