2020 has been a deeply challenging time for many people and for many reasons. In May this year, the widely circulated video of the killing of George Floyd (an African Amercian man) by Derek Chauvin (a white police officer) caused global outrage and upset and provoked a powerful reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the time, we chose not to release a statement as so many other organisations did. While sharing the outrage, feeling pain and unequivocally agreeing with the need for us to develop and become an actively anti-racist organisation, we didn’t post anything for the following reasons.
We didn’t want to rush to put out a statement without real substance.
We wanted to take our time to reflect fully with the whole team (permanent staff, board of Trustees, our family of freelancers) on what actions we could meaningfully take.
We didn’t feel that as a small organisation our voice would be heard or make any substantive difference.
We now regret that decision, recognising that a statement of support and solidarity for our Black and Brown colleagues, friends and followers at that time would have been valued. We are truly sorry for our failure in this and, more vitally, for not having more actively stood up against the prejudices, the macro and micro aggressions, the abuse and the barriers to personal and professional development that Black and Brown people systematically experience in our culture and society.
We hope that the following pledges, agreed in conversation with everyone in our company and with support from our excellent friends at Sour Lemons, will be the start to our refreshed and ongoing work to become an actively anti-racist organisation.
• Release and share as broadly as possible a statement (this one) in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
• Significantly develop our Equality Policy and Action Plan to reflect our developed anti-racist values and publish it here.
• Create a new Induction Process for new staff and freelancers that includes a clear description of our anti-racist values and expectations for behaviour. All existing staff, freelancers and board members will also be ‘re-inducted’ as part of our “restarting culture”.
• Work with our network of other Founder/Artist led NPOs and other touring companies to create an anti-racist values statement and process that we share with all external partners (venues, co-producers etc) before entering into commitments with them.
• Ensure that we are not using the acronym “BAME” in any of our messaging/documents/conversations. Further, that we challenge and don’t accept its usage by any of our partners/stakeholders.
“The acronym continues to reduce the identities of victims of white supremacy to a single, three to four-letter abbreviation whilst remaining divorced from the long history of racial subjugation.” Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark quoted in The Lancet
• Commission a Black artist to create a new show through our UNSA project about “race in space” that will be performed by a Black performer with video design by a Black designer/artist. Further, we will recruit and train a Black or Brown early stage producer and technical manager to deliver this project that will tour in Summer 2021 and remain a core element of our ongoing programme.
• Further expand our Board of Trustees to include more people of colour and people from a wider intersectional background.
• Ensure annual ‘unconscious bias’ training is scheduled and that all company members (staff and board members) attend. We will also offer this to our freelancers to attend for free.
We recognise the intersectional scope required to fully address systemic prejudices and how the Black Lives Matter movement connects to other areas of discrimination (disability, sexuality, gender) but these pledges are specifically in response to our work towards becoming an actively anti-racist organisation.
We understand that this is just the beginning of ongoing work required and that these pledges will be added to and require constant development and monitoring. We commit to doing that work, to regularly review our progress and to hold ourselves accountable in implementing all the above and the future pledges we make. We are also continuing to work with our friends at Sour Lemons to help hold us accountable and are thankful for their support – we strongly recommend any of their Enabling Environments workshops/programmes.
In peace, with love and in solidarity,
All of us at Unlimited Theatre.
A non-exhaustive list of influential sites, articles, responses, podcasts, albums, films, essays we’ve read/listened to/watched this year:
Decolonize All The Things (website)
Shades of Noir (website)
The White Pube (undefinable)
Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources (Google doc with LOADS of anti-racist resources)
Pod Save The People (podcast)
Holiday Phillips – (Twitter post on “Allyship”)
Upswing Aerial BLM statement (3min read)
Royal Court BLM statement (3min read)
The School That Tried To End Racism (Channel 4 doc – 47min watch – 2 episodes)
1500 & Counting (YouTube channel)
Have You Heard George’s podcast (the Grenfell episode) – (podcast 27min listen)
Untitled (Black Is) by Sault – (album of the year – buy it here)
Examples of Microaggressions – (2 page doc)
13th – (documentary 1h40m – Netflix)
The Shocking Truth of Racism in British Schools (podcast 30mins)
Stagesight – (website for org working to “create an off stage workforce that is more reflective of our society today, inclusive of ethnicity, class and disability)
Why news organisations move to capitalize ‘Black’ is a win – (Washington Post article – 5min read)
#CultureNeedsDiversity: 6 principles for the arts sector – (5min read)
The Untold Story: Policing – (6 episode podcast)
A statement from a ‘national public cultural institution’: BLACK LIVES MATTER – (3min read)