Changing the Story

The Changing the Story network recently developed a call to action for Nottingham’s cultural sector to share information about their progress towards anti-racist practices.

The network enables Nottingham producers, cultural workers, creatives and artists of colour to support each other, share views and advocate for actions to change Nottingham's cultural and creative sector.

In the spirit of openness and transparency, we wanted to make our response to the call to action public.

Changing the story: A call to action

Responses from Nottingham Contemporary

1. Publish your pledges as a first step. To arrive at your pledges, form a core accountability group of BAME staff, artists and residents; their input is invaluable.

Our anti-racist commitments have been published on our website and are being continually updated as work progresses. As it currently stands, the plan includes: ongoing training for staff and trustees (3 times p/a, starting autumn 2020); a trainee scheme to support access to and progression within the sector; the development of positive and inclusive recruitment; targets for Board representation; and the use of our platforms to publish tools and resources.

The plan will be developed and shaped by staff and Board as they return from furlough leave and will sit with our existing Inclusion Working Group, which has representation across staff teams. They will come together in early October to develop priorities and detailed plans for 2020/21, drawing on our existing action plan and our anti-racist commitments, as well as your call to action. A key action will also be strengthening communications, dialogue and transparency across NC and beyond.

We are reaching out to colleagues who are part of the working group and those who have expressed an interest in contributing, especially people of colour, to check in about how they would like to be involved and how they want the work to develop.

We are also reconnecting with the community research group, Ubuntu (this group was initially formed as part of the “Bigger Picture” research project, to investigate experiences of programming on minority communities). They have been commissioned to help us implement the recommendations from their research. The work was on pause during lockdown, but we are keen to re-start and explore the role they might play in shaping our anti-racist work or helping us be accountable.

2. Recognise that you have more to do to ensure your organisations, festivals and groups are representative of Nottingham. Identify and facilitate the need for change, specifically dismantling the systems of privilege and entitlement.

We recognise that our workforce, Board and audiences are not yet representative of the City, that wider knowledge, skills and perspectives are needed to strengthen our strategic direction, and that there is much more work to do.

An open call for two new board members was published emphasising our anti-racist commitments and our work in tackling inequalities. It specifically encourages applications from people of colour, young people and those with no prior board experience. We have considered support and access as part of the recruitment process and are developing bespoke training and development programme for those appointed. The call was developed with contributions from across the staff team. The open call is now closed.

We plan to deliver an ongoing programme of training for staff and Board that will contribute to significant organisational change and impact on our practices, policies and culture. We are speaking to staff and want to involve them in the development and focus of this training. Areas of focus that have been put forward so far include: unconscious bias, transformative justice, micro-aggressions and colonial legacies. The first session will be delivered this autumn.

3. Publish the demographics of your staff team and how they compare to the demographics of Nottingham. Share your collaborations by publishing a list of BAME creatives you’ve commissioned and the demographics of your programme participants and audiences.

We collect information about the demographics of the staff team, of visitors and participants and exhibiting artists. Some of this data can be found here.

Our audience data for this year shows that 15% of visitors are from Black, Asian and Minority communities, so there is clearly a lot more we need to do. It is important to note, however, that this figure does not record our partnerships with schools, families, young people and communities or our Public Programmes, which are much more representative of the City and have Black, Asian and Minority representation rates of 28–57%. Clearly, this raises a further question about areas of programming and points of connection for people.

We are developing ways to make more data publicly available. We want to make sure that this is done meaningfully and as part of our work towards change, greater transparency and dialogue.

4. Create an inclusive HR strategy and target for addressing diversity at every level, review your values and shared principles and define what you mean by inclusion that sets out clear expectations around behaviour and language.

We’ve been adapting our recruitment practices and have programmes that provide training and experiences in the sector for under-represented groups. As part of our anti-racist commitments we also plan to develop a trainee scheme and discussions are taking place with NTU and arts organisations in the city and region.

However, we recognise a gap in staff development and support. We have started to collect demographic data by teams and organisational structure and are developing work to support wellbeing, including an Employee Assistance Programme. More needs to be done to support progression, provide development opportunities and create a culture of inclusion. We don’t know what this will look like yet, but we’ll be talking with colleagues and are keen to talk and learn from sector.

In early 2019, we worked with staff and Board to revist our values – as set out when we opened in 2009 – and developed a set of definitions. To respond to Covid-19 and be an anti-racist organisation, this work needs to fundamentally develop. In autumn 2020, will be revisiting our values and exploring what they mean in practice.

5. Amplify the voices of Black creatives, organisations and businesses in the city and ensure all your commissioning opportunities are inclusive and representative of Nottingham.

We commit to sharing our spaces and resources and using our platforms to promote people’s work and to publish tools and resources. We are in the process of making our multiuse Gallery Zero space available, free of charge, to individuals and community organisations, prioritising those who are under-represented in museums and galleries, and are also keen to hear from those working outside of the arts.

6. Commit to listening, learning and reviewing your approach through a process of openness and collaboration.

We stand by our commitment to change. This begins with greater transparency around the process, we pledge to listen, learn, campaign and act. This period has highlighted the importance of dialogue with the whole of our staff team and beyond. One of our main tasks and hopes with the return of colleagues from furlough leave is to build stronger relationships and communications and greater levels of involvement. We hope to do so with openness and to be accountable and effective.