For the last year Contact has redoubled efforts to become an anti-racist organisation. We posted our progress in this blog page in Autumn 2020, and the following is an update of our activity for Spring/Summer 2021, including updated staff and board diversity data.
We accept that the upsurge of awareness of systemic and systematic racism within our sector urgently needs to move to action and change. We accept that responses to structural inequality require structural change, and organisations need to reflect on the fundamental underpinning of what they do and why.
First and foremost, we are in the process of developing our governance model to better reflect the life experiences and cultures of our key stakeholders: young people, local communities and early career artists.
GOVERNANCE & TRAINING
In light of the global health pandemic, a focus on anti-racism and the growing climate emergency, our staff, trustees and young people recently refreshed Contact’s Vision, Mission and Values. This gives a more focused aim to change UK culture, and the explicit inclusion of anti-racism in our values. These are used in staff recruitment and annual appraisals, and to evaluate our work as a values-led organisation. You can find details here.
We have continued to diversify the backgrounds of our board of trustees to better reflect the life experiences of our participants. For the last 25 years, we have had a minimum of two young people join our Board, and we recently appointed a Chair under 30, Junior Akinola, and two more young trustees, Faidat Ope and Ali Wilson. We are currently over 50% young trustees under 30. At year-end, 44% of our Trustees were Black, Mixed Heritage or South Asian.
Read our blog announcing Junior as our Chair here.
Our colleague Keisha Thompson has developed a two-day in-house anti-racism training package, you can read her blog about that here. This was delivered by Keisha and a group of young facilitators. All staff attended this mandatory training, and we are now delivering it for other organisations. Our 4 staff working groups look at anti-racism in the areas of Recruitment, Policy, Training and Language, and continued to meet throughout the year.
Staffing & Recruitment
Our recruitment working group has reviewed job descriptions, role adverts, candidate scoring and interview processes, and we are now working with IncArts as consultants on the recruitment of two key roles: Heads of Finance and Marketing.
While our staff are from a wide range of racial, cultural and economic backgrounds, recruitment at senior level remains the focus for succession planning and recruitment. Our business plan will set demographic targets for representation across departments, based on city data.
Contact’s programme is consistently rated Outstanding for Arts Council England’s Creative Case. We will seek to do more to represent our communities through supporting a broad range of artists as guest programmers and curators, and facilitating local communities to select programming and productions.
In Spring 2021 we launched Something to Say, a new book created by two participants on our Agency programme to highlight positive stories from Manchester-based black voices aged 13-21. Our Monday Mic Night music video series has platformed our diverse music programme across 8 weeks, and is taking over the Homeground outdoor stages in July.
Our Summer public programme included Queer Contact Festival programmed by a diverse range of guest curators (feat Mandla Rae, Adam Ali, Roma Havers, Mark Croasdale, Melz, Cheddar Gorgeous and Deanz). This was followed by Contact Young Co and HighRise’s Saturnalia; A Home for Grief by Fabiola Santana; House of Suarez and Contact Vogue Ball; CommonWealth’s Peacophobia; and Looking Forward to Tomorrow, a programme of talks and panels for Manchester International Festival selected by local residents to explore equality, black joy and sustainability.
In consultation with young people and inspired by the IncArts BAME Over work we have been looking at the use of language in relation to race at Contact. Contact will no longer be using the BAME acronym and will instead be using specific language to describe what we mean when talking about race. The work of the language group is being used in the development of a tone of voice document by the marketing and communications team that will be used across the organisation.
The policy task group have begun the task of rewriting Contact’s policies to make them actively anti-racist as well as starting the process of creating an anti-racism policy. This work will be ongoing over the next year due to the number of policies that need to be changed.
The target for Contact’s Board makeup to reach 50% under age 30 was met in April 2021.
Our ambition for staffing to reflect the wider city’s demography is feeding into Contact’s business planning for 2021-2025.
DATA AND REPORTING
From 1st April 2021 we have changed how we collect ethnicity data to give young people, staff, artists and audiences the opportunity to identify with more specificity than is currently collected for reporting purposes. The following data is for financial year 2020/2021, when we were operating remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a reduced staff team and artistic programme and follows our previous model of data collection based on funder reporting requirements.
Contact Board of Trustees (at 31 March 2021)
White British 56%
White and Asian 11%
Any other Mixed background 11%
Black/Black British (African) 22%
Contact Staff (at 31 March 2021)
|Specialist Staff||Managers||Other Staff||Total|
|Any other White background||2||1||10%|
|White and Black Caribbean||1||3%|
|White and Black African||0|
|White and Asian||0|
|Any other Mixed background||0|
|Any other Asian background||1||3%|
|Any other Black background||0|
|Any other ethnic group||0|
|Prefer not to say||2||7%|
Due to the pandemic and the level of staff furlough throughout 2020-21, we do not have up to date diversity data relating to supported artists.
Read Keisha’s blog on how she developed and delivered Anti-racism training for us here.