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An anti-racism conference is to be held for UK’s theatre and dance sectors.

Jess Young

By Jess Young First Published 1 October 2020, Last Updated 1 October 2020

Presented by Inc Arts 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 Tuesday 3rd, 10th and 24th 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.

‘Speak – Listen – Reset – Heal’ will create a space where voices, experiences and people will be acknowledged, and those empowered to make changes can really listen. Leaders and workers will be equipped with the knowledge and a mandate to move forward and make changes.

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 Amanda Parker (Inc Arts UK). With express permission, some testimonies will be anonymised and shared at the second session, ‘Listen – Reset’ where we 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 Tuesday 6th October at 12pm for all three sessions. Follow the links below to pre-register or to book:

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 Olivier Award winner Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, in partnership with Society of London Theatre/UK Theatre and Tali Pelman (Group Creative Managing Director, Stage Entertainment).

“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”, said Inc Arts UK Director Amanda Parker. “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”.

“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,” said Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, joint project lead.

“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 & UK Theatre Chief Executive.

These sessions will not be available to view after the event as a recording, so all sector workers are encouraged to attend each event on the dates when they occur, as this will be the only opportunity to participate.

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.

In recognition of the issues being discussed attendees can make a voluntary contribution to Inc Arts Minds, a support fund for the emotional wellbeing of the UK’s ethnically diverse theatre and dance workforce.

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