More than 800 members of the U.K. entertainment industry have signed an open letter decrying a work culture that’s been put in sharp relief following multiple misconduct allegations against actor Noel Clarke.
The industry has been in a febrile state ever since The Guardian broke an explosive story detailing sexual harassment allegations against actor, writer and filmmaker Clarke, which he has vehemently denied.
The open letter to the film and TV industry, led by Meriel Beale, freelance producer and unscripted anti-bullying and harassment officer at industry union Bectu, states: “After reading the Noel Clarke allegations, many of us within the TV and film industry started sharing our own stories of sexual harassment and sexual abuse. His case is not a one-off and, shockingly, is not an extreme example. It has happened to so many of us that it seems normal.”
“It has happened to so many of us at the hands of men in positions of power within the industry — whether industry colleagues, presenters or actors,” the letter continues. “It has happened in plain sight.”
The letter goes on to detail instances of women being asked to “lighten up” or “take a joke” and provides specific examples of women being placed in degrading situations.
“It is a constant, terrifying tightrope. We are exhausted and we are angry,” the letter states. “All of this contributes to us being undervalued in TV. Many men won’t recognize or notice sexist micro-aggressions — the low level hum of sexism — and many women will accept it as part of the culture. It has been normalized, but it is not normal.”
“It is time to rethink the culture of TV and film. It is time to put an end to this culture that turns a blind eye to predators and harassers operating in plain sight,” the letter concludes.
Signatories include “Sherlock” actor Rupert Graves; Cal King, digital brand lead, MTV & Comedy Central U.K.; Bectu head Philippa Childs; broadcaster Dermot O’Leary; former Channel 4 commissioner Kelly Webb-Lamb; “Across the Universe” actor Jim Sturgess; “Duran Duran: A Night In” director/producer Zoe Dobson; Adeel Amini, chair of industry org Coalition for Change; and “The Amelia Gething Complex” writer Amelia Gething.
Following the Noel Clarke allegations, many women have opened up to each other about what it’s like working TV & Film. Here’s an open letter to the industry. Please sign and share if you feel happy to. Men too – we need you to be allies.https://t.co/19cdP4UWrK
— MerielBealeisreal 💙 (@merielbeale) May 5, 2021
Meanwhile, BAFTA deputy chair Pippa Harris has defended the organization after it came under fire over its handling of the Noel Clarke issue. BAFTA had said it was unaware of any sexual misconduct allegations against Clarke before naming him as the recipient of its Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award in March.
When asked if BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar should resign over the matter, Harris told Sky News: “This whole affair has been extremely difficult, as you can imagine, for everyone involved, and Krish has worked all the way through together with the board. It has been a joint decision-making process.”
“Krish has not been doing anything on his own,” Harris added. “So any criticism that has been levelled at BAFTA should be levelled at everybody. It is really not right to single people out.”
“If we had had one fraction of the information that the Guardian had had, we would never have given an award to Noel Clarke,” Harris said. “That is obvious, but we didn’t have that information. The first time that we saw the actual allegations against him was when they were published by the Guardian newspaper and as soon as we saw the allegations, we suspended the award.”
Elsewhere, Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe, founder of the British Urban Film Festival, has given up his BAFTA membership over the matter. “People need to be held accountable,” he said. “As an organisation, that starts from the top. If the chief exec needs to go too, so be it.
“Krish cannot continue in his post because him being there, him remaining there, just sends completely the wrong signal because whichever way you look at it, BAFTA have just dealt with this horrendously.”