BREAKING: Footlights President resigns over BME concerns
Criticism over BME under-representation in Footlights shows led to her decision
Ruby Keane, 2017-2018 President of the Cambridge Footlights, has stepped down as President, ending her elected run a few weeks earlier.
In an e-mail sent out to all Footlights followers, Keane described the difficulties she faced in trying to replace the 10-person committee structure with a more open voting system. "One way of doing this, which was discussed in the committee meeting prior to the BME open discussion, as well as at the BME open discussion itself, would be to create specific admin roles for committee members, so that people are applying for a job that they care about" so that "everyone has the opportunity to be ‘in’, simply by writing and performing comedy."
Keane felt it was "no longer morally correct" that she remain in her role whilst the system seemed unlikely to be voted in by the Committee, and that if she were to remain, she "would be perpetrating a system I fundamentally disagree with."
This development follows the recent discussions about BME representation in Footlights comedy. At a recent BME discussion group open to all, the committee and other attendees discussed current hindrances to greater representation, including "white fragility" over "racial humour", and the problems of "relatability" for a majority-white audience in stand-up. Suggestions to remedy this disparity included running and promoting more college open-mic nights, clarifying the audition process and role of the Footlights more generally, and developing a mentoring system.
Over the past year, the Footlights committee has aimed to increase BME representation through termly BME smokers, as well as launching the inaugural female and non-binary 'Stockings' open mic nights.
There was controversy over a Robinson BME smoker that was closed down after white students complained.
Keane finished by thanking "Alex Franklin, Bella Hull and Teddy Mack for organising the BME open mic nights this term, Emma Plowright and Ania Magliano-Wright for organizing the Stockings’ women and non-binary open mic nights, Ken Cheng for his continued investment in Cambridge comedy and valuable insight into the issue of representation, and Hasan Al-Habib, who kickstarted a conversation that should’ve happened years ago."
Keane told The Tab that "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".
Hasan Al-Habib the told The Tab his view on the current situation:
"During the BME discussion panel, people of all backgrounds discussed how the system FL is built on is ridiculous. Ten all powerful people voting for the next ten all powerful people is utterly stupid and unfair."
"I urge the committee to reconsider. Footlights drastically and immediately needs to implement an inclusive membership system where people can vote for candidates for positions, or it is in danger of remaining a closed shop forever. So many students have already been excluded from the wealth of opportunities FL has to offer. I refuse to accept that more should be before change can occur".