An anti-racism conference for the UK’s theatre and dance sectors is taking place in November 2020, presented by Inc Arts UK in partnership with Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre.
‘Speak – Listen – Reset – Heal’ will be a fully accessible online series, taking place on 3, 10 and 24 November.
Acknowledging systemic and structural racism in the performing arts, the conference aims to effect real changes through authentic, constructive and direct dialogue between senior leaders and the diverse workforce, artists and organisations that interact with them. The organisers want the theatre and dance sectors to reach their fullest potential by enabling honesty and courage – rebuilding now for an equal, inclusive and achievable future.
This initiative has been created and led by Amanda Parker of diversity collective Inc Arts UK (which champions the creative, contractual and economic rights of the sector’s ethnically diverse workforce) and the actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, in partnership with Society of London Theatre/UK Theatre and Tali Pelman (group creative managing director, Stage Entertainment).
Inc Arts UK director Amanda Parker said: “To make positive progress in the sector, it’s vital that we share what’s really happening, and what’s really happened for the ethnically diverse workforce. This Conference will allow for historic hurts to be acknowledged, lived experiences shared and collectively owned, and for us in the sector to hold ourselves accountable.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to do something radical, challenging and wonderful together: to speak our truths, listen, and together create the conditions of change in the sector that will rebuild and reset with inclusion at the core.”
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, joint project lead, said: “Nobody in our line of work does anything good completely alone. Everybody, at whatever ‘level’ but especially leaders and deciders, I urge you to attend and engage with this movement towards real inclusion and collaboration. Transparency about mistakes, difficulties and discomforts is the beginning of building our best. Together.”
In solidarity and support a range of industry bodies have come forward to support this conference as partners. major sponsors are SOLT/UK Theatre, Tali Pelman, Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and Arts Council Wales.
In addition, sponsors of the conference are Community Leisure UK, Creu Cymru, Federation of Scottish Theatre, One Dance UK and Theatres Trust.
The Conference supporter is Independent Theatre Council. More sponsors and supporters are to be announced in the coming weeks.
“As a sector we have not done enough in the past to facilitate sufficient change. We support this conference and its approach as it creates a safe and supportive space for these conversations to happen. Given the extraordinary challenges the sector is facing at present, here is an opportunity for us to unify, strengthen and create a clear path for mutual understanding and future work” said Julian Bird, Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre Chief Executive.
The first session, ‘Speak & Listen’, is only for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse industry workers. This will be a safe space to share honest experiences, and will be facilitated by Parker. With express permission, some testimonies will be anonymised and shared at the second session, ‘Listen – Reset’ where attendees will hear about direct experiences of how racism works in the theatre and dance sectors.
The second and third sessions are open to anyone in the sector interested in meaningful changes, and the organisers encourage senior management, decision-makers and board members from all areas of the sector to come with an open mind. Registration opens on 6 October 2020 at 12pm for all three sessions.