Black Lives Matter Update

Date Created: 28th Jun 2021

young male dancer carrying another male dancer on his back

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One year on from the publication of our Black Lives Matter statement, we are reflecting on the actions we have taken so far and progress made against our commitments to tackling racism and supporting children and young people, staff, educators and partners who experience racism.

In June 2020 we committed to identifying how we can do more as an organisation to combat racism. We vowed to make the changes needed to ensure addressing racism is at the forefront of our work with children and young people and those who work with them. You can read our Black Lives Matter Statement in full here.

Challenging Ourselves

In the last year we have formed a race equity working group of staff and Trustees which meets monthly. We’ve been reviewing our internal and external policies and programmes to try to make them as open, accessible and welcoming as possible to people who experience racism. Artswork has signed up to Inc Arts ‘Unlock’ toolkit, which suggests over 100 concrete actions that arts organisations can take to make themselves anti-racist, setting up a framework for implementing measurable change. We are also currently in conversation with Black community members, listening to their reflections on our organisation and how we can be more diverse and more inclusive. We have updated our vision, mission and values to reflect our commitment to race equity, and recognise that this will take prolonged and consistent focus from all of us.

We have also been reviewing our data collection practices; what we collect, how and where we collect it, and what we should be collecting that we don’t already in order to ensure we are reaching underserved communities.

Educating Ourselves

Simultaneously, we’re going on a journey of discovery that involves the whole staff team at different points and in different ways. Some of us have undertaken unconscious bias training, and feel that this is just the start of the exploration that we’d like to do together as a team, as well as individual research and education. We have been scoping out our needs for a longer training programme that will take place over six to nine months, which will allow us to reflect as we learn and make continual changes and improvements.

Following discussions in the race equity group inspired by a statement from the Belgrade Theatre and sector-wide debate, we are eradicating the use of the offensive acronym BAME from both external and internal communications. While some organisations have chosen to write this acronym in full, at Artswork we wanted to do more. Our new rules of engagement align with Inc Arts #BAMEOver Campaign and include:

  • Being specific – if you don’t know how a person describes their ethnicity, ask – ‘How do you describe your ethnicity?’ – question why/whether you need to know in the first instance
  • If a collective term of reference is needed then use ‘people who experience racism’, followed by being more specific- make time to understand the terms you use
  • Staying alert to the conversation – language is always evolving and what is acceptable terminology now may change and we must go on this journey together

The word BAME obscured by a big red cross followed by the words 'Nobody wants to be reduced to an acronym. Especially one that is inaccurate.' and the hashtag #BAMEOVER alongside the Inc Arts logo.

Standing up to racism wherever we see it, sharing our learning, promoting anti-racism, equality and diversity in and beyond our networks

Artswork continues to share helpful advocacy material with our networks, such as resources produced for Stephen Lawrence Day and The Black Curriculum along with events and opportunities specifically aimed at artists and creatives from underrepresented backgrounds in our newsletters, on our website and social media channels.

In March 2021 we partnered with the London Theatre Consortium project RinD (Representation in Drama) to host the anti-racism workshop ‘Representation in the Performing Arts’ for South East secondary school teachers. A useful collection of resources from this event can be found here.

In May 2021 we ran a workshop on diversity and inclusion for Cultural Education Partnerships where esteemed artist and activist Euton Daley delivered a powerful call to action. Elizabeth Howard, creative producer and theatre director, also shared the research work of Milton Keynes Cultural Education Partnership (MAKE) in collaboration with Milton Keynes Council looking at how well diverse communities in Milton Keynes engage with arts and culture. You can read their report here: Inclusion and Diversity | Arts & Heritage Alliance MK. We also supported MAKE to work with Shenley Brook End School to run the Milton Keynes Diverse City symposium which included lots of thought provoking input from students.

“Stand for something, or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.”

– Rosa Parks

Looking Ahead

We still have a long way to go on our journey to true, meaningful allyship and would welcome any suggestions or guidance you would like to share with us. Please email info@artswork.org.uk with the subject line ‘FAO Artswork’s Race Equity Group’. We are passionate about challenging and educating ourselves further and look forward to continuing the conversation and strengthening our commitment to anti-racism in all aspects of our work.

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Black Lives Matter Equality and Diversity

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