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Charcoalblue sponsors Tonic's work at ITEAC


The International Theatre Engineering and Architecture Conference is held every four years with the aim of bringing together organisations, professionals and students dedicated to the 'planning, design, construction, specification or operation of places of entertainment.'

The theme of this year's conference is 'New Directions'; an apt banner under which to discuss the big issues facing the industry. To that end, we're proud to support the work of Tonic Theatre at this year's conference. Tonic Theatre supports the creative industries to 'achieve greater gender equality in their work and workforces'. Here to tell us more about their participation at ITEAC 2018 is Lucy Kerbel, Director of Tonic Theatre.

Tonic supports the theatre and performing arts industries to achieve greater equality and diversity in their work and workforces. As part of this we partner with organisations that want to create change, both in their own companies and across the wider industry. Our role is to help them turn their aspirations into practical realities. Our current partners include the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and Sadler’s Wells.

We’ve been collaborating with Charcoalblue since early 2017. Initially this was through a straightforward sponsorship deal; Tonic was running a series of events called Tonic Celebrates that celebrated the work of leading women in theatre and Charcoalblue came on board with financial support that meant we were able to extend the series, staging events at the NT, Soho Theatre, Hoxton Hall and The Other Palace.

It was while working with together on Tonic Celebrates that we began talking with Andy and the team about what Charcoalblue wanted to achieve in terms of its Corporate Social Responsibility. It was clear that there was real passion and energy around the idea of Charcoalblue doing more. But there was also a need for the enthusiasm around this to be channelled effectively. Otherwise the company risked burning out (after all, everyone still had their day jobs to do!) or simply failing to achieve what it wanted to because it wasn’t clear on what it wanted to achieve or how. Some structure and strategy needed to be applied.

So that’s what Tonic is now working with Charcoalblue to do. I meet regularly with a small group of the team from across its Bristol, London and New York studios, training them up to be able to design and implement a CSR strategy that will work for the entire organisation. As part of this we’re exploring how Charcoalblue can break its big ambitions around complex areas such as diversity and environmental sustainability down into tangible and achievable steps and actions. The ultimate goal is to tool these staff up with the ability to run change-making work like this themselves in future, thereby bringing these skills in-house and reducing Charcoalblue’s future reliance on external consultants.

Thanks to a bit of creative match-making by Charcoalblue, Tonic has also been working with the Editorial Board of ITEAC supporting them to have a more varied and diverse programme of speakers for the 2018 conference. It's been something of a journey and I didn't know for some time whether Tonic’s involvement was making any kind of difference but now that the programme of speakers is more or less in place I can see that it has. At the last conference in 2014, 12% of speakers were women and now we're at 33%. We've risen from 7% BAME speakers to 12% and within that there's a wider range of ethnic groups represented. So we're not yet reflecting the national averages BUT clear progress has been made. There are also far more younger speakers (i.e. those under 40) taking part and a wider range of roles and disciplines across theatre and the performing arts represented.

I'm also curating and hosting two panels: the Artistic Director's Perspective and Bodies in Space both on in the Turing Lecture Theatre on Monday. Please encourage anyone who is there to come along!

Lucy Kerbel, Director, Tonic Theatre

Lucy Kerbel (photo: Helen Murray)

Meet Lucy Kerbel, Tonic's Director

Prior to founding Tonic in 2011, Lucy was an award-winning theatre director. It was while directing around the UK that Lucy became interested in the question of gender equality in theatre. She recognised the industry would need better support if it were to achieve greater gender balance in its workforces and repertoires and so in 2011 she founded Tonic to go some way towards achieving this. She now heads Tonic’s work across theatre, the performing arts and wider creative industries.

Lucy is the author of two books: 100 Great Plays for Women and All Change Please – A Practical Guide to Achieving Gender Equality in Theatre, both published by Nick Hern Books. She is a regular speaker on women in the arts and is on the board of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for women playwrights.

Freya Martin

For more on our sponsorship, speak to Freya

+44 (0)117 325 9280

Freya Martin

For more on our sponsorship, speak to Freya

Contact Freya

+44 (0)117 325 9280