London’s Old Vic Theatre has launched a new way to support employees following claims of inappropriate conduct by former artistic director Kevin Spacey.
The guardians programme aims to offer an alternative to line management and human resources structures and will train staff to act as sounding boards for other employees.
It follows an internal investigation into the conduct of Spacey which saw 20 people come forward with allegations against the actor and director, who was at the London theatre between 2004 and 2015.
Trained to give support and advice, a guardian will act in full confidentiality in circumstances where a criminal offence is not suspected.
Kate Varah, the theatre’s artistic director, said the prorgamme had evolved from a desire to help “reassure people they have a voice”.
“We want everyone to have a way to share their concerns with someone outside of the regular reporting line,” she said.
“Our guardians will actively listen and support, offering confidential advice on options, with discretion and empathy.”
It is expected that between four and six guardians will be appointed before the programme starts in March.
The theatre previouly said it would create a set of conduct guidelines which would split types of behaviour into “OK” and “not OK”.
Circumstances such as one-one-one meetings in isolated locations – and particularly those taking place late at night, outside the theatre premises and involving alcohol, would be subject to particular scrutiny.
When allegations against Spacey surfaced last year, the theatre was criticised for allegedly tolerating the abuse, especially after it was suggested the misconduct was an “open secret”.
Many of the accusations were so serious that complainants were advised to contact the police.
The Old Vic has since said it will establish a “zero-tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment.
“A heartening outcome for us would be other theatres, and sectors, taking the concept of Guardians within their business, and making it their own,” Ms Varah said.