The Footlights have been at the centre of a controversy concerning representation within Cambridge comedyIsobel Hedley

The Cambridge Footlights have revealed that ex-president Ruby Keane was asked to resign due to concerns by the rest of the committee, prior to her formal resignation last week.

In an email announcing her resignation to the Footlights mailing list last Wednesday, Keane said that her decision was made due to moral concerns about the committee’s decision not to implement a new voting system for the upcoming election of next year’s committee.

The Footlights committee today released a statement refuting that claim, saying that they “cannot acknowledge her resignation as one of protest”.

“Ruby was asked to resign as President by the rest of the Committee due to, among other things, concerns about her misuse of the role of President and her management of the society following a serious incident which could have resulted in the dissolution of the Footlights’ assets in their entirety,” they said.

In a statement to Varsity, Keane said that the committee’s allegations were “a needless deflection of the issues at hand, and the current committee's failure to implement the open voting system that was discussed at the BME open meeting”.


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She said the “serious incident” referred to a miscommunication between the University proctors, the committee, and the senior treasurer of the society – who is not a committee member – which briefly resulted in the Footlights being deregistered as a society.

She added: “The current committee are aware of the unavoidable nature of the financial issues we faced at the end of term, and I have email proof that neither myself, nor the Vice President, could have acted any differently to avoid them.

“As these financial issues were solved within a day, and the society was re-registered immediately, the current committee mentioning this in conjunction with the upcoming reforms is therefore, again, a deflection of the issues at hand,” she said.

Keane further contested the committee’s claims concerning her leadership, saying: “They have also failed to mention that they believed I should step down because I was ‘reckless’ in suggesting the changes to the committee structure, and I was wrong to offer places at the Footlights Arts Theatre show to second-year comedians ‘without audition’, even though half of the current committee chose to attend the CUADC dinner rather than perform in the Arts Shows, and we were left with four committee members who were expected to perform an hour of material.”

Keane said she was keen for the spotlight to return to issues of access in Cambridge’s comedy scene, reiterating her moral commitment to a changed voting system following her public statements in favour of it.

She said: “I have refrained from commenting on specific matters so far, as by turning this into a "Footlights Committee Drama", the committee themselves are detracting from the positive changes that are happening.

“We all believe these changes should happen, there was simply a disagreement over the pace at which they should be implemented. I urge the current committee as well as the student press to either focus on the changes, or speak directly to the non-committee members, female, non-binary or BME comedians who these changes will benefit.”

Discussions about reform of the Footlights committee were triggered by a public incident on Facebook, in which several BME students questioned the lack of BME participation in comedy. It came after the Footlights criticised the Wolfson Howler, a prominent stand-up comedy night at Wolfson College, for having an all-male line-up.


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The incident was followed by a BME open meeting, where a number of proposals were discussed with the intention of widening participation in comedy at Cambridge.

The Footlights’ statement said that they will be implementing a series of measures “designed to make comedy in Cambridge more accessible and more representative”, including a reform of the structure of the committee, which will be called the ‘Footlights Administrative Committee’.

Unlike the current system, in which roles are divided informally after a general committee is chosen, prospective members will instead apply for clearly defined roles. This, the committee argued, will encourage applicants who possess “commitment to making Cambridge comedy a more diverse and inclusive environment” as well as the “administrative and organisational skills” to enforce the new measures.

The Footlights announced that they would be organising college ‘smokers’ and open mic events to encourage participation by newcomers. They said they planned to hold another open discussion around inclusivity next term, and an “informal mingle” with the new committee in a location not associated with Cambridge theatre.

They will not, however, be implementing a voting system to choose next year’s committee; this decision will remain in the power of the current Footlights committee.

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