To radically transform the West Midlands arts and culture sector.
Galvanised by Black Lives Matter, there is universal acknowledgement from across the region’s arts and cultural sectors that much work needs to be done to make organisations truly reflective of our communities; in leadership, in governance, in programming and audiences.
The time for action is now. During June 2020, a small working group including Black* artists and leaders from arts organisations in the West Midlands, worked together to design More Than a Moment: Action with and for Black creatives – a programme of radical listening, reflecting and revision.
This programme is intended to bring the sector together with Black* artists, employees, changemakers and communities, to co-create a pledge for radical and permanent change, and holding organisations accountable for driving this change.
Our initial focus is the Black creative workforce, with the aim to create a sector that is equitable and inclusive for all.
This process is intended to be the first step in a movement to reinvent a West Midlands arts sector which is truly representative of society as a whole, which is built around the conviction that art and creativity are for everyone.
If you are truly committed to radical change in how the sector operates, we now ask you to be part of this process, and to come to it with an open heart and spirit of generosity.
* We have adopted the Black Ticket Project‘s definition of ‘Black’: as of Black African, Caribbean, Afro-Latinx and African-American heritage, including those of mixed-Black heritage who identify as such.
Phase One – Radically Listening – Online Research
Before we can look forward, we must look back. We must truly listen and understand what isn’t working so that we know what needs to change.
This process starts with listening to and understanding Black artists and Black members of the creative workforce, about the challenges they face when working (or trying to work) in the sector.
We are hugely grateful to Theatre-maker and Producer Elizabeth Lawal who has created a form for anyone who wishes to share their experiences anonymously.
If you would like to write about your experiences you can fill in the form here, and please also share the link widely to reach as many people as possible. We recognise that there is significant emotional labour involved in reliving your experiences in this way, particularly during this period of deep trauma, and we are truly grateful to everyone who feels able to do so.
This form is an integral part of the process which will be used to tangibly hold arts leaders and cultural organisations to account.
We are asking leaders of all arts and cultural organisations in the West Midlands to send a link to this form to every Black member of staff, and every Black artist and freelancer with whom you or your organisation have worked in the last five years, and to let us know when this has been done, as well as how many people the link has been sent to.
In addition, we ask white and non-Black colleagues to continue to develop their own personal understanding about racism, white privilege and allyship – and to be honest with themselves about how their actions, (or lack of action), processes or beliefs may have contributed to perpetuating inequality in the arts. There are many excellent resources available online to support with this work, and the team at Beatfreeks have put together a fantastic reading list which you may like to use a starting point.
Phase Two – Radically Listening* – Holding Space for Black Artists & Creative Workforce
23 July 2020 7pm-9pm
A facilitated safe space for Black artists and Black members of the creative workforce only, to give feedback about their experiences in the West Midlands arts and cultural sectors, and talk about the changes they would like to see.
Who should attend?
This session is open to all Black artists and Black members of the creative workforce who feel able to take part, and will be a caring space facilitated by Elizabeth Lawal and Steady Steadman. At this session, there will also be an opportunity for anyone who may wish to put themselves forward to speak at the Phase Three meetings below. This is completely optional.
This is an event for creatives / those who work in the creative sector in the West Midlands, who are of Black African, Caribbean, Afro-Latinx and African-American heritage, including those of mixed-Black heritage who identify as such.
Please register via Eventbrite here>
Phase Three – Radically Listening*, Reflecting & Moving Forward – amplifying Black voices and co-creating change
Choose from 29 & 30 July, & 6 August. 2pm-5.15pm
This is the moment for arts leaders and organisations to commit to transforming the sector.
At each of these three sessions (you only need to attend one date, as they will all follow the same format), Facilitator Jay Crutchley will hold a space for Black artists and members of the creative workforce, selected from Phase Two sessions, to voice their experiences to senior leaders, board members and funders.
In the second part of the sessions, time will be given for artists and creative leaders to separately pause and reflect on what has been said, before coming back together to begin the process of moving forward to co-design a pledge and statement, including tangible actions and a model for holding each other accountable.
Who should attend?
– Chief Executives/Directors plus one senior management team member & one board member of West Midlands arts & culture organisations (max three people per organisation) Please register via Eventbrite here>
* “Radically listening takes what you know about listening and goes one step further. It means dismantling the filters you typically have on when you listen to someone—from questioning to judging—and it means offering a space to let someone express their story wholly, without interruption. It’s trusting someone and letting them own their knowledge and experience.”
Martha Tesema – read the full article>
Phase Four – Finalising the Pledge
Further sessions will be held during August with a smaller group working together to finalise a pledge based on the outcomes of the three Phase Three sessions. The pledge findings and actions will be launched in September 2020.
Phase Five – Implementation and ongoing accountability
September onwards: this will be the beginning of the arts and culture sector in the West Midlands implementing these changes and monitoring progress towards meaningful long-term change.
If you haven’t already done so, please also contribute to the Freedom Fund for Black Artists in the West Midlands. The fund will be used to respond to Black Artists’ individual self-identified immediate needs. MAIA, an artist-led cultural organisation; a platform for creative practice, critical thinking and social change, will use their expertise to manage and distribute the funds.
The More than a Moment working group is made up of:
Amit Sharma, Birmingham Repertory Theatre – Deputy Artistic Director
Chris Sudworth, Birmingham Hippodrome – Director of Artistic Programme
Corey Campbell, Belgrade Theatre Coventry – Co-Artistic Director, Strictly Arts Theatre – Artistic Director and Founder, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – Honorary Member, West Midlands Black Collective – Founder
Doreen Foster, Warwick Arts Centre – Director
Elizabeth Lawal, Culture Central – board member
Erica Love, Culture Central – Director
Pauline Bailey, Black Arts Forum CIC – Co-Founder and Visual Arts Lead, Legacy Centre of Excellence – Freelance Visual Artist, Daughters of Africa Foundation (Gambia) – Co-Founder, Handsworth Creative CIC – Director
Rachael Thomas, Birmingham Repertory Theatre – Executive Director
Reisz Amos, Birmingham Opera Company – Artistic Associate
Richard Willacy, Birmingham Opera Company – Executive Director
Roisin Caffrey, Culture Central – Interim Chair, Stans Cafe – Executive Producer
Sophina Jagot, Transforming Narratives – Project Manager, Yugen Arts – board member, Crown Prosecution Service scrutiny panel – board member
Steady Steadman, Yugen Arts – Artistic Director and Founder, Flawless Entertainment – Co-Founder
Stephanie Brown, Culture Central – Digital Marketing