Thanks for your response, which we will put onto our website. We appreciate that you have already made in-roads into tackling this issue (including your statement), and that you are, to some extent, unable to make further changes for the time being.
I don’t think any of us are writing to you because we expect you to represent our voices in particular – we’re all successfully doing that for ourselves as you will see from our credentials below. We are instead asking that you – and your writer – learn from this experience in the future.
In particular, we suggest that:
– When you consider scripts that represent vulnerable minority groups, you scrutinise the content to ensure that the representations are accurate and fair, and ensure that you make yourself aware of the political context in which you are making work.
– You ensure that any research undertaken includes contact with the groups you’re claiming to represent – it remains unclear whether a consultation was undertaken with the National Autistic Society, but this still falls short of engaging with the actual group that the script claims to represent. When you’re talking about an autistic mother, consulting with male autistics doesn’t count.
– In line with emerging practice across the arts and in academia, you ensure that panel discussions always include women, and specifically any group you’re claiming to discuss. If the necessary people are unable to attend, then you need to either re-book the panel, or find an alternative way for that group to feed into the process. It’s your responsibility to be active in tracking people down.
– We would question whether it is appropriate to produce this script again at all, but if you do so, then please ensure that the playwright does so after speaking to autistic mothers. You could make a virtue of your learning here, and share the revision process with a wider audience to help to counter the misrepresentation you’ve already put into the public domain.
No matter how small your company, it’s important to realise that these representations matter, because audiences believe in them. Whether or not you intend the character’s autism to be the main focus of the story, you need to accept that it has an impact, particularly if you use autism as part of your description of the story, as you did in early promotional materials. Many autistic mothers feel genuinely under threat because of inaccurate prejudices such as being unable to love, and I think we all now agree that reproducing this was extremely unhelpful.
If you’d like to run a panel discussion about the actual experiences of autistic mothers, then one or two of us would be happy to take part, although travel expenses would need to be covered and it can’t be booked on an ad-hoc basis.
The Autistic Motherhood Group:
Sonia Boué, Multiform Visual Artist, Consultant, Creative Mentor & Founder of WEBworks
Shona Davison, Autistic Parenthood Researcher
Rhiannon Lloyd-Williams, Playwright, Poet, Writer & Public Speaker
Katherine May, Author, Educator & Literary Scout
Paula Sanchez Doctoral Researcher, Trainer and Consultant
Tracy Turner FRSA, FHEA, Lecturer & Management Consultant