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Kenneth Branagh defends Windsor Fringe Festival in wake of sexism controversy

Tara O'Connor

Tara O'Connor

tarao

Actor and director Sir Kenneth Branagh has leapt to the defence of Windsor Fringe Festival after it was criticised for being sexist.

Last week, the Express reported that Olorunfemi Fagunwa was told a male director would be better for a director role she applied for. The role was part of the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing.

In response the director posted an open letter on her Facebook page entitled ‘when you find out that having a penis makes you a better theatre director’.

This week Branagh, who has starred in several Shakespeare plays, said: “Windsor Fringe have responded swiftly and clearly to important concerns regarding potential discrimination.

“The excellent and inclusive work it has practised and encouraged through this New Drama Writing Award should now continue and I would like to pledge my ongoing financial support in sponsoring the award.”

Following the public outburst from Olorunfemi, the festival posted a public apology on its website.

Ann Trewartha, from the Windsor Fringe, told the Express: “The Windsor Fringe committee have always been a totally voluntary committee, giving our time freely and passionately in promoting new talent, regardless of gender or creed and have always been opposed to any form of discrimination.”

Figures provided by Ann show that from 2004-2015 there have been 21 shortlisted women to 15 shortlisted men, with six men and six women winning overall.

Each year there are three shortlisted plays which are performed over a few nights before the winning play is picked.

Directors over the past 12 years have included 17 men and nine women. Some have worked with the award for two or three years.

Two women and one man have been shortlisted this year, and the Windsor Fringe has clarified that none of the writers specified the gender of director.

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