Review: Why Is The Sky Blue?

Getting an audience to stand up and do the floss was a fantastic way to start a performance that covered a taboo topic, pornography. Why Is The Sky Blue? was created by theatre makers Abbey Wright, Shireen Mula and Matt Regan out of their interviews that they conducted about love and the effects of pornography on thousands of 6 to 22 year olds from across the UK.

This refreshingly open and honest performance presented at the Southwark Playhouse by young people the same age as those interviewed is a unique chance to hear young people talk about some of the biggest taboo topics in society today pornography, sex, masturbation and sexual orientation.

Through songs, conversations and encouraging audience participation they beautifully explored the issues that every parent dreads. But this performance showed just how important it is to talk and that it’s all just part of the ‘norm’ of growing up in the 21st century. It also demonstrates just how much power technology has through personal devices.

I think it will help open the way for these important topics to be discussed more openly at home, school and the wider community. It clearly showed that young people as young as 6 years of age have more knowledge about these things then any parent would ever dream or want them to know and thats just because of modern technologies.

A very simply format but very well executed. Why Is The Sky Blue? ran at the Southwark Playhouse from the Thursday 26th April 2018 until Saturday 19th May 2018.

Click here for more information on the producers – The Tackroom Theatre

Non-Disclosure Agreements

I am sure you have all heard of the #metoo and #timesup campaigns (see post on 3 March 2018) which aim to stamp out abuse and harassment within the workplace by giving people the voice to speak up. So the removal or updating of the ‘Non-disclosure’ is an important step to deal with the issues.

For those of you who don’t know a ‘Non-disclosure’ is where two parties sign an agreement of complete confidentiality so that no information is shared outside of an organisation without permission of the organisation. But this can often lead to organisations being protected from legal action where cases of bullying or harassment or even unfair dismissal are present in the workplace.

Used correctly they can benefit both parties non-disclosures are good and actually just form the common sense part of the contact. So I mean by this it being used correctly is that complete confidentiality on the operation of an organisation is fine, but there should always be riders or a clause in all such agreements that give permission that total confidentiality is breached or broken by controlled measures and protocol where information is shared on a need to know bases for example bullying or harassment, they should never be used to cover up these serious issues to make an organisation look good.

When I business or organisation is run well, where employees are genuinely happy, wanting to be make the business successful not just by turning up every day doing their bit then go home, but also feeling empowered to contribute. But this can only happen if staff feel safe and know that if something goes wrong where their welfare is compromised they can have it dealt with promptly and in a dignified manner.

So the clause is there to stop things can getting out of hand as people do still talk to friends and family because it’s human nature and if that happens, especially when then things are not going to well, personally if you tell me something that raising concerns of your safety or the safety or others then I will trigger a set procedure to ensure that relevant persons or authorities are informed to ensure individual safety on any level is maintained. This doesn’t mean that I will go and share the information with everyone I meet in the street or have the conversation in the pub during a drunken night out.

If businesses and organisations allow these conversations inside the business than while there maybe a report to say you have problem with bullying or harassment, it will also show that you are actively doing something about it. So this means that if a conversation raises concern for example that someone may commit suicide or the information given indicates there is a level of abuse or bullying somewhere in the organisation then as an organisation you need to have the conversations with people who can do things to help.

Keeping important information quiet that affects staff welfare is not something that should ever be done. This is the point I raised in February in my post Shyness and the Arts, regardless of what the relationship is to the person you know is be harassed or bully or sexually assaulted it is all of our jobs to speak up and a full ‘Non-disclosure’ agreement should not stand in the way of that.

So quite rightly The Equality and Human Rights Commission has called for the banning of these Confidential agreements that used with the aim cover up issues in the workplace. Personally, as you can see I don’t understand why anyone would want to cover these issues up. Surely only a bad manager would want to do this because if they don’t deal with it and allow these things to get out of hand they are only creating a work environment that nobody would want to work in as the confidential agreement won’t stop people from complaining to their friends and family during catch up time.

Reporting issues of harassment and bullying in the workplace should never jeopardise a person’s health, welfare or job in anyway. According to a recent survey by the EHRC of more than a thousand people the levels of harassment and bullying in the workplace is very much underestimated, and while the non-disclosure agreements stand in their current format then this will continue to be the case. We need to stand together against bullying and harassment in the workplace, in any place by joining the #timesup campaign.

Living Near a Theatre

Its well known that one of the best businesses to be in is housing, and if you’re a civil engineer or builder than business could be really booming as there is a real shortage of housing in the UK currently with local councils having to find land that to be stocked for future houses.

But why, when developers want to build residential houses, do they choose to build near an entertainment venue? Moreover how do they sell the homes without telling them that there will be noise from the venue? Though as a side note I wonder if failing to tell potential customers that they could possibly be disturbed by the entertainment venue they are new home comes under the consumer act of fit for purpose goods.

But then why worry when most people view new homes during the day when the venues are closed, so why would the question about excessive noise at time of sale? When asked after sale about it the developer no doubt plays dumb, saying they weren’t aware or they never experienced the problem.

