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Anti-racism conference announced for UK theatre and dance sector

Inc Arts UK will present a fully accessible online series this November

Inc Arts UK and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
© right, Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

An anti-racism conference for the UK's theatre and dance sectors will run in November 2020, it was announced today.

Inc Arts UK will present a fully accessible online series, Speak – Listen – Reset – Heal. The conference will take place on Tuesday 3, 10 and 24 November and aims to tackle systemic and structural racism in the theatre and dance sectors through authentic, constructive and direct dialogue between senior leaders and the diverse workforce, artists and organisations that interact with them.

The initiative has been created and is 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 the actor Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.

The first session, Speak and Listen, is open to Black, Asian and ethnically diverse industry workers, a safe space to share honest experiences, and will be facilitated by Parker. With express permission, some testimonies will be anonymised and shared at the second session, Listen – Reset, which will focus on 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 change, with the organisers encouraging senior management, decision-makers and board members from all areas of the sector to come with an open mind.

Parker comments on the conference, "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. 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."

Holdbrook-Smith adds, "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."

Speak – Listen – Reset – Heal will be hosted in partnership with Society of London Theatre/ UK Theatre and Tali Pelman, the group creative managing director of Stage Entertainment. Major sponsors include the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and Arts Council Wales. Other sponsors include Community Leisure UK, Creu Cymru, Federation of Scottish Theatre, One Dance UK and Theatres Trust. The conference supporter is Independent Theatre Council, with more sponsors and supporters 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.

Registration opens on 6 October at 12pm for all three sessions. Follow the links below to pre-register or to book:
Session 1: Speak and Listen
Session 2: Listen and Reset
Session 3: Reset and Heal

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