things to do before we die

we have been asked to organise a series of events that explore what the arts might do to shift some uncomfortable truths around the narrowness of the audience and the workforce of the arts – particularly across the south east of England. I don’t entirely know why we have been asked but there you have it. Having been asked we are determined to run the best events that we can.

in planning the first event i stumbled upon this uncomfortable observation about most events organised around diversity. ‘that entail grabbing every piece of diversity you can find, throwing it at a white wall and seeing what sticks’. God knows, i have been to a few of those events myself. We accept the problem is all of ours and that we need to diversify or die. It would be foolhardy to base a business model on sustaining the arts by focusing on just retaining an ageing, cautious audience. And we completely accept the truth that nothing changes unless those in power give away some of it. What we constantly struggle with is the few practical steps that can be done to make that change happen.

The other dimension to this discussion is class – or socio economics – of the communities we work with. Yes, the South East has a few particularly diverse communities – Slough and Luton for example. But with a very small group of exceptions the BME artists and audiences we are working with don’t come from these places. And there are great swathes of the region like Bognor Regis and Brightlingsea for whom the arts are a foreign country. As my friend Joe says ‘you think i am hard to reach, from where i am sitting you’re hard to reach’.

So here is the ask. If we can do one thing, or three, things to make a difference what should they be. Are there examples of people taking actions that have made a difference – either here or around the world, what pledges can we ask people to consider? Not just in inner cities but in provincial communities in, say, Borden, Bicester and Banbury. Communities that are predominately white, conservative and that we care about.

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