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Let's Talk Business

Are businesses really practicing social inclusion in the workplace?

Guildford Shakespeare Company

Do businesses realistically understand the complexity of their workforce? Are businesses really promoting diversity in the workplace? Is this a HR issue or CEO level issue? Could the consequence of lack of inclusion be the challenge businesses are currently facing on recruiting and retaining talent in the workplace? 

Biz spoke to Sarah Gobran from the Guildford Shakespeare Company on how they are trying to tackle the lack of inclusion by actually promoting social inclusion and also practicing it, could you be missing out on unique talent in your business because of lack of social inclusion? 


Sarah Gobran from the Guildford Shakespeare Company spoke about their success story

"Eighteen months ago, I was fortunate enough to meet two young people who have transformed how I look at the world and the workplace and have made me question how I can be part of affecting change within that world. One is a pupil that had been excluded from school because of anxiety issues, and one is a young theatre artist with a disability.

Telling stories is core to what we do in the theatre, but how do we reach out to tell stories to those who have been excluded to the fringes of our society, and what are we doing to ensure that all members of our society are included in the telling and making of these stories?

Touring to disadvantaged schools, setting up projects in old people’s homes and giving free tickets to families on the fringes of homelessness are all key components of how Guildford Shakespeare Company reaches out to our community. All of this work is vital, rewarding and beneficial, but as an industry we are only doing half the job if we do not also consider those who are making and delivering this work. These are the artists who have enormous amounts of energy and imagination to give but are prevented from doing so because they themselves are excluded in some form or another.

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from the above mentioned 15-year-old girl who wanted to tell me how her first week at college had gone. She was so excited, energised and full of life, so thrilled that after only one week, she had been promoted from Level 1 to Level 2. Was this joyful girl really the same girl that came to GSC 18 months ago having been excluded from school due to anxiety?

She was a regular at our Saturday drama club, and when we found out about her exclusion we offered her a safe place to be, and opportunities to be mentally occupied and stimulated. During this time, she sat in on rehearsals, kept a rehearsal diary, volunteered on Front of House, helped to design artwork, embraced historical research projects and even performed on stage in one of our outdoor productions.

Her mum recently wrote to us saying: "She really has come such a long way and so much of that is down to you all at GSC. I actually shudder to think what we would have done or where she would have ended up if you hadn’t stepped in like you did, offering support, friendship and acceptance when she was so low."

We are so proud of her progress, development and honoured to have been part of her journey. She is a clever, talented girl with a bright future ahead of her.

At last the spotlight is being shone on inclusion in the work place in terms of diversity and for a good reason; we all have so much to share and bring to the table. The more opportunities that we create, the more we learn and the richer we become; the more stories we share, the more people will listen; the more people listen, the more work we create; the more work we create, the more people we employ, and so we go full circle as the tapestry gets richer, bigger, brighter, fuller and thicker, and we all benefit.

Getting a step on the career ladder in this industry is already hard enough, but when you have a disability those difficulties are magnified, and artists with disabilities are still being massively overlooked.

Over the last 12 months we have been working with an incredibly talented young lady, Indiana Lown-Collins, who is an aspiring arts practitioner and director, but sufferers from the hugely debilitating condition of epilepsy. Alongside various freelance work, we have been helping and advising her on further job applications and proposals for her own work. However, given the unpredictability of epilepsy, what Indiana needs most of all is security to pursue her career.

Indiana: “I’d love one day to be an artistic director of a theatre, but sadly there are still not enough opportunities that support people with disabilities to get into the work place and I know from first-hand experience that discrimination still happens.

My main personal barrier is my Epilepsy; firstly, having the courage to pursue new opportunities with people who may not understand the condition is daunting. New jobs and creating an impression are nerve wracking to any young professional but when you have the added disability of not knowing how people will respond to your condition, or when and whether you will have a seizure, it can make opportunities both harder to find and to pursue; especially when you have received negative reactions from industry professionals upon disclosure.”

GSC are therefore thrilled to be able to offer Indiana, our first paid internship as Trainee Assistant Producer and Director. Over the course of the year, Indiana will not only work with our education department, but take the role assistant director on our main shows, whilst being mentored by me, learning all aspects involved in producing theatre: from contracting creatives, sourcing venues and funding, casting and budgeting.

“I am so excited to be starting this job in January; To be with a company who lives and breathes for their craft, their audience and their community, who brings out theatre and stories that touch people’s heart and fills people with a new spark of life with no barriers is all I could ever want. The outreach work and the children’s lives GSC helps and changes is just outstanding. 

But it is not only about theatre, it is the community and the family GSC has created - that for me is just an honour to be part of. I feel that GSC, Sarah and Matt, have saved me various times in the last year; it’s been my haven to be creative and it’s been my spark of life.”

Let's Talk: Are businesses really practicing social inclusion in the workplace? A success story from Guildford Shakespeare Company!

Biz spoke to Sarah Gobran from the Guildford Shakespeare Company on how they are trying to tackle the lack of inclusion by actually promoting social inclusion and also practicing it, could you be missing out on unique talent in your business because of lack of social inclusion?