The Gate Theatre (“the Gate”, “the Theatre”) today released the recommendations of an independent review (“the Review”), commissioned by the Board of the Gate (“the Board”) and conducted by workplace relations expert Gaye Cunningham, regarding allegations of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power against the former Artistic Director, Michael Colgan.
The Board apologises unreservedly to those who experienced the behaviours reported to Ms. Cunningham, where people felt unable to invoke existing grievance procedures and where a culture existed in the Gate which was not conducive to people speaking out freely.
The Board is very grateful to those that came forward to share their views and experiences with Ms. Cunningham, as their participation will help lead to real and meaningful change at the Gate. The commitment made to participants for anonymity and confidentiality will be respected.
As part of her independent review, conducted from November 2017 through January 2018, Ms. Cunningham received input from 56 individuals, including current and former employees and board members, the freelance community and involved face-to-face interviews, phone conversations and email/written submissions.
The Review catalogues what Ms Cunningham reports as “credible and consistent testimonies” of behaviours that indicate Mr Colgan has a “case to answer” in respect of dignity at work issues, abuse of power and inappropriate behaviours.
Many of the participants reported feeling they had “nowhere to go” and that feeling appeared to prevent them from invoking grievance procedures.
The report makes 14 recommendations which are set out below designed to ensure the Gate is a more “positive and safe place in the future” for all who work there.
The Board welcomes the independent review, accepts in full Ms. Cunningham’s recommendations, and is committed to putting in place the structures and procedures to ensure a safe and supportive workplace environment for everyone in the organisation
Direct excerpts of the Methodology and Recommendations sections of the Review are included below. The Board intends to release the full Review in line with its commitment to openness and transparency, following the necessary legal review process.
To ensure all recommendations are effectively implemented, Ms Cunningham will remain on in an advisory capacity to work with the Gate.
From now on, the Gate Theatre will uphold a zero tolerance policy on inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
Peter Crowley, Chairperson of the Board:
“The Board apologises unreservedly to those who experienced the behaviours reported to Ms. Cunningham as part of her Review. We recognise that a culture existed in the Gate whereby too much power was vested in one individual and people felt unable to speak out and we accept that the Board had an onus to be more aware of the culture prevailing in the theatre over time.
From the time these allegations emerged, we saw it as our responsibility to respond to the specific issues as sensitively, professionally and proactively as possible. The completion of the review is a key step in this process.
The Board is determined to use the outcomes of the Review as a catalyst for positive change and will see through this programme of change.
I want to reassure the people who came forward that their voices have been heard and that their participation will lead to real change in how the Gate operates in the future.”
Selina Cartmell, Artistic Director:
“As the new Artistic Director of the Gate, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the bravery of all the individuals who have come forward and contributed to Ms. Cunningham’s review and I endorse its independence.
Leading the Gate Theatre through the difficult times of the past few months has been deeply confronting and challenging. We have already embarked on the journey of transforming the culture at the theatre and with the team at the Gate we will proactively be leading on Ms. Cunningham’s recommendations. I am personally committed to re-building trust within the arts community as we at the Gate collaborate, listen to others and strive for artistic excellence while creating an environment that is safe, open, equal and accessible.
The original founders Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir established a theatre and ethos that empowered artists and audiences to invest creatively, emotionally and spiritually in the theatre they established ninety years ago. My ambition is to build on their original vision with values of integrity, truth and transparency and transform the Gate Theatre into a cultural beacon we can all be proud of.”
TRANSCRIPT OF RECOMMENDATIONS
The following recommendations are designed to ensure that the Gate Theatre and especially the practitioners who work there and all who have had dealings and continue to have dealings with the Gate can move to a more positive and safe place in future:
My recommendations are as follows:
ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN BY THE GATE
The Board is committed to implementing and following through on all the recommendations set out by Ms. Cunningham.
Employee Assistance Programme
As a first step, the confidential counselling service set up by the Gate in November 2017 will continue to be available to any affected persons for a period of 12 months.
In April 2017, Selina Cartmell was appointed Artistic Director, for an initial five year term, marking a new chapter for the Gate Theatre. Under her leadership, there has already been a clear shift in culture and a renewed commitment to some key values at the Gate: transparency; openness; pro-active communication; accessibility; and accountability.
The senior management team has been strengthened to ensure that there is no concentration of power in one individual in the future.
New & Improved HR Policies
The Gate has been undergoing a comprehensive review of its approach to HR. With the commencement of the independent review process, additional assistance was sought from a senior external HR Director.
A new Executive Director has been appointed who will also assume overall responsibility for the HR function and the focus now is on strengthening procedures and communications.
A comprehensive new Employee Handbook has been developed, with the aim of making our HR practices best in class.
It outlines a zero tolerance approach to abuse of power and infringement of dignity at work issues and responsibility for development and implementation of an action plan has been devolved to the new Executive Director.