This is what would have happened to London’s Cambridge Theatre that now has restrictions meaning they cannot have any get in or get outs on a Sunday. This is a common restriction when new a residential estate is built nearby. Some a lucky to just get a curfew, but sometimes theatres are forced to make their buildings sound proof at their own cost.

Here in the 21st Century if you want to build a new entertainment venue anywhere you have to consider sound protection. So why is it, when a developer plans to build 25 flats in close vicinity to an arts venue that’s been around year before, shouldn’t sound proofing of the flats be considered or even made compulsory by the planning committee?

So recently there have been plans announced to build a hotel near the Adelphi Theatre in London and the Corn Exchange in Oxfordshire has the potential of housing being built close by. Once new people move in the complaints will start about noise, which will then put the venues under threat of restrictions or worse, closure.

While it is good to hear the government are currently going through a consultation period to guard theatres against these restrictions and extra expenses when the income is becomes less.  These protections would include ensuring that developers fully sound proof their new buildings to accommodate their neighbours.

It all just seems to be another dig at the entertainment business, another way of making things harder. While the industry struggles at times to finance works the amount of money it pours into the UK economy goes unnoticed and unsung. So it just seems the current situation where developers and planning committees are ganging up on theatres and venues in a culture that has become about self or as Burger King make us believe that we can ‘have our way’. The developers and the planning committees show no consideration for what is already there as an important part not just the national but world heritage.

Currently there is a consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework that every council has to use when considering planning application plans. It is no surprise to hear that the Theatre Trust advices that the planning applications around the Adelphi and Corn Exchange should be rejected. Mayor of London is in favour of the legislation change, saying that the city would become dormant if these plans are left to go ahead as they are and MP John Speller, who has previously proposed a bill on this matter to parliament suggests that the current applications should be postpones pending the outcome of the consultation. Either way is it the best way forward as we do need to protect our theatres of having unfair operating restrictions which could result in us losing our heritage and once these venues close it can be very hard to have them reopened.

Working Later

When the posties decided they didn’t want deliver letters to our doors at a stupidly early time of the morning they went on strike. So I am wondering how long it would take until actors and crew go on strike for better hours, pay and benefits.

In 2016 Transport for London announced that the Tubes could start operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In response to this the West End Theatres announced that they would consider starting performances later. Now just because public transport has made itself available for longer hours it doesn’t mean every other business needs to change operation times, does it?

I could completely understand if this move was going affect audiences getting to the venue for the start of the performance, but in this case there is no bearing on that as the hours are being extended and not changed. Also unlike bars and clubs, theatre is not something you attend every night, it’s usually a treat, like the cinema when there’s a movie you really want to watch, you don’t just go every night as you would quickly see all the movies and would then have nothing to look forward too.

So do we really need later performances?

Running a film on the big screen is much different from live theatre as the only people affected are the viewers and those contracted to work those hours for the company, the actors get paid for every time you show the movie, but they are already tucked up in their beds or out partying or seeing another premiere, as their work for the project was completed many months before.

Theatre is a different kettle of fish, by making performance start later it means that audiences get home later and they don’t all stop in London after a show. Those who do often like to do the social thing after the performance, as they know that their own behaviour after consuming alcohol would not be acceptable in a theatre, therefore choosing to do so between the end of the performance and heading back to their hotels, so this time is reduced along with the income for the businesses they support during those small hours as already mentioned those who travelled in, it’s a treat so they would have made a day of it as they will be heading home the day after, and not being able to see the London night life could ruin the whole experience.

It will also affect the actors, whereby many have chosen the life of working late or nights means that a social life can be already be rare, but to be finishing work past midnight is not pleasant in any profession and it should only be required if absolutely necessary and public transport working later is not one of them, remembering that forwarding connections for public transport may not be follow the same idea as the underground.

It also begs the question of pay – will it mean that actors need ‘night rate’ for working later into the night and unsociable hours like any other industry that has similar hours of work? Plus there aren’t that many child minders who don’t charge a night rate or higher rate for after midnight.

The only exemption to this idea would possibly be new works where it is shorter than the West End’s big musicals. So the notion affects a lot of people not just those money grabbers at the top of the industry or the members of the public who currently can’t get off work earlier enough. The important people we should be thinking of are those who actually working on and backstage during the hours of a performance, they want to entertain you, but should they be forced into working later at night?

World Book Night 2018

It’s not that long since we had world book day, now here we are celebrating World Book Night, so what’s the difference? Well according to the World Book Night website, daytime is for children and night time is for adults and night is when we traditionally think about celebrating.

World Book Night was set up in help encourage people to read. Apparently 36% of people don’t read regularly (DCMS – 2015). So the aim of the game is simply to encourage reading through handing out of books (not selling, giving them out).

It was first celebrated in 2010, it was then moved to its current day 23rd April as UNESCO’s International Day of the Book. The day also coincides with birth and death of British writer William Shakespeare.

This year the Reading Agency has announced the theme of Mental Health as part of the celebration to raise aware of this important issue that affects 1 in 4 people in the UK alone.

For more information on World Book Night: