This time last year it was a dancer from Milan who contacted me – today I’ve just finished reading seven pages of evidence from a dancer who has endured long-term bullying at the hands of the Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer of a UK dance organisation. I know this is not new in the world of dance because I canvassed opinion from dance professionals in the book Bullying in the Arts however the scale of the bullying in this current case plus the scope of this bully’s power and influence, including within funding bodies, is staggering.
Making a complaint about bullying is exceedingly difficult to do – many managers or board members remain in denial, even when confronted with the evidence, and often targets have been made to suffer even more as a result. Many, many people are afraid of this person who is dominating and damaging the prospects for freelance dancers throughout a whole region.
I’m just beginning to get to grips with this new-but-old situation, and considering the best way to help the beleaguered dancer to move forward. I’m also trying to get some advice from museum professionals for an employee who contacted me a couple of months ago because she is struggling to cope with a bullying manager.
In May this year, thanks to the sterling work undertaken by the Chair of the North & East London branch, I was delighted to hear that Equity unanimously decided to hold a symposium on workplace bullying in the performing arts. Given the excitement, joy, national pride, camaraderie and community spirit fostered by the Olympics, and the knowledge and evidence that culture makes such an important contribution to society, I believe we should be respecting the efforts and achievements of arts workers, as much as we honour our sportswomen and men.
Those who govern the cultural sector actively promote diversity and equal opportunities; I feel sure the time is right for them to acknowledge their responsibility to openly advocate the importance of dignity in the arts workplace and to take steps to root bullies out – especially when they are operating in publicly-funded organisations.