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London, Ont. theatre completes 1st phase of working to combat oppression within industry

In a release, the Grand Theatre said it felt compelled to examine the theatre’s own history following both the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. benedek via Getty Images

A London, Ont., theatre has completed the first phase of its journey to stop the cycle of oppression within the industry.

In a release, the Grand Theatre said it felt compelled to examine the theatre’s own history following both the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“We’ve been working for the last nine months on how the Grand is going to be better in being less oppressive,” artistic director Dennis Garnhum said, speaking with 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs on London Live.

Read more: With season cancelled by COVID-19, London’s Grand Theatre unveils digital ‘intermission’ offerings

“We’re looking at everything, (which includes) making sure we have more diversity on the board, we’re looking at how we hire moving forward and the stories we tell.”

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“Nine months is nothing compared to the years we’re going to be working on this.”

The theatre says its board and staff have been working with E.B. Smith of HC Smith Ltd. to develop its anti-oppression mission statement.

“He has been working with us (to) look at how has the Grand participated in oppressive behaviour, how can we change that behaviour, and how can we commit to being more inclusive and diverse,” said Garnhum.

Read more: Allegations of systemic racism in Vancouver’s theatre scene could spark change

In one of its initial steps towards its goal of more inclusive representation, the Grand recruited six new members to its board of directors from communities underrepresented in the past. The theatre says it will also seek out and recruit BIPOC and other marginalized groups to work and participate at every level.

“We want everyone to walk in the door no matter where you come from or who you are, and (feel) like that space is your space,” the artistic director said. “And we’re admitting that we have work to do on that, and we’re doing it.”

In its next phase of learning, the Grand has contracted with a local firm to deliver anti-racism training.

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“What you’re hearing right now are words,” said Garnhum. “What I really want to happen is in (a few) years from now, (people) will see that we’re doing it and living it.”

Click to play video: 'Black Theatre Workshop introduces kids to serious topics in ‘Bluenose’' Black Theatre Workshop introduces kids to serious topics in ‘Bluenose’
Black Theatre Workshop introduces kids to serious topics in ‘Bluenose’ – Feb 18, 2017

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