Tuesday, March 29, 2016

No, it's not about money Mr Colgan.

I got to watch the videos from the Waking The Feminists gathering on International Women's Day on YouTube.
Stay with me if you can.
I grew up in a pasta free environment. Not just my family, but I imagine most of Cavan too. It was the 1970's after all. By that I mean, pasta hadn't arrived. Or rice for that matter. Potatoes, meat and veg was a dinner. Bit of gravy at the weekend. All cooked by the women, of course. My mother cooked every meal. She was/is a great cook, but had to cook within strict parameters as my father was/is fundamental in his approach to food.
Get it in, quick. And get out the door fast.
The only positive remarks he made about food was about the fish or game he had caught , or the potatoes and veg he had grown. And he was right, they were good. New potatoes with butter and fresh Pollock or Mackerel caught a hour earlier, ( we spent our summers in Donegal),still must be the greatest taste ever.
I don't remember ever being asked what I would like to eat. Ever.  If you are of a certain age I imagine neither do you. We didn't eat in restaurants, there weren't really any around. I don't remember a cookery show on the tv. Or anyone having a cookbook,  certainly not one with pictures. Women just cooked, they knew how to. And the odd Batchelor, of course.
Both my parents grew up on farms. Many of my relations growing up were farmers, of the small variety. Food was an energy source for a full day of physical activity.
But then the women of Ireland heard of Pasta. Started making the odd dish. (Dublin women already knew of it I think, at least I seem to remember my Dublin Aunt talk about lasagne and bolognaise ).
There's not a lot of use for a knife with pasta, particularly spaghetti. That's a problem for a man if he's used to getting stuck into a feed. A problem for a man used to meat. The type of man with big hands and a pride in how he can cut through a chop. With elbows raised high.
Put a plate of spaghetti in front of him , with a sauce, and well, its awkward.
And don't be asking him to use a spoon if it's not for soup or custard.
My beginnings with cooking pasta as a student were bizarre. That something so simple could be come so complicated. A common thread in my life.  I distinctly remember my first attempt to cook my friends pasta. Having cooked a vast amount of spaghetti in a small pot with insufficient water, I remember us all standing looking at the ceiling to see if the pasta stuck to it. This was how to tell if it was cooked I informed them. It didn't work out too well. I think one piece stayed up there for months.
But I learned from my mistakes, persisted , and became enriched as a result of being inquisitive about  something that did not fit straight away.
Watching my father encounter spaghetti is, well, complicated. Its endearing on the one hand, comical on the other. Ultimately a little sad and embarrassing that he can't conquer it.  That he can't enjoy what's set before him. That he can't ultimately change.
That's how I felt watching Michael Colgan deliver his speech on behalf of his theatre, The Gate , on International Women's Day, at a gathering for Waking The Feminists.
Watch him here ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1712&v=f_2Nn0-huhI  . Watch it all, but Mr Colgan appears at 24.30. Having watched it several times and wondering what exactly is wrong, I now can only see it as him eating spaghetti for the first time. At the podium. That makes it easier for me to have empathy for him.
It's great that he showed up. I believe him that he is "committed" to gender equality all across his theatre, (he oddly uses the pronoun "we" referring to The Gate on a number of occasions. The Gate has never been a "we" in his tenure, we all know that ). He uses his limited time to give us some history  of his theatre. Which will be illuminating to those who haven't lived in Ireland for the last 30 years. He defends his theatre ( regarding women playwrights) in some way by reminding us of his service to 19th century British female novelists adapted by men. Which wouldn't be a tact I would have taken at this event, but he was applauded at the end. He comes across as genuinely humble. Or as humble as he can be. But the whole thing doesn't feel right. Unless you imagine the plate, the spaghetti , and a hand left clutching a useless knife.
A producer of such a high calibre ( which he undoubtedly has been ) will of course find his groove. Which he did.
 Unsurprisingly it was about money. With his own pay down almost 60,000  euro from a few years ago ( now at 231,000 as per Irish Times ) he has first hand knowledge of the effect of cuts on planning for female playwrights. Mr Colgan states that  monetary incentives need to be in place from the Arts Council for change to take place in planning a season of theatre. More money is needed to make a programming decision. Not a production ........ a programming decision. More money is needed from the Arts council for him to say his theatre will have equality in programming the coming season.
Thats what he said.
Mr Colgan has had beef ( cough)  with the Arts Council before. The oddest dance in the country. The person who receives more money that any other single person from the Arts Council, by a mile,  complaining that his theatre is underfunded ( which it may well be,  but thats another discussion). I don't think I'm being unfair here, Mr Colgan states that they way forward for gender equality is money. Presumably for him, as he is the planner at his theatre.
I will take him at his word then.
If I take that Mr Colgan works a 5 day week, his daily wage , the wage he made on the day he gave this speech was 885.06 Euros. A few Euro short of the top weekly wage for an actor at his Theatre. Although if we take it that his top wage, that I know of, a few years ago was 1,111.11 euro a day ( based on reported 290,00 salary) we must deduce that he would need a greater wage than that to program female playwrights ( since he didn't do it then). How much more money would Mr Colgan need, I wonder, to allow women voices to be heard. An extra 50 Euro a day ? 20? 200? It will be interesting to hear what he thinks the amount would be for a change in his thinking to happen.
Since he doesn't  employ female playwrights yet, I can't compare their wages to his. But since he programmes for a 300 seat theatre, and they only get a percentage of this small theatre's box office, I don't think they could make his daily wage.
No, it's not about money Mr Colgan.
You are the first and only person to have said that money will fix this mess. It wont .
What was surprising watching the video was that there weren't gasps from the audience.
Maybe Mr Colgan can't quite let go of his old ways.
Maybe Mr Colgan just can't eat spaghetti. Which is a real shame. But good to know for the rest of us, it shouldn't be served to him so. It's just too embarrassing for us all.

