Our Anti-Racism Promise
Posted on: 14th July 2020
Updated 22 December 2020
On 14 July 2020, Fuel published an ‘Anti-Racism Pledge’. Five months on, we have revisited the pledge as a team, and share some updates here:
The team at Fuel acknowledges the strength and depth of feelings that our Black staff, circle of freelancers, and audiences are experiencing, as well as the urgency of this moment, spurred by the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. We also acknowledge that it is our responsibility to do better in how we work with and for Black theatre makers and audiences in the future, as well as how we improve the representation of Black people across our staff team and board. We take responsibility for historic failings in this, and for ensuring that we make the changes we can to do better in the future. We are here for any conversations about this that we need to have. This work is urgent and an absolute priority for us.
Fuel currently has 17 staff and we have just passed our 16th birthday. We are currently forecasting a deficit budget in the current financial year, as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our programme, and 35% of our staff were on furlough. We have since received a Culture Recovery Fund grant which enables us to remain solvent until the end of March 2021 and all of our team are now back at work after furlough. Some of our ability to affect change in the short-term is affected by these conditions, however, we believe transparency is a starting point for progress and in that spirit, are now sharing data about representation amongst those we work with – theatre makers (freelance), staff and board, as well as actions we will take.
Note: to compile this we have used data gathered for annual surveys requested by ACE during Fuel’s time as an RFO (Regularly Funded Organisation) and then an NPO (National Portfolio Organisation). This is why the categories are as they are: we recognize that they are flawed and are now researching how we can gather better / more inclusive demographic data. The data below defines as follows:
Black = Black African, Black Caribbean, Black British, Any Other Black Background
Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx = White & Black Caribbean/White & Black African/White & Asian/Any Other Mixed Background/Arab/Any Other Ethnic Group
White = White British/White Irish/Gypsy or Irish Traveller/White European/White Other
In the past 10 years:
- 17% of the theatre makers we worked with identified as Black (25% in the last 3 yrs)
- 8% identified as Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx (13% in the last 3 yrs)
- 75% identified as White (61% in the last 3 yrs)
- 49% identified as male; 51% as female (44% male, 53% female, 3% non-binary/prefer not to say in the last 3 yrs)
- 6% identified as disabled (6% in the last 3 yrs)
- 5% of our staff identified as Black (11% in the last 3 yrs)
- 4% identified as Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx (6% in the last 3 yrs)
- 91% identified as White (83% in the last 3 yrs)
- 26% identified as male; 74% identified as female (24% male, 76% female in the last 3 yrs)
- 6% identified as disabled (6% in the last 3 yrs)
And on average:
- 6% of our board identified as Black (9% in the last 3 yrs)
- 4% identified as Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx (14% in the last 3 yrs)
- 90% identified as White (77% in the last 3 yrs)
- 51% identified as male and 49% as female (50:50 in the last 3 yrs)
We have limited data around the breakdown of ethnicities amongst our audience historically, due to most of our audiences booking through venues or third parties who either do not record or do not share data. We have collected this data sporadically ourselves, and share here some information we do have:
- 35% of audiences for Barber Shop Chronicles run at the Roundhouse in 2019/2020 identified as Black or Black British. 6% identified as Asian or Asian British.
- We know that in 2019/2020, 44% of our audience were first-time bookers so we are able to reach new audiences, and when we have focused on reaching Black audiences, we have managed to improve significantly on venues’ historic figures e.g. in 2019 at Manchester RET, Barber Shop Chronicles received the highest proportion of new attendees to the theatre for any production since 2011 (34.6%) and from the post-show surveys 15.5% audience members identified as BAME (in comparison with the venue’s previous figure of 5%).
- 32.8% of the artists leading projects we are commissioning/producing identify as Black of which 2.2% identified as disabled, 57.9% as male, 42.1% as female
- 10.3% identify as Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx of which 33% as male, 66% as female
- 56.9% identify as White of which 2.2% identified as disabled, 71.9% as male, 28.1% as female
- 6% of our staff identify as Black of which 100% are male (see update below)
- 12% identify as Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx of which 100% as female
- 82% identify as White of which 30% as male, 70% as female
- 14% of our board identify as Black of which 100% are female (see update below)
- 14% identify as Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx of which 100% as male
- 71% identify as White of which 12% identified as disabled, 38% as male, 62% as female
Our audience data for the current year has been impacted by Covid-19, and we are not yet ready to share data on our online audiences, but we can share that 32% of audiences to Three Sisters (our co-production with the National Theatre) identified as Black, Asian or ethnically diverse; 32% were first time attendees and 22% were under 35.
