Shama Rowland

Anti-racism at Sadler’s Wells

Our commitments, progress and plans to continue to address racism at and beyond Sadler’s Wells and work towards a more equal and just future.

Our vision is to create, through dance, a depth of connection beyond borders, cultures and languages so we see ourselves in each other. There is no doubt that playing our part to ensure racial justice and equality is essential for us to achieve this vision.

The last year has brought an overdue acceleration of global anti-racist efforts. This has also been true at Sadler’s Wells. We collaborated as colleagues on the following statements and commitments to guide our work:

  • Black lives matter and we stand united against racism.
  • We acknowledge the pain and injustice caused by systemic racism.
  • We join in solidarity with global anti-racist movements.
  • We know that being anti-racist requires concrete action.

We want to create positive, lasting change through the following commitments:

  • We will actively listen to colleagues, artists and the public to continue to educate ourselves. This work will inform how we update these commitments and future plans.
  • We will increase our support of Black and other People of Colour artists.
  • We will produce, commission, and present work that represents and engages Black and other People of Colour communities.
  • We will further diversify our organisation and address bias (conscious or unconscious) at every level.
  • We will use our position of influence to support and share anti-racist work in dance.
  • We will continue to bring the world together through dance.

In the spirit of transparency, we will continue to update you on our progress and plans to deliver concrete and meaningful action on these commitments.

While these actions aim to address racism, which can affect all People of Colour, we acknowledge that the racism experienced by Black individuals and Black communities is unique. We wish to reflect these realities and this document will refer to ‘Black and other People of Colour’ communities.

We are committed to delivering our broader Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) action plan. However, this update focuses specifically on the anti-racism elements of that plan.

We took action

  • We conducted ‘zesting sessions’ led by Sour Lemons; an organisation dedicated to dismantling systemic racism in the arts. These sessions were a starting point for colleagues and our Board to see what systemic barriers may be affecting the people working at Sadler’s Wells, who holds power and how equity is disseminated throughout the organisation.
  • We have also engaged the inclusion-focused consultancy Creative Equals to run listening sessions with all our colleagues. This will consist of Safe Spaces for Black and other People of Colour colleagues to listen and share their lived experiences in the workplace. There will also be a wider session for all colleagues to discuss where we’ve come from, and what the future looks like for racial equality. This will inform the next steps in our journey to become an actively anti-racist organisation.
  • We commissioned and presented artistic responses to the Black Lives Matter movement including Anthony Matsena’s work for the stage Shades of Blue, and the film Our Bodies Back directed by Jonzi D and written by jessica Care moore.
  • Through an organisation-wide process, we selected ‘inclusion’ as one of our core organisational values to sit alongside ‘excellence’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘innovation. These values guide our work and decisions.
  • We have interrogated the language we use. We have stopped using the terminology of ‘Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME)’ and instead are using ‘Black and other People of Colour’. Part of our work with Creative Equals will include revisiting this decision to reflect how our colleagues choose to identify.
  • All employment policies are being reviewed and updated to make them more accessible and relevant, ensure that they support our anti-racist objectives, and lay out clear procedures for raising and addressing issues.
  • We will carry out Equality Impact Assessments to ensure our policies, practices and decisions support organisational priorities, and are not discriminatory.

We put structures in place

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Group: This is a long-standing structure at Sadler’s Wells. We have increased its membership, redefined its purpose, and made its meetings more frequent. Objectives include meeting our anti-racism commitments. The group engages external speakers into the organisation to share their experiences and expertise. It also works on the procurement of external consultancy services to support our anti-racism work.
  • Anti-racism Volunteer Group: This is a collection of colleagues who have volunteered to meet on a regular basis to form an open space for conversation, reflection, learning and the sharing of lived experience.
  • Racial Equality Task Force: This is a group comprised of artists associated with Sadler’s Wells who meet on a regular basis to discuss, share knowledge and collaborate on anti-racist activity, particularly in relation to our artistic programme.
  • Head of People and Inclusion: We changed the role of Head of People to Head of People and Inclusion. The new appointee will undertake diversity assessments of wider organisational practices and processes. They will create positive action interventions to support under‐represented groups.

We are working towards concrete targets

As part of our planning as an organisation, we have set ambitious targets to support our anti-racism work. Here we highlight two of these targets.

Colleagues

  • We value and respect diversity of thought and lived experience.
  • However, we acknowledge that some communities are underrepresented across the sector and within our teams.
  • Using the most recent Census data as a reference, we are working toward diversifying our overall workforce. One key area of focus is that we have set an inclusion target to increase the representation of People of Colour at Senior Management level from the current 7% to 20% in the next three years.

Artists

  • We will allocate at least 30% of available commissioning funds to People of Colour artists in the next two financial years.
  • We will review how successful this action has been in increasing representation to inform commissioning targets thereafter.
  • By comparison, commissioning funds allocated to People of Colour artists in our in-person programme were 11% of funds in the 19/20 financial year and 19% of funds in the 20/21 financial year.
  • We will put more robust processes in place for gathering data from commissioned artists. This will ensure we have an accurate picture to inform decision-making.

We’re being transparent

  • Last summer, we published data for our workforce, in response to the #pulluporshutup campaign. We have now updated that data in a three-year picture here.
  • We will continue to update on this work and our progress toward targets on no less than an annual basis, with the next update coming in August 2022.

We thank our colleagues and collaborators who have taken part in this work, including the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group, Anti-racism Volunteer Group, Racial Equality Task Force, Sour Lemons and Creative Equals, all of whom are helping to guide, shape, and drive this important work.

We welcome your feedback. Please do email anti-racism@sadlerswells.com with your thoughts or suggestions.