South East Dance’s commitment to anti-racism
In June 2020, following the tragic events that led to anti-racist protests globally, like many arts organisations across the world we expressed our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Since then, we have paused to reflect on what solidarity with this movement means for South East Dance and to take an honest look at our make-up, our ways of working and at how we can use our influence to create change.
As a result, we want to articulate our commitment to combating racism with a renewed energy, with a focus on a clear four-step plan that addresses which artists we support, the way we offer support, the way we recruit, and the policies that will shape us as an organisation.
As a leader in dance development, dedicated to challenging perceptions of what dance is, who it’s for and what it can achieve, inclusivity is one of our core values. We believe that diversity in all its forms is an essential building block for creativity. We absolutely recognise however that despite our ongoing efforts to increase equality, diversity and inclusion in dance, the representation of Black artists and people of colour in our programme, our volunteers, team and board has not been significant enough and we take full responsibility for that.
We recognise that we, and the UK dance sector as a whole, need to address the structural racism built into our organisations and acknowledge the impact this has on artists, colleagues and the many different communities we work with. We therefore need to challenge ourselves first in order to dismantle the assumptions and attitudes within our own organisation that might perpetuate these inequalities.
This challenge also means renewing our pledge to leading and creating that change in the dance sector and wider society and committing to being actively anti-racist ourselves.
Our efforts to address the climate emergency and tackle social inequalities - including the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, disability and class - connect with this crucial work too.
However, we are aware that simply making a statement isn’t enough. In order to dismantle structural racism inside and outside our organisation, we need to take sustained and measurable action. And sustained action takes stamina. We know we need to build a more robust organisation with the courage that’s required to challenge the status quo. We will do this critical work by embarking on a four-step plan:
1. In 2019/20, 25% of the artists we supported through our Artist Development and Participation Programmes were Black and people of colour. From 2020/21 onwards, we commit to ensuring we offer a minimum of 30% of all artist development, programming and presenting opportunities to Black artists and artists of colour.
2. We will reshape our Artists Advisory programme through consultation to ensure it specifically addresses the needs of Black artists and artists of colour.
3. We will review our recruitment processes to ensure our job advertising reaches and actively encourages a diverse range of candidates and that our selection process enables those candidates to present themselves to their best advantage.
4. We will reaffirm our zero tolerance of harassment and bullying, continue to build on existing policies, and introduce mandatory anti-racism training for the team and board, alongside our existing and ongoing unconscious-bias training led by Mel Larsen and Ishreen Bradley.
We are holding ourselves accountable to this plan and will be publishing outcomes and learnings every year in our Annual Report; a public document available at the Charities Commission website. The first update on this progress will be available from February 2021.
We are learning, listening and ready to change. And we welcome further conversation about this statement.
Rachel Gibson, Executive Director and Cath James, Artistic Director