Back in May of 2020, we made the difficult decision to not hold the Betty Mitchell Awards in its usual capacity. This decision was made in response to the dramatically changing landscape of our theatre community in response to COVID-19. Since this announcement a lot has changed for us, and we wanted to provide you with an update on our next steps.
In our statement we intended to recognize the 2019/2020 season in some capacity. What has come to light for us over the last several months is that, as much as we would love to celebrate with everyone, our immediate and long term priorities have shifted. With our industry continuing to struggle due to the impact of COVID-19, and with the global focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, we have been assessing the Betty Mitchell Awards as whole, asking what our role is within the community and how we can be better to support theatre in Calgary.
So, where do we go from here?
The Board would like to publicly acknowledge their support of the 35//50 Initiative. This initiative, led by BIPOC artists in the Calgary theatre community, has asked local theatre companies to commit to seeing our civic landscape more equitably reflected in our professional landscape. More specifically, the 35//50 initiative asks for a minimum of 35% BIPOC and 50% female or non-binary people in paid professional positions by 2024-2025. Even though the Betty Mitchell Awards are entirely volunteer run by the Board of Directors, it would be a failure on our part to not uphold what the 35//50 initiative is asking of our community.
As we have mentioned in the past, The Betty Mitchell Awards honour the incredible theatrical works that appear on stages across Calgary. We acknowledge that The Betty Mitchell Awards has fallen short in terms of making our space and our awards as inclusive and diverse as possible.
In terms of next steps, the Board for the Betty Mitchell Awards is committed to the following:
Hosting an informal town hall via Zoom on November 12. This town hall is open to everyone and anyone, as we hope to use this as an opportunity to connect with community members and give you the space to get to know us. To RSVP for the town hall, please fill out our Google form: https://forms.gle/XBooNf6SzE5WVtU89
Welcoming new voices to be a part of the Board of Directors in accordance with the 35//50 Initiative. As some of our members’ terms having come to an end, we have a great opportunity available to us to welcome a diverse team to the Betty Mitchell Awards Board where we can work together to determine how we move forward. We are beginning this process immediately, and invite all interested applicants to reach out to us at email@example.com.
Re-addressing our code of conduct. This is an important step to ensuring that we protect the Betty Mitchell Awards Board members, members of our community, and anyone who will work with the Betty Mitchell Awards in the future.
Creating a working agreement for the Board of Directors. In conjunction with our code of conduct, this will commit specifically to the safety of our members that will be rooted in harm reduction and anti-oppressive practices.
Restructuring of The Betty Mitchell Awards to be more representative of our theatre community. This will be achieved through ongoing engagement with the community in Calgary to ensure that the Betty Mitchell Awards are reflective of its diverse voices. This will include implementation of the 35//50 Initiative to the Nominations Committee and Juries, as well as an overhaul of eligibility application. We will also be addressing our current barriers as an organization, and determining how we can work with them or tear them down. We are aware that there is a perception of elitism with the Betty Mitchell Awards, and we want that to change.
Being more accessible to you and your feedback. While you can always reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time, we want you to feel comfortable reaching out to us. To support this, we have also created a contact form on our website. You can submit your questions, concerns, thoughts and ideas about the Bettys through this form. We have also enabled this form to be anonymous if that is your preference. You can view this form at bettymitchellawards.com/contact.
There will be a lot of additions to this list and further changes coming our way. While we don’t have all the answers at this time, we will continue to stand up against racism and oppression, and we are ready to do the work of dismantling systemic racism within our own organization and our industry.
Black lives, Indigenous lives, and the lives of People of Colour matter. We know our industry and our awards have not been representative of the community as a whole. We look forward to creating space where everyone can be seen and heard.
If you have any questions or concerns about this update, please feel free to reach out to us email@example.com.
The Betty Mitchell Awards Board