Gender Bias: Equality Groups Call for Cultural Elite to Abandon Garrick Club Memberships

Equality groups have challenged the cultural elite’s affiliation with the all-male Garrick Club, sparking debate over gender bias in the arts. Here’s the full story.

Dark, Smoky Rooms

Ever since the days of the British Empire, it has been assumed that powerful people, at that time the landed gentry, and in more modern times, the rich and influential, would gather in dark, smoky rooms to do deals and make their mark on the world. 

Though broader culture took this idea and blew it up into various conspiracy theories of all-powerful individuals meeting in wood-panelled rooms to order the world to their liking, there is some truth to these traditionally male gentlemen’s clubs. 

Continued Refusal

One of the last of these clubs, the all-male Garrick Club, has recently been in the news over the controversy surrounding its continual refusal to admit women members. 

The Garrick Club has found itself back in the news headlines following the Guardian’s release of its membership list, which reads like a who’s who of powerful and influential people in the United Kingdom, including Government Ministers, MPs and judges.

Following the release of its membership list, the exclusive club, known for its traditionalist views and its steadfast refusal to admit women, has come under fire for perpetuating gender bias in the cultural sector.

Raising Concerns

Over half a dozen equality groups have voiced concerns about cultural leaders’ membership in the Garrick Club. 

Vick Bain, founder of F-list and a passionate advocate for gender equality in music, highlighted the alarming implications of members of the cultural elite being members of such a club. 

Bain stated, “The fact that so many of the chairs and CEOs of our finest music organisations are members of such a club should ring alarm bells as to their true beliefs and attitudes towards gender equality.”

Other prominent figures within the arts community, including Matthew Dunster of Stage Directors UK and representatives from Her Ensemble, a group that campaigns for gender equality in classical music, expressed their disappointment and frustration at their peers’ association with the Garrick Club. Dunster stated, “It is depressing that people in the arts would want to be members of such a club.”

A spokesperson from Her Ensemble echoed their concerns, stating, “It ultimately undermines a lot of the progress that the industry is making and encourages inequality.”

Influential Actors

The Guardian’s unveiling of the Garrick Club’s membership list exposed the involvement of several notable figures in the arts, including actors Brian Cox, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Damian Lewis. 

Christopher Rodrigues, chair of the Royal Ballet School; Harry Brünjes, chair of the English National Opera; Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House; and John Gilhooly, artistic director of the Wigmore Hall, are among the members.

Boris Defence

While some former members, like disgraced Prime Minister Boris Johnson, defended the club, Johnson also wrote in the Daily Mail that the club should admit women. Female theatre professionals express frustration at being excluded from events and networks associated with the Garrick Club. 

Their sentiments reflect broader concerns about gender discrimination and the persistence of male-dominated spaces within the arts. Advocates for gender equality, such as Gabriella Di Laccio of Donne: Women in Music and academic Jennifer Tuckett, emphasised the need for concrete actions to dismantle outdated structures perpetuating inequality. 

Di Laccio stated, “Real change requires tangible actions that dismantle these outdated structures … this moment should serve as a call to action for everyone in society to lead by example.”

Tuckett, who has just completed a years-long research project investigating equality in British theatre, stated, “Gender inequality is not being addressed with the seriousness that is needed in the arts … a problem which approaches like the Garrick Club would exacerbate.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Arts Council England (ACE), a significant funder of cultural organisations, asserted its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion. 

While acknowledging individuals’ rights to personal memberships, ACE stated that “we make clear that we expect our investment to support cultural experiences and job opportunities to be available for everyone in England, irrespective of where they live, their background or how much money they have in their pocket”.

The scrutiny of cultural elite memberships at the Garrick Club underscores broader issues of gender inequality in the arts and in culture more generally. 

Roll Call

As calls for change grow louder, the debate on the Garrick Club and its outdated membership list, along with the roll call of the rich and powerful who make up its members, has prompted a much-needed conversation on the role of privilege in shaping the cultural landscape of the UK.

More Articles Like This…

Broken Britain: 12 Reasons Behind the UK’s Decline

Say the Unsayable: 10 Occasions When Farage Spoke His Mind About Britain

The post Gender Bias: Equality Groups Call for Cultural Elite to Abandon Garrick Club Memberships first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture.

Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

Leave a Comment