In the last year, we have published articles in solidarity with the latest iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement against systemic racism, and a commitment to outline how Scottish Ballet is working to drive anti-racism in ballet.
Our aims are to become a more visible, active ally to people and organisations who demonstrate a sustained commitment to anti-racism, to actively recruit people who are currently under-represented in ballet, and to reflect, company-wide, on areas that we can progress or improve on. An immediate outcome has been our commitment to working with Gypsy, Roma & Traveller Communities, which came as we reflected on their representation within our film, The Secret Theatre, released in December 2020.
Behind the scenes, the work towards improvement and active allyship is led by our newly formed EDI Steering Group. The group meets regularly to discuss areas of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion through the lens of ballet. While the primary focus is on issues within Scottish Ballet, topics from across the arts and global news are also discussed guaranteeing the group are engaged with an industry and world-view approach to making positive change. The aim of the EDI Steering Group is to discuss, reflect and then, to implement and champion positive change.
The group is formed of seven people from across the organisation, including staff and dancers. Alongside this, the steering group is augmented through two important partnerships. Khaleda Noon and Murid Laly, CEO and Restless Native Manager respectively at Intercultural Youth Scotland; and CEO/Artistic Director of Ballet Black, Cassa Pancho. These partnerships ensure authenticity and rigour as the EDI Steering Group forms the next steps in anti-racist policies and practices at Scottish Ballet.
So, what actions have taken place?
In its first six months, the EDI Steering Group took time to identify principal areas of concern in relation to anti-racism and to discuss how best to make improvements. As a result, the following steps have been taken:
- All staff, dancers and Board members were surveyed to capture where we currently sit in relation to anti-racism, and to understand how people within the company were thinking about engaging with anti-racist practice. The most commonly requested and prominent actions were to deliver company-wide anti-racism workshops, and to develop an anonymous complaints procedure through our People and Wellbeing service.
- Anti-racism workshops have now been delivered for all staff and dancers in partnership with Intercultural Youth Scotland. Acknowledging that anti-racism work is an ongoing process, the sessions so far have been productive and thought-provoking.
- Additional workshops have been led by consultant Davie Donaldson, an advocate for Scottish Travellers, to help the company better represent and promote Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
- Adaptations were made to The Secret Theatre to better represent Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and this consultation is ongoing as we consider how we will bring further positive representation of this community when we re-stage The Snow Queen.
- Industry conversations and partnerships have been created with companies such as Inc Arts, Advisory Board for the Arts and Ballet Black.
- Anti-racism and EDI are now standing agenda items for many team meetings at Scottish Ballet including at the Senior Leadership Group and Board Meetings.
- A new paid internship specifically for a young person who identifies as Black, Asian or a person of colour has been created in partnership with Intercultural Youth Scotland. The person in this role will help evaluate and make recommendations to develop Scottish Ballet’s events and experiences for young people.
- The recent Safe to Be Me™ digital festival showcased the work of young people in Scotland responding to themes of homophobia, racism, ableism, transphobia, bigotry and family diversity (in line with key Scottish Government targets). We engaged 23 artists from a range of backgrounds including dancers from within the company, delivering 90 live workshops and talks to over 2,529 school pupils across Scotland, and reaching over 265,000 people worldwide. Safe to Be Me™ is a core strand of our Engagement programme and will continue to expand.
There is still a huge amount of work to be done and our next steps will include:
- Setting up a platform for anonymous complaints and reporting incidents of racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and other forms of bigotry, to help better protect our staff and dancers.
- Creating a paid role within the organisation, solely focused on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
- Updating our policies in partnership with Intercultural Youth Scotland as a case study of good practice to be presented to the Scottish Government.
- Launching a podcast that includes frank discussions on our company heritage and the challenges of addressing racism within the ballet industry.
- Engaging with the arts media to develop more paid opportunities for young writers of colour to access and critique the dance sector.
We will continue to work in consultation with community leaders and partners, and will remain open and transparent, as we journey to align the whole organisation in the practice of anti-racism.