Footlights President resigns over lack of BME representation

Image credit: James Bowe

The Footlights currently lack a President following the resignation of Ruby Keane. In an email sent out a few hours ago Keane announced her resignation on the grounds that her decision would help would put “pressure on the current and future committees to implement the changes and think of further ways to increase diversity”.

Under the current system, around ten writers/performers are selected by the committee in March to become the new Footlights. Following this new members are able to put anything they want into shows and no longer have to audition for Smokers.  Keane attributes this system to echoes of when “there were only around ten white men who did comedy in Cambridge.” A system that she encountered and experienced in her first year.

Her proposed solution, one discussed at a committee meeting prior to the BME Open Discussion group held on the 13th of March, was to create “specific admin roles” within the committee to open applications. These roles would be filled by those passionate about comedy at Cambridge as well as “dedicated to fostering an inclusive comedy scene”. This would increase the opportunity for people to be ‘in’, “simply by writing and performing comedy.”

Meritocracy allegedly took center stage during the BME open discussion group, with conversation pitted around the class divide and racial divide inherent to the existing system. The minutes of the discussion reveal how comedy was viewed as closely related to class and to the funding of arts programs in schools.  The minutes state that “the comedy that the Footlights committee are interested in tends to not be done by BME people.” The terrifying nature of auditions becomes a protagonist to the discussion expressed in the “fear of doing stand up in front of 7 white sketch comedians” and the lack of constructiveness in rejection emails.  A decentralization of the audition process to a collegiate level was proposed as a method to reduce the stress and fear of auditioning within the ADC, an “impenetrable fortress to come and audition in.”

In a personal comment made to TCS Keane has said, “There are no hard feelings between me and the individuals who are currently on the committee. This is not a personal thing by any means, just a step I feel is necessary to improve access to comedy in Cambridge in the long run”.


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