Report on Inc Arts' Anti-Racism Conference 2020
"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
__ James Baldwin
COVID-19 and its impact, the murder of George Floyd in the US, and global lockdown led to a worldwide expression of grief and trauma for people who experience racism in their daily lives. For those who don't suffer from racism, lockdown gave space for learning, and awareness of how one's actions can unwittingly cause racist harm.
In November 2020 3000 of the UK’s creative and cultural sector leaders and workforce attended the Speak-Listen-Reset-Heal anti-racism conference to understand better how racism is experienced in the arts and cultural sector, and how allies can make positive change.
The conference was devised by people with lived experience of racism, and aimed at everyone working in the arts.
The conference took place across 3 sessions. Part 1: Speak-Listen, Part 2: Listen-Reset and Part 3: Reset-Heal.
Thank you to the Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts sector workforce for their invaluable contribution to this work.
Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts sector workers share their experience of racism in the arts sector
hours of testimony: lived experience perspectives about the harm caused by racism.
of the Uk's senior managers listening to the impact of their actions
sector committing to continued learning, and taking anti-racist action.
Over 2 days across October and November 400 Black, Asian and ethnically diverse industry workers met in a series of zoom meetings, to share in a safe and confidential space their experiences of racism in the sector.
The highest priority was given to supporting the emotional wellbeing of all attendants; each session was staffed by a team of psychotherapists and counsellors, provided by Chanua Health Services, Liverpool. Attendants were able to book 1-1 sessions in advance or request a session with a counsellor at any time during and immediately after the meeting.
The creation of a confidential, supportive space was vital. All attendants respected the social media blackout that was a condition of attendance. Attendants were invited to give testimony anonymously and separately from the zoom platform, or directly to Inc Arts if they preferred.
Black Lives Matters brought into sharp focus individual and collective responsibility for anti-racist action. Black people in particular were frequently overwhelmed by enquiries from white peers eager to make change.
The next part of the conference was Listen-Reset. It gave Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts sector workers a way of witnessing their white peers’ further learning, without the burden of exposition resting on any individual.
It gave the wider arts sector leaders an opportunity to gain deep understanding of how racism manifests itself in the sector. Because we respect the dignity of everyone, all testimony was anonymised, removing all reference to any individual or organisation.
Thank you to the actors who read the anonymised testimonies shared in session 1.
The session began with a series of guided listening prompts. It is extremely challenging to hear racist harm, and difficult to accept one's part in causing harm. The guided listening framework gave practical steps for attendants to manage the emotional load of hearing harrowing testimony, accept complicity and move towards a place of taking positive action.
Read on for excerpts from the testimony shared in session. All have been reproduced with the kind consent of the speakers.
Feedback from attendants spoke of catharsis for those of lived experience of racism, greater understanding for allies, and an overwhelming desire from all: for action that is specific, measurable, transparent and holds us all to account.
Unlock is a way for the sector to take collective action. It removes the burden of change from those who experience racism, and gives practical advice for allies on how to take positive action.
Read on for examples of feedback...
Speak-Listen-Reset-Heal was made possible by the generous support of the conference sponsors.
Our Sponsors and Partners
Major Sponsors: SOLT/UK Theatre, Tali Pelman, Dear Evan Hansen, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and Arts Council of Wales.
Sponsors: Community Leisure UK, Creu Cymru, Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, Federation of Drama Schools, Federation of Scottish Theatre, One Dance UK and Theatres Trust.
Partners: Arts Marketing Association (AMA), Independent Theatre Council (ITC) and The Musician’s Union (The MU).