A version of the Handbook relevant to the freelance community has also been workshopped with them to ensure they are afforded the same level of care and protection as full-time staff.
On foot of the recommendations, the Gate will undertake to appoint a dignity at work contact person for the freelance community, in addition to the dignity at work contact already assigned for current staff.
The Gate will ensure that all employees and freelancers are given the Employee Handbook on the first day of work and in line with best practice it will also be available on our website.
A comprehensive training programme will be implemented to ensure that all managers are adequately equipped to deal with dignity at work issues.
The Gate has been on a path of improvement on its overall governance procedures since the implementation of the Charities Act  and the strategic review by Bonar Keenlyside. This has included a new code of conduct for directors, fixed term of five years for board tenure and the Artistic Director being independent of the Board.
Rotation from the board scheduled for 2018 will be completed in March, when Grace Smith and David Bunworth will retire from the Board, having agreed to stay until completion of the Review. New appointments will see additional talent and expertise brought on to the board in coming months including those identified by Ms. Cunningham.
To better connect the board to the culture of the theatre, HR issues will become a regular agenda item on board meetings. Additionally there will be regular presentations from staff to familiarise board members with the work of the theatre and the team.
Open & Responsive
The Theatre will pursue a culture of openness and transparency, whereby people are encouraged to raise issues with relevant management and feel welcome to approach the Board.
The Gate will also be an active and willing participant in industry-wide initiatives which aim to create a better culture for the sector, overall, such as that being led by the Irish Theatre Institute and facilitated by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Notes to Editor:
1. Methodology (direct excerpt from report)
Face to face interviews were held over 20 days with 33 individuals and with Michael Colgan as part of the process. Statements were received from a further 18 individuals and 4 phone interviews were conducted.
Individuals who were interviewed can be described in the following categories:
– Former staff
– Current staff
– Current and former Board members
– Arts Community/Freelancers
In conducting the review, I have concentrated on first hand accounts, not second or third hand accounts, or rumours, innuendo or gossip.
No leading questions were asked in interviews, the purpose of which was to listen to and record the experiences of the individuals who had come forward. The process was not designed to establish the guilt or innocence of any individual or group, but to establish if there is a case to answer.
Each interview was recorded with the permission of the participant and transcribed, following which the recordings were deleted. Following the compilation of the Report all documents associated with it were destroyed.
In compiling the Report I have documented descriptions of behaviours rather than specific incidents which would identify individuals.
The following documents and publications inter alia were consulted:
Irish Equity Bullying and Harassment Survey Results 2016
Royal Court 30 point Plan to tackle harassment in theatre 2017
Old Vic conclusions and way forward following investigation into alleged conduct of former Artistic Director 2017
Arts Council document on Code of Governance
Amplify Women Toolkit for tackling Sexual Harassment
Waking the Feminists Gender Policy Workshop March 2017
Gate Theatre Employee Handbook 2017
Report of the National Expert Group on Workplace Bullying 2004
2. Terms of Reference
1. Name of Reviewer: Gaye Cunningham
2.1 Ms Gaye Cunningham has been appointed by the Gate Theatre (“the Gate”) to conduct an independent review of complaints made by past and current employee and other persons of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power by the former Director of the Gate Theatre, Mr Michael Colgan, and related/consequential matters.
2.2. The role of Ms Cunningham will be to:
(a) establish the process for complainants to register their complaints, in the first instance, via a confidential email set up and monitored exclusively by Ms Cunningham;
(b) proactively make contact with current and former staff members and other persons who have spoken out on the record; and
(c) proactively make contact with other relevant or involved parties as part of due process, including, but not limited to, Mr. Colgan, former and current employees, and any other person whom she believes may assist in this review.
2.3 The outcomes of the review will be to:
(a) identify if there is a case to answer in respect of any dignity at work, abuse of power and related inappropriate behaviours and failings on the part of any person associated with the Gate;
(b) make recommendations arising from the complaints process.
2.4 The process will commence immediately and conclude by the end of January 2018.
Ms Cunningham will be responsible for reporting back her findings and recommendations to the Board of the Gate and The Arts Council in January 2018.
4. Method of Working:
4.1 Any meetings with complainants or involved parties will be held in a neutral location.
4.2 Ensure full confidentiality for participants throughout to the greatest extent permitted by law.
4.3 Provide updates to the Chairman of the Board, as required, on progress and timings.
5. Sharing of Information and Resources (including confidential materials):
5.1 Complainants are invited to make contact via the confidential email email@example.com
5.2 Any emails already sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org will be accessed only by Ms Cunningham and subsequently closed.
5.3 Only Ms Cunningham will have access to confidential complaint emails.
5.4 Any correspondence, written or verbal, entered into between the complainant and Ms Cunningham will remain confidential to the greatest extent permitted by law.