Closing speech #WakingTheFeminists, Abbey Theatre

On behalf of #WakingTheFeminists, a sincere thank you to all the Abbey Board, the Director and CEO Senator Mac Conghail, and to all the staff who accommodated us here today.

Thanks to my co-chair, Senator Ivana Bacik. To our amazing colleagues who have pulled off an incredible amount of work to get us here, Rough Magic for the use of the space all this week, and the student volunteers from the Lir Academy. To all our colleagues in the theatre and the arts, we thank you for engaging so forthrightly and passionately over the past two weeks.  Thanks to Lucy Kerbel for sharing her experiences with Tonic theatre.  She shows us there are many ways forward.

How can we in the arts interrogate and reflect society with integrity, if we do not hold our own leaders to account and interrogate our own practices?  

It has been a difficult, humbling and yet tremendous time. Frankly, let’s face it, it’s been a difficult 100 years. I feel deep sadness and fury for what we have lost, for talent cut short, snuffed out or exiled, for the important conversations muted. We have been famished without fully realising it. Today we have heard something about the true cost of that for us all.

But it will be tragic if our daughters and granddaughters have to stand here again in 50, or a 100 years time to demand the recognition of their equality.

Equality for women matters on this stage, on every stage, and in every sphere.  We do not stand here and politely request it.  We stand here, in our full strength and brilliance, and demand what is our right as 50% of the population – equality and economic parity.  

This is also just the start of discussion on the solutions.  Ultimately it’s simple –  commit fully to supporting and programming more women artists, putting their work centre stage.  We all have more work to do to achieve full equality, inclusion and diversity in theatre.  We will continue that work, together, with respect and honesty.  But, alongside those conversations, there must be action, and from that action there must be results.

In our national theatre, funded by a woman, co-founded by a woman, and with a mighty Queen charging forth on its logo, this call goes out from this stage, to every stage, to the leadership of all theatres and arts organisations. We must look at our programming practices, and beyond that look at our commissioning and our marketing and our pay and contracting and employment structures – look at everything we do and root out this blight of inequality.

Those three women are not spinning in their graves – their wake is over – today they are rising with us. Listen up: We are all ready for you. Get ready for us. NOW. It’s just time for some RESPECT.