Actions We Will Take
- We will commission and produce work by Black artists, including work which tells urgent untold stories and histories. We will commission Black artists to create the work they seek to make, without pressure to ‘represent’. In September we announced £50,000 of New Commissions for under-represented artists. Of the 10 headline commissions, 7 went to Black artists, all of whom proposed their own ideas. Many other Black artists were commissioned by Fuel as part of Signal Fires, Fly The Flag, and the rest of our programme.
- We are holding regular meetings with our community of freelancers focused on addressing racial injustice in our work and the wider sector. We will continue to hold this space and support the work that they are initiating in this area, in particular endorsing and acting on the recommendations in their Manifesto to Create a Safe Space, Free of Racism, for the Black Artist. Fuel has supported three artists financially and practically to continue work on the Manifesto which has now been shared with a huge range of freelancers and organisations and will be published early in 2021.
- This work will include working with this community of freelancers and staff to create a more actively transparent and visible process for anyone working with us to raise experiences of structural racism, discrimination, micro-aggressions, and injustice. This ‘justice system’ will build upon existing grievance procedures but go further and deeper to address their failings. We have reviewed our own Equality and Inclusion and Anti-Bullying Policies with this in mind, as a team, and with our Board. We are in the process of reviewing our Equality and Inclusion Action Plan as a team: it will be reviewed at our March 2021 Board meeting.
- We will share learning from our experience of touring shows led by Black artists/companies with our current team to ensure that everyone working at Fuel has access to and understanding of what we have learned in the past, and with other touring companies, so that we can act together against the racism which Black theatre makers regularly experience on tour in the UK. This work will include creating an Anti-Racism Tour Rider with freelancers and other touring companies. We have been working with the 30+ companies who are members of the Producing/Touring Companies group on an Anti-Racism Touring Rider, which will be made available early in 2021. We have new team members starting in January 2021 so we are planning to share some of our learning from these conversations and our past work again as a team early in 2021.
- We are in the process of seeking membership of Stage Sight, aiming to contribute our learning around recruiting for and working with Black creatives, production, and stage managers, and to learn more about how we can implement new, practical ways to increase representation in offstage roles. We are now members of Stage Sight and working with them both as an individual company as well as planning some wilder collaboration with the Producing/Touring Companies group.
- We will include in contracts that all partner venues need to work with us to gather data around the breakdown of the ethnicities of our shared audiences and participants, and to share that data with us. We will ask ACE to make gathering and sharing this a funding requirement. Where we are working without a venue partner, we commit to gathering this data ourselves and sharing it. This work will also enable us to set meaningful and intelligent targets going forwards. The pandemic has slowed our rate of production, but we are taking this opportunity to review our contracts to strengthen clauses around data collection as above. This is also referenced in the Anti-Racism Touring Rider, which has now been shared with ACE. Our own data collection survey is up with the aspirations here.
- We will continue our commitment to offering 10% of all tickets for our shows for free, and to working carefully and committedly with Local Engagement Specialists and partners to ensure that those tickets reach audiences who are under-represented, including Black communities wherever we present work. We have committed to extending this pledge across our 2021 programme, including digital work where it is not already free.
- We will continue to push for Black-led work which we produce to be presented to Black audiences across the UK, including building on our regional venue partnership created to support the tour of Barber Shop Chronicles, in particular working with regional partners on co-commissioning and co-producing work by Black artists from outside London and on engagement activities for local Black audiences and participants of all ages. As always, we will be focused on sharing untold stories and reaching new audiences. This pandemic has slowed progress of collaborations with regional venues, but we have, for example, agreed a co-commission agreement with a key and longstanding regional venue partner for a new project led by a Black artist which will begin development in May 2021 and premiere in 2022.
- We will build on what we have learnt about creating welcoming contexts for Black audiences, looking holistically at the experience of a night at the theatre, from the music in the foyer to the drinks at the bar, from the language in the copy to the images we use to promote the work. We continue to be committed to this and are applying this principle to the development of our online platform as well as our work in live contexts.
- Alongside ensuring equal opportunities for all roles at Fuel and actively widening our recruitment processes to increase representation in applicants, we will ensure that every recruitment process at Fuel involves input from at least one Black panel member. We continue to honour this.
- We will work to ensure that Black people working at Fuel can see progression pathways through our organisation to more senior roles as well as pathways into other organisations. We have formed a new management group who will meet monthly from January. In the run-up to appraisals in February, we will be discussing how we ensure this promise is kept.
- We will work with funders and partners to create new models for new roles within our team, which we pledge to recruit for as soon as resources allow. We are not yet able, due to the financial consequences of the pandemic, to recruit any new permanent members of the team, but we are delighted now to be working with four freelance producers on a fixed-term basis, three of whom are Black.
