“Female playwrights still face sexism”* . . . British East Asian Female playwrights – well …

*Female playwrights still face sexism – it’s time we admitted it

Research shows that theatres are prejudiced against female playwrights. What can be done about it?

The Heresy Of Love by Helen Edmundson Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon.
An exception … The Heresy of Love by Helen Edmundson, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photograph: Tristram Kenton


The above blog article by Lynn Gardner came out back in February 2012, but it is worth a repost and a re-read.
It’s pretty challenging in the first instance becoming a playwright. But god help you if you’re not young (16 – 30) Caucasian and male.
Writing seems to be the last thing on the agenda for female writers of colour who are passed 30.
Why that should surprise me I’m not sure. As an actor of colour  in my 50s, I can say hand on heart,  if you are not Dame Judi Dench (an actress I personally admire both on stage and screen) you can be well and truly left out.

Being a British East Asian actor/writer and a newbie writer to boot, I struggle. As I’ve said in the past this could of course be because what I write is crap. Thankfully I don’t think that is true. If Conversations With My Unknown Mother (scratch at The Blue Elephant part of the SEA Arts Fest 2014),  is anything to go by.

Conversations With My Unknown Mother Shenagh Govan and Jacqui Chan
EugeniaLow and ShenaghGovan
Conversations With My Unknown Mother Eugenia Low and Shenagh Govan













So how do we rectify this situation? The simple answer is support. Nurturing of more new writing, diverse writing. That means substantive targeted funding. Before I hear the protests and reminders that we’re still coming out of a recession and that the recovery is fragile and financial resources are needed in other more deserving places (article for another day). This would not take more investment just better management of what is already available. It needs those in charge of the purse strings and the gatekeepers to really buy in and commit to the artistic and cultural under-pinning of British writing. New British writing that is reflective of the modern poly ethnic, multicultural, diverse, complex and compound society we now exist in.  It means that British culture, the British arts sector, has to transfer lip service, translate that vocal support of diversity, into concrete, practical, financial investment and support for new writing and new writers.

I can’t say or write this often enough INVESTMENT. Investing in BAME writers, Female writers, more mature first-time writers. Actually scrub that, investing in British writing and start seeing BAMEs as part of British society. We have as much right to support, encouragement and financial backing as any other British citizen.
We should be able to access prominent platforms that will help us to share and make the wider society aware of the amazing amount of talent that is being buried because BAMEs so rarely get the same access to these significant, opportunities. If you’re British East Asian, we’re still fighting to be recognised and included in the overall BAME categorisation, let alone being able to find our way into mainstream acceptance.

This all goes hand in hand with the way that Britain portrays society in the media on TV and in Films. How British culture is still very much about cultural privilege, institutional racism and structural bias.

Until we as a society truly acknowledge and embrace the variety in our collective history as well as the variety and diversity in our present day lives, we will still, I think, be arguing, debating and lobbying for universal equality.

Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy – which many believe goes hand in hand with it – will be dead as well.

Margaret Atwood