Vicki Arogundade is a member of the ArtReach board of directors and contributes her second blog examining the increased focus on organisations to be truly representative of their audiences and wider society, while considering ArtReach’s history with diversity and inclusion.
This summer organisations across the world have been asking themselves some big questions, to try and figure out if their organisation is truly diverse.
- What does it mean to have a diverse organisation?
- Is it enough to have a representative proportion of individuals with protected characteristics on their staff team?
- Does the organisation’s equal opportunities policy need to be recirculated and re-signed?
- Have they done enough?
These are important questions to ask. Nearly every business holds an equal opportunities policy, anti-discrimination procedure and joined in with expressing solidarity for the BLM movement – yet few can be sure that internal stakeholders would agree they work in a positively diverse environment. Fewer still can demonstrate representation embedded into the infrastructure of the organisation and diversity represented at all levels of the organisation. Most can tick a couple of these boxes, few could tick all of them.
Even today, after reams of policies and statements, it is still hard to find organisations that give equal weight and respect to diverse voices. Yet despite the odds, this is an area in which ArtReach has excelled for years.
The organisation goes to great lengths to elevate the quietest voices, co-producing cultural programmes with diverse communities rather than making commissioning decisions in isolation and making assumptions of what these audiences would like to see and hear. This is underpinned by an organisation that reflects diversity at all levels – from junior staff through to the most senior, from festival performers through to audience members.
This investment in diversity has earnt the organisation a strong rating from Arts Council England in August 2020 in recognition of its contribution to the Creative Case for Diversity.
The ArtReach approach to working in collaboration with diverse communities (such as refugee and asylum seekers) has enabled the organisation to build higher quality festival programmes and create welcoming environments that actually excite audiences. These programmes have consistently attracted large diverse audiences, as well as the support of inaccessible cohorts who are traditionally the hardest to engage in the arts. It speaks volumes that the organisation chose to develop this way of working and embed diversity into its core many years before it became a funding requirement and prior to this summer’s equality protests. It’s an example that goes some way to demonstrating that diversity really is good for business.
“That we are all the same and we need to remember that!”
Does Diversity Matter?
ArtReach has a solid track record of consistently engaging a high percentage of diverse audiences at live events by working alongside communities and co-producing programmes that resonate for these audiences.
“I have had a fantastic time and have been extremely moved by the speakers.”
Working in collaboration with diverse communities avoids common faux pas that have tripped up other well-meaning cultural festivals, Black history month celebrations and Windrush events.
Nuances are missed, cultures get confused and the celebratory events programmed in the absence of members from these communities is glaringly obvious to the members within it. The end results are superficial events that run the risk of insulting the communities they intended to serve.
ArtReach has demonstrated a sensitive approach to cultural content creation and commissioning, which has resulted in the production of higher quality creative outputs, added depth and richer subject matter. When coupled with a talented and dedicated staff team, this has cumulated to create programmes that enthuse local communities, grow the organisation’s profile through word of mouth and build its reputation as a leading national and international cultural festival organiser.
“ Lovely atmosphere, proud to see every age group, ethnicity etc. all coming together”