Wednesday 17 June 2020

We would firstly like to apologise for the delay in providing a written statement to, and for, our members in response to the shocking death of George Floyd, and the wider need to tackle systemic racism. It has been a huge wake-up call that we should be doing more to support racial equality.

We know a number of our members are feeling hurt and angry about Sedos’ lack of response and we are sorry that we have not acted sooner. We do not want to be passive on this issue and have reflected deeply on it, including consulting with members who have expressed strong views on this issue, as well as lengthy and detailed conversations both by the Trustees and the Management Committee. We hope we can reassure you that any delay was not a result of any lack of focus and concern on this issue, but in fact the opposite.

Dawn Harrison Wallace, our Chair, noted at our AGM on 4 June that a number of our members had come to us seeking support and challenging us on what we were doing on this important issue. As Dawn stated:

“In doing so they posed the question: ‘What is Sedos doing and what can we commit to do to play our part?’ They have challenged us perhaps in a way we’ve never been challenged before. To those members I thank you for your honesty and frankness.”

Dawn’s full statement at the AGM is set out below. We accepted the challenge posed by our members and have spent significant time thinking in practical terms what we can do. We have developed a Commitment to Change as well as developing initial steps that we can take. We have also set up an Action Group to ensure continued focus on this area.

In the words of Artists Against Racism, we accept that it is time for us to “take the note” and recognise how white privilege operates in amateur theatre. In doing so, we take ownership of how we have got things wrong, and commit to making meaningful change in fully playing a role in the Black Lives Matter drive for equality.

Our Commitment to Change

We acknowledge that as an organisation that states that we value diversity and inclusivity, we need to spend time thinking hard about the system in which Sedos operates and the practical steps we can take to make Sedos truly reflective of the society within which we live.

We know that we want to be fully inclusive in terms of race, gender, sexuality, disability, faith, age and socio-economic background, but we also know that we have a long way to go to get there.

We know we need to change and today we make a commitment to do so.

We have listened to the concerns raised by our members and understand that this change needs to be led by Sedos as a whole and not just by black, Asian or minority ethnic members.

To this end, the Trustees and Management Committee have committed to a series of immediate actions which are shared below and have set up an Action Group to ensure continued focus on this issue – this group includes representatives of the Trustees and the Management Committee and we are opening up the invitation to encourage other members to join us in this vital task.

It is important to us that this group represents the diversity of our membership – race, sexuality, gender identity, socio-economic background and age. However, the immediate priority for this group will be focusing on supporting Black Lives Matters and the experience of black members within Sedos.

If you would like to get involved with this very important initiative please email equality@sedos.co.uk to state your interest.

We know that this will be a journey for Sedos, and seeing lasting results won’t happen overnight, however we hope you will engage with us through this process, and hold us to account where we come up short, to ensure that we deliver the society our members want to see, can be proud of and which is truly reflective of the society in which we live.

We commit to listening, reflecting and learning - we are not perfect, but as reminded recently by a member: progress is key, not perfection.

We thank you for your support.

On behalf of the Trustees and Management Committee

Dawn Harrison-Wallace
Chair of Trustees

Matt Gould
Chair of Management Committee

Initial Next Steps as part of Our Commitment to Change

  1. Make Diversity & Inclusiveness, with an initial focus on black equality, a standing agenda item on both the Board of Trustees and the Management Committee meeting agenda.
  2. Issue a comprehensive Diversity Policy.
  3. Commit to proactively increase the proportion of BAME representation on our Board of Trustees and Management Committee prior to our next AGM and in the interim look to co-opt any black members who are keen to join.
  4. Invite members to complete an equality monitoring questionnaire so we have a baseline of our current membership against which we can measure progress.
  5. When auditioning, invite new auditionees, and members who have not already done so, to complete the equality monitoring questionnaire.
  6. Publish our equality statistics for all members, Management Committee and Board of Trustees in our annual report.
  7. Review our standard audition notices to ensure we include a clear statement about our commitment to supporting and moreover encouraging members.
  8. Carry out a review of our lists for press releases and show and events marketing with a view to expanding our networks within the black community.
  9. Review where we advertise all auditions to ensure we are reaching out to as many black networks as possible.
  10. Carry out a review of our social media, especially Twitter to ensure we are following a diverse group of arts and theatre organisations.
  11. Review our participation and membership fee policy to ensure that neither are a barrier to being an active member of Sedos.
  12. Ensure that members have a proper forum / means to provide feedback on their experience of being in a Sedos show.
  13. Add the Death of George Floyd, and Our Commitment to Change on Sedos’ timeline on our website to mark this as a pivotal point in our history.

Extract from Chair’s Statement at our AGM, 4 June 2020

“…Finally, but most importantly, I’d like to take a moment before we look back at last year - to reflect on something that is happening now – and to acknowledge the tragic death of George Floyd.

I will no doubt not get my words 100% right but I feel it is better to try, and to learn from my mistakes – with the help of our members – than not try at all.

A couple of days ago a passionate group of Sedos members came to us seeking support for a great initiative, and the action they were keen to take to respond to the death of George Floyd and the many issues this has rightly brought to the forefront.

In doing so they posed the question: What is Sedos doing and what can we commit to do to play our part? They have challenged us perhaps in a way we’ve never been challenged before. To those members I thank you for your honesty and frankness.

I know you have a great initiative in the making but for the immediate future I’d like to acknowledge that it is my responsibility and that I need to be fully accountable to ensure we address the questions posed, and that we demonstrate, through our future actions, that we are committed to developing and implementing a plan to pro-actively increase black membership, and audiences, and tackle head on the many issues you have highlighted.

Over the years we have taken some very small steps towards increasing diversity and equality within Sedos but we know it is not enough.

I hope these words – whilst far from perfect - get across the intended sentiment.

We want to get better at representing and supporting all of the black, Asian and minority ethnic community and making everyone feel welcomed and you have my commitment to this.

We’ve come a long way since 1905 but I’m confident that we can continue to learn and grow.”

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