Thursday, 8 March 2018

Written off: Part 2

An open letter to theatre professionals and Artistic Directors

I recently posted a blog about how many writer development opportunities are for young people only, and how older emerging writers feel shut out by theatres.

The response I had was overwhelming.

There is a tidal wave of anger from writers who are excluded from opportunities that didn’t exist for us when we were younger.

Focusing resources on a tiny demographic of an ageing population does not make sense.

It’s time to make a change and you can help.

Any form of discriminatory practice is unacceptable, and the arts world often leads the way in breaking down barriers.  

At the moment a vast number of development opportunities being offered by theatres are not open to people over the age of 25-30. But surely the goal in theatre should be to find the best ‘new’ voices and that doesn’t have to mean ‘young’ voices.

Although there are many opportunities that are age-blind, there is a growing suspicion that by ticking boxes on equality monitoring forms older writers are condemning themselves to the rejection heap. Even when an opportunity is not age restricted, it’s often younger writers who seem to benefit most, causing a suspicion of surreptitious ageism.

However, given the amount of developmental support offered to young writers it could simply be that they are then able to produce work that is tailored to current theatre trends more closely than writers struggling to develop their work in an unsupported void.

One truly unsettling thing that came out of the discussion my blog prompted was how the practice of shutting out older writers had a disproportionate effect on women and on people from working class backgrounds.

I understand that in many cases the age limit of development opportunities is down to the funding available to theatres. And this is where you can help.

We are asking that you challenge the trusts, charities and organisations that fund your writer development projects, and that you commit to exploring further opportunities for older writers.

People emerge creatively at all ages and at all stages of life, so please make it your artistic policy to strive to support all emerging writers with development opportunities so theatre can truly reflect a broad range of voices and life experiences.    


  1. Another element of prejudice and exclusion is perpetrated by arts organisations who insist on importing writers / performers / theatre companies from other regions, other countries - anyone except the wealth of local talent! OK you're never a prophet in your own land, but it's got ridiculous when GOOD quality people in our region are *repeatedly* passed over. It's elitist, it's excluding people from opportunity ... it's every kind of messed up wrong.
    ...Oh and btw it's not just working class who don't get a look in. As a performer, never be female, apparently middle class, white middle aged. It doesn't matter if you can captivate 200 stroppy teenagers or an arena of 3,000 concert goers: you are not wanted on voyage.