Director, Grace Duggan writes about her fears of feeling inferior as a working-class creative, meeting like-minded minded people and seeing our backgrounds as a positive.

In the last five years, I have seen my class, cultural capital and lack of academic understanding stand in the way of moving forward. There are so many barriers that working-class directors face in the arts that I could sit here and write to you about, but something I’ve realised is that as a creative, I need to be able to focus on the positives. Namely, my class influences the work I make and it’s vital for people from all backgrounds to be encouraged to create so our theatres represent a variety of voices and experiences. I read an article last week where Debbie Hannan, Associate Director of the Bunker Theatre wrote: “I want you to know you are entitled to be here, and theatre, if not always the buildings, needs you to be the most yourself you can be.” I absolutely couldn’t agree more.

The play I am currently directing began its life as a development scheme that runs at the North Wall each year called Catalyst. I am forever thankful for such schemes for placing me into this industry and giving me access to spaces and creatives I might not have had otherwise. The play itself is about porn and patriarchy and questions the systematic gender politics that surround all of us.  I never thought in a million years that I would be directing a play that explores such themes and topics, as I thought these conversations were owned by the middle classes. I soon realised that this doesn’t have to be the case. I’ve always found that the type of theatre that balances laughter and hope, whilst also delving into social issues are the ones I relate to and connect with best.

This play and the conversations surrounding it up until this point have really allowed me to learn and develop creatively. I’ve now also got a unique knowledge of the 1980s porn world, which has been very fun for my search history. But, what it’s pushed me to do is take a look at the world around me in a very different light and to open conversations about gender. There was a moment where myself and Adam Foster, the writer realised that this play could go on forever, because it molds and shifts with time. 

In a true working-class manner, I’ve got a bunch of people to thank for the shift that I’ve gone through and the fact that I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone. These include such organisations as: COMMON theatre, The Young Vic Taking Part Team, the North Wall and Studio 3 Arts.

Conversations are starting to shift in the industry and I’ve begun to find a small network of working-class artists who are fighting exactly the same battle. Chatting with these people has allowed me to feel less alone, so please, anyone who feels like there’s no one else, we are out here…come and find us!

Whatever your skills, your background or your heritage has given you, don’t forget them. Don’t feel the need to assimilate. Take them, run with them and embrace them when creating your work. This is easier said than done, but we’ve got to keep pushing for change…

Wood will play from 27 February – 3 March. For more information, check out the Vault Festival website.