There’s so much going on in the media at the moment about diversity, inclusion, accessibility and safety and, as the founder of Funny Women, I have always taken responsibility and been accountable on behalf of the Funny Women community.
We are part of a much larger industry-wide movement that’s given birth to a new generation of female comedy superstars over the last few years, so it was important for me to put our contribution and our standpoint into context and set out our stall for the next few years. I did this by delivering this short speech at last week’s 2021 Funny Women Awards grand final at the Bloomsbury Theatre.
‘In 2002 I created Funny Women with the original idea of providing a platform for women in comedy where historically they were overlooked. I never thought that I would be standing up here nearly 20 years later as founder of an actual organisation, talking about what we’ve achieved so far.
‘Funny Women as a community now empowers women everywhere to literally ‘stand up’ not just for the entertainment of others but to find their voice in all walks of life. We’ve helped thousands of women to achieve this through these Awards, showcases, workshops, courses and our regional outreach programme. I couldn’t be prouder.
‘Back patting aside there’s still another important chapter that we have to write. We know that there’s lots more we can do to bring a wider, more diverse set of voices (and women) into our organisation and our work.
‘We haven’t done enough to recognise, actively challenge and dismantle the additional barriers women of colour face in our industry. Some of the conversations we’ve been having are uncomfortable, but we are having them as we know that real change can only happen by listening earnestly, reflecting honestly, and changing quickly.
‘Over the next few weeks, we’ll be shining a spotlight on the stories of as many women as possible through our website, podcasts, community events and social platforms. We’re consulting with diversity experts to help us internally reflect on what steps we can take as a team to make changes as individuals and as an organisation.
‘We know this is just the start, but we’re open to feedback, your ideas and collaborations.
‘One such collaboration is an important new partnership with TIME’S UP UK. The charity was set up in February 2018 by a group of UK-based women from the film, television and theatre industries in response to the growing TIME’S UP movement in the US.
‘We share the charity’s mission to tackle sexual harassment, bullying and abuse in the entertainment industry across film, television, theatre and, of course, the live comedy circuit. This resonates across all workplaces and, as culture is always a reflection of society, we are calling on all women in comedy with a strong voice to raise awareness of unacceptable behaviour.
‘We know that a key part of making social change is amplifying our voices so that we’re not ignored and calling out issues that threaten our ability to work, create and grow.
‘Tonight’s show is a celebration of Funny Women as it is today and what it can become. Please help us expand our regional chapter network, which currently spans the globe from the US and Canada to Australia and Singapore, Ireland and mainland Europe, as well as all corners of the UK. Become a patron, attend our events, follow us on social media, join our community and GET INVOLVED!
‘And, if you want to be on stage with us next year, enter the Awards.
‘There’s more to come as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary in 2022 and I can’t wait to see what happens next.’
With grateful thanks to the amazing Funny Women Team who helped me craft this speech and worked so hard to make this year’s Awards so very special.
Photograph by Steve Ullathorne.