In June Watershed, alongside organisations across the world, released a statement in response to Black Lives Matter. We understand why these promises of change might have raised more than one eyebrow - speaking in the moment is easy, but sustained action is what is needed.
The commitments we outlined are part of a process we have been on for some years to diversify our programme, staff and culture, but we know that we have more to do. Lockdown was a timely reminder to reflect and re-set, so we can build back up our organisation with intersectional inclusion at its heart.
So, what have we done to action our pledges? The first transformation we have undergone is an emotional one - whilst we have always taken inclusion seriously, we now realise how much work there is to do in terms of culture, strategy, capacity and resources, and that is scary. The temptation is to rush to 'fix things', the real difference will come from considered and embedded actions. We are approaching this by talking about it openly, admitting that we are scared of failure - using this as a motivation rather than a paralysing force.
Recruitment and organisational culture are key to ensuring we live up to our commitments. We want to be an employer where all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation's success.
We have started to look at our recruitment processes, and experiment with approaches to mitigate the inequalities of the sector. We have three roles currently being advertised and are trialling an approach of meeting with all eligible candidates, rather than shortlisting based on personal statements (which we think can reward privilege and confidence). This is going to take a huge amount of time (and may not be sustainable in this form) but we feel it is an important step to try.
For people who have not have worked in the culture sector before and are from backgrounds that are underrepresented (for example people who experience racism, people who did not go to University or had free school meals as a child), we are offering Producer support with applications.
In culture terms, we want to move towards a consistent and clear understanding across all team members about how to BE inclusive. So our inclusion group have authored a set of staff and trustee commitments (or behaviours) which you can read here. All staff members have now attended mandatory training and signed up to them - our next steps are to undertake individual training with teams on how we will put them into practice. We will review them and keep them updated as we learn and grow.
We are also delighted that Jazlyn Pinckney and Tony Bhajam, Inclusion Producers at Watershed, are setting up a space on our website to share and reflect on what works and what doesn't, so that others can access our learning and apply it in their own context.
This work isn't without resource challenge – before lockdown we had earmarked funding to develop an inclusion strategy and training programme, but our funding is now all earmarked for survival. However, I hope that by delivering the work ourselves we will embed the change more deeply, and you will feel we have lived up to the promises we made.
To our audiences, partners and friends of African, Caribbean, South Asian, East Asian and South East Asian heritage - we don't have to tell you who has been hit the hardest by Covid, that the media, government and society is filled with hate speech and that inequality is getting worse. We will continue to use our assets to celebrate and uplift your voices and will do more to support and amplify cultural infrastructure owned and led by people from backgrounds that experience racism and structural inequality in Bristol. As we work things out and through, we may get a few things wrong and we welcome feedback, ideas and challenge. This can be done through the Watershed socials, or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org - a video call or a real cup of tea are also welcome.
We promise we will keep doing the work and sharing our progress, knowing that real change takes serious commitment.