Want more diverse charity line-ups? You need to do more than complain | Robin Ince responds to criticism

Want more diverse charity line-ups? You need to do more than complain

Robin Ince responds to criticism

Many people are plugging the fundraiser I’m organising in Wimbledon tonight for cancer charity CLIC Sargent and Helen Crimmins, the wife of American comedian Barry, who has ovarian and cervical cancer, and not fully covered by her health insurance. 

But  among all the goodwill and generous donations to CLIC Sargent and Helen’s fundraising page, there has been some criticism and some sniping.

‘Surprising you couldn’t find a more diverse mix of people within 1 month, but good luck,’ was one criticism from a lavishly bearded man with the nom de plume of George Orwell’s birth name.

I have dealt with this before, but thought I would write this up just so I can retweet this rather than waste too much time on individual tweets next time this issue comes up.

So, why, when we had a whole four weeks from finding a theatre and acts to putting the show on, is the bill not as diverse as some might wish it?

Here are some of the issues.

The 1st problem is access. When trying to book an act with some profile that will hopefully sell tickets, it is easiest if you have direct contact. Some agents are not really that interested in benefits, there is nothing in it for them, so it won’t take high priority in being passed on to their act. It may not be passed on at all. Once you have used up all your direct lines of communication, communication method two is much slower and also more likely to end up with a call on the eve of the show saying: ‘Sorry, Mike BigStar is no longer available as something with lovely money has turned up.’

The 2nd problem is availability – so many people are on tour, many don’t want to work on day off, even if it is for a good cause. There is nothing wrong with that. Charity gigs can’t always take priority over time with your own family.

The 3rd problem is that you want people who will sell tickets, this immediately means in terms of cultural diversity, you are already dealing with a far smaller pool of people.

The 4th problem is that you are often putting on a big show as a volunteer. This is not your job. Your time is very restricted, you may be writing a book while touring and also promoting another book and making a radio show, as well as trying to make money for a charity. Much of the organisation must be done at odd hours. (of the four weeks, eight days was spent searching for a theatre that was both available and not excessive in cost, being ‘in showbiz’ doesn’t give you a golden ticket and free pass to theatreland)

And this is where you come in. If you are offended or disappointed by the make-up of a bill and can approach the promoter, don’t just say: ‘Oh, this is disappointing’ and fuck off on your high horse of good intentions made up of opinion without action, ask if that promoter might consider specific people for that bill. 

Then, when you come to agreement that this person or these people are right for the bill, YOU find the way of approaching them, join in volunteering rather than just criticising from Olympian heights. 

Anyone who has run a school fete or fair will know some people are very good at saying: ‘I think this stall would be rather a good idea’ and when it is agreed that it is and they are asked to run it, they reply, ‘Oh no, I don’t have time to do it, I just thought someone else could do it. I am very busy.’

I have also seen complaints in the past about certain charity bills being made up of the same people over and over again. The reason is usually that there are certain people who are more prepared to give up their time. You’ll see that people like Jo Brand, Stewart Lee and Sara Pascoe may be on charity bills a lot, that is because they say yes.

In fact, if you are doing a charity gig DO NOT ASK these people, sometimes it might be time for a few other big names to pop their heads above the parapet. (Some names find it much easier to give their time when it is televised)

I hope these explanations help.

The gig is at New Wimbledon Theatre tonight with Daniel Kitson, Alexei Sayle, Charlotte Church, Josie Long, James Acaster and more more more.

Published: 23 Oct 2017

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