- We will continue to work with partners to create opportunities for paid internships and work experience for those currently under-represented in the arts sector, including young Black people. We have been hesitant about offering internships during remote working, but we are currently hosting our first remote intern on a trial basis. We will evaluate this and if/when we are confident we can continue, we will seek to extend this offer. We are talking with industry colleagues about different ways to fund paid internships including the Creative Careers Academy run by Somerset House, which we have been a host organisation for in the past, and the government’s new Kickstart scheme.
- We will hold unconscious bias training regularly (minimum of annually)and include it in our induction processes. We undertook unconscious bias training as a team (staff and board) this autumn. We are also reviewing this aspect of our pledge with a group including our Associate Scientist (an expert in unconscious bias), a board member, and four freelancers.
- The board is committed to joining the staff for unconscious bias/anti-racism training sessions soon and regularly, as well as embarking on their own self-education. The board attended unconscious bias training with the staff.
- We are in the process of inducting new board members who will bring skills and expertise identified in our recent skills audit, as well as increasing representation of Black people at board level. We are pleased to have appointed Nadine Benjamin to join our board, bringing the representation of Black people on our board to 18%.
- We recently held a dedicated board meeting to work together on this anti-racism pledge. The next step for this work is to create an Anti-Racism Policy and Action Plan, which we will do alongside reviewing our Diversity Policy, both of which we will report against and revisit at board meetings. We have completed a review of our Equality and Inclusion Policy (formerly Diversity). Our Equality and Inclusion Action Plan (including Anti-Racism) review is in process in advance of the March 2021 board meeting.
- The board is committed to revisiting our purpose as an organisation and to challenging each other at board meetings, to ensure that this pledge is upheld.
- This continues to be the case. The board has introduced a board ‘buddy’ system to welcome new trustees, and there are two working groups meeting between board meetings to give more space for deeper conversations.
- The board will include upholding and sharing Fuel’s anti-racism work as part of their role as advocates for Fuel’s work in the wider sector, as well as bringing learning and perspectives from outside Fuel in this area to enable us to make better, faster progress. This continues to be the case.
- We will use influence where we have it in the sector to push for greater representation and transparency. At present this work is focused in our work with the Producing/Touring Companies and around the Freelance Task Force, as well as in the day-to-day work of all team members.
- We will develop, adopt, and advocate for improved categorisations in quantitative data gathering around ethnicity, as well as improving methodologies around the capture and sharing of quantitative data. We recognise the challenges in how to achieve this, and that many others across our sector are also working on this. We will continue to raise the question with ACE and be part of advocacy for improved practice.
- We are working towards the creation of a peer review group with other producing/touring companies to work together to make a greater and faster change in our sector collectively than we can achieve on our own. This is in progress – an initial meeting was held, and we are looking to create smaller groups to take this forward in 2021.
- We will actively challenge racist bias in media and from theatre critics.
- We will honour this promise by writing to the relevant publication/media outlet when we perceive racist bias.
- We will use our influence, where we have it, to contribute to dismantling structural inequalities, and to de-colonising buildings, programmes, and the curriculum. We will honour this promise where we find ourselves with influence in these areas e.g. in our work in schools. We are, for example, currently working on two projects led by Black artists for schools in 2021.
- We will continue to actively listen to Black board members, staff, and artists’ insights into how we can contribute to anti-racism, and to white staff and artists about self-education and active anti-racist ally-ship, and monitor our progress both quantitatively and qualitatively, measuring culture change as well as statistical representation.
- We are working on the best ways to measure these things – this will take some time and perhaps external expertise.
This pledge focuses on the representation of Black people. We recognise that people of other colours and backgrounds also suffer from forms of racism and prejudice. We will work to ensure learning from this work feeds into action plans to combat this racism and prejudice in ways that are specific to each particular experience. We also understand that recognising intersectionality is key to progress.
In a year’s time, we aim to share what we have learnt in a transparent and constructive way.
*We have not shared data on class/socio-economic background for the last 10 years as we did not begin to collect that data until 2019/20. We are working on this and will report on that separately soon. We recognise the need for greater representation of class/socio-economic background in our workforce and in the sector as a whole.
*The Theatre Call to Action asks what level staff work at: currently the 6% of our staff who identify as Black work at senior management level, on permanent contract and the 12% who identify as Mixed/Arab/Other incl Latinx work at ‘officer’ levels, 50% on permanent contract and 50% on fixed-term contract. Four new freelance team members are joining us on fixed term contracts, three of whom are Black.