Arts schools offered ‘plus-size inclusivity training’ to tackle ‘fatphobia’

Ruth Anna Phillips, is a 'plus-size director' who runs workshops to address 'anti-fat bias'
Ruth Anna Phillips, is a 'plus-size director' who runs workshops to address 'anti-fat bias'

Theatres and drama schools have been offered “plus-size inclusivity training” to tackle “fatphobia” and help the industry become “more inclusive for bigger bodies”.

Ruth Anna Phillips, a “plus-size director” who runs workshops to address “anti-fat bias”, told The Stage earlier this month that “one drama school had already agreed to provide the size inclusion training for its staff.”

The training was devised “following research carried out by Ms Phillips, which she said showed that nine out of 10 respondents felt teachers and facilitators should have training on size inclusion”, according to the weekly theatre newspaper.

Ms Phillips is co-founder of Inclusion Collective, an organisation that provides training in “creative wellbeing”, “body positivity” and “inclusive movement”, among other areas. Her website contains resources on “fat activism” – “advocacy for the rights and dignity of fat people, combating discrimination” and “the body consciousness scale”, among other materials.

Phillips said she has been “able to solidify and archive her work” thanks to Arts Council England’s (ACE) “developing your creative practice grant” (DYCP), funded by the National Lottery.

ACE records show she was awarded £10,479 last year, which she used to develop her project “body acceptance and inclusion”.

She has previously run workshops to help “teachers, directors, coaches, movement directors” to enhance their “inclusive practice and allow ALL bodies to be celebrated in [their] work including those, who have often been marginalised and faced stereotyping in theatre”.

On Tuesday, Ms Phillips visited Battersea Arts Centre, where she ran a “focus group for plus-size performers”. Pictures show participants engaged in a writing exercise, followed by pieces of paper with words on them such as “curvaceous”, “burly”, “fat”, “stocky” and “portly”.

Ruth Anna Phillips, a 'plus-size director' has received funding to address 'anti-fat bias'
Ruth Anna Phillips, a 'plus-size director' has received funding to address 'anti-fat bias'

The National Lottery has subsidised other projects promoting body positivity, such as “the body positive project”. In 2016, it awarded £9,000 for “body and self-esteem courses in twenty local primary schools.”


But some critics have questioned the merits of “plus size inclusion” training.

Prof Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist, told The Telegraph: “Public health messages about good lifestyle habits will be wasted by such frivolous projects. Normalising obesity has become fashionable in advertising and the media simply to sell stuff. But it’s got nothing to do with celebrating diversity. Nobody needs to be fat.

“It’s like encouraging risky behaviours such as smoking, driving after a booze up or lying like a lobster on the beach in the sun. A balanced diet and lots of exercise are the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle.

“How can anybody possibly justify these projects? ‘Plus-size inclusivity training’ is just the sort of nonsense that the senior management in the NHS will make part of the ridiculous politically inspired, mandatory training all doctors are now forced to do.

“Please bring back common sense!”

ACE and the National Lottery declined to comment because of election rules.