The two other main Theatres sent people to speak. They did well, but both used  key damning phrases.
Could the Abbey Theatre just stop using the title "sub committee". Call it anything but that. I'm sure said sub committee is working hard, it sounds as if they are, but we all know sub committees don't change anything. They don't. And it's almost April and The Abbey still haven't announced the end of the year program. Any sub committee would advise  all female playwrights directed by all female directors within a couple of minutes of meeting. Anything less would be a joke. A sad sub committee joke.
Druid used the horrible phrase "our record on writers and directors is not so hot" referring to dearth of female writers and no directors ( complicated in one way as Ms Hynes directs all). Yeah, its terrible. "Not so hot" is a terrible summation from a company that leads and thrives in so many areas ( this seasons triumphant gender bending casting being one ) . Why not say it's terrible. We know.
In truth there was a lot of good stuff spoken, although I'd loved to have seen someone walk forward and simply say "we were wrong. We apologise. This coming season we will have gender equality" and then walk away. Actions not words. Keep it simple.
Two voices stayed with me though. Oddly, neither involved with Theatre.
 Una Mulally speaking of violence to and at women was deeply affecting. It forced me to look hard at myself, my behavior as a man. And while I am busy pointing a finger in these blogs, I am aware that when I point a finger , three are pointing back at me. Waking the Feminist is forcing me to reflect and change also. We are all on a journey.  Together. If we want.
Katie Holly just said everything right. Everything. I so look forward to seeing her role in the Film board and what the IFB does with it's new knowledge.
They were the two final speakers on the second youtube clip, watch here
Not one person involved with theatre talked about sexual harassment or bullying other than Lian Bell of #WTF . Which is a shame. How great would it have been to witness a head of a theatre , like Mr Colgan for example (since he was the only of the big three present), to stand in front of this audience on International Women's day and proclaim that no sexual harassment or bullying would be tolerated in his theatre. None.  How great would that be? and what a simple gesture. How about the top three together making that commitment by way of public statement. Because the silence across the board on the issue (other than wtf and Irish Equity) is deafening.

If it takes money to incentivise us to change the way we think about women in our  small progressive community, we are in a much worse place than even I imagined.
Here's hoping the Gate 5 will have something to say when they turn up for work.