In June 2020, Towner Eastbourne outlined its commitment to becoming an actively anti-racist organisation in response to the Black Lives Matter global action following the murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020. We last reported our progress on actions taken and forthcoming priorities in December 2020. Given the long period of lockdown in the first half of 2021, most of the work to take forward our commitments has taken place in the latter half of the year, so an interim six-month report was not issued in the summer, as we had planned.
Our priority this year has been on developing an anti-racist culture within our team of staff, volunteers and trustees. Focus was around the first half-day Diversity and Inclusion Workshop in September led by trustees Jenny Williams and Mark Moorton, co-chairs of the Diversity Task Group with experience and expertise in diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias training. This first of regular sessions invited staff, volunteers and Trustees to reflect and share personal experiences of discrimination in all forms so we could learn from each other and begin to understand how individually, we can contribute to making Towner actively anti-racist and inclusive to everyone. Our reflective discussion was the starting point for an open, informed debate about how we create an ethical internal culture that will help deliver our commitments around programme, public engagement and speaking out. The session also included unconscious bias training and discussions on recognising and challenging unwanted behaviour.
We invited anonymous feedback to help inform next steps in our actions. These include a commitment to hold two all team sessions each year to continue conversation around anti-racism and to explore broader issues of diversity and inclusion across the organisation and in our programme, for instance how to make Towner genuinely accessible to other groups such as disabled, D/deaf and neurodiverse people, those who particularly marginalised due to their experience of multiple disadvantages, and those who experience disadvantage due to lower socio-economic background.
Other actions undertaken during 2021 include:
· The Diversity Task Group (DTG) meets monthly to ensure delivery of the action plan. It reports on progress at quarterly board meetings under a standing Diversity and Inclusivity agenda item and ensures the governing body’s accountability for Towner’s Inclusivity & Relevance Action Plan and its commitment to diversify board membership over the next two years up to 2024.
· The DTG has prepared the groups Terms of Reference to be published in early 2022, which will set out the process for broadening the group’s membership.
· Expressions of interest to join the DTG have been invited from the wider team including Front of House, Shop, Café and volunteers ahead of publication of the Terms of Reference.
· A Code of Conduct has been agreed and shared internally with expectations for behaviour of staff, volunteers, the artists we work with and of visitors and participants, both in our physical and digital spaces. Its aim is to support the team in ensuring Towner is an inclusive, enjoyable and safe space for everyone.
· The Staff Handbook and induction materials have been reviewed to reinforce Towner’s values and diversity commitments, particularly around anti-racism and expectations of staff conduct.
· Recruitment and hiring procedures and practices have been reviewed to ensure that our workspace is inclusive there everyone can be themselves and succeed on merit.
· Staff with line management responsibility have received training in ethical recruitment and our new performance review procedures.
· A Diversity Survey was carried out of the whole team in May 2021 which captured diversity data for all protected characteristics across our workforce as well as gathering feedback from staff on our performance in relation to diversity & inclusion.
· We have reviewed our gift acceptance and ethics policies to ensure that they are reflective of our anti-racist principles
Public and community activity
· All exhibitions, engagement activities, events, commissions, acquisitions and projects are considered for their strategic relevance including priorities around diversity and inclusion through a new Project Plan and Evaluation Template to ensure delivery against organisational priorities from point of conception to review post project.
· Diversity and Inclusion is a standing agenda point in our programming meetings to ensure that we continue to explore the opportunities we are offering and hold ourselves to account.
· Discussions are under way with community partners including local voluntary action organisation 3VA and Willingdon Trees Community Centre on devising and delivering creative workshops for adults, artist residencies and creative play sessions for families with young children in Eastbourne’s disadvantaged Shinewater and Seaside communities from Spring 2022.
· Our new Code of Conduct makes public Towner’s commitment to upholding an inclusive environment and the steps we will take to challenge unwanted discriminatory behaviour.
Towner is an actively anti-racist gallery and acts as a leader in the journey towards making Eastbourne and Sussex inclusive and welcoming destinations for everybody to live, work and visit.
Our guiding principles:
Black lives matter and we stand united against racism.
We acknowledge the pain and injustice caused by systemic racism.
We join in solidarity with global anti-racist movements.
We know that being anti-racist requires concrete action.
We report annually on our progress over the previous year and our planned commitments for the year ahead on changing our organisational culture, Towner’s public and community activity, as well as speaking out against racism and advocating for a fair, equal and just society.
Progress and Activities
We increased representation on our board of trustees to two Black trustees who live in Eastbourne, one of whom was born and raised in the town. 18% of our board is currently represented by People of Colour.
In 2020, we set a target to increase representation of People of Colour in the workforce from 10% to 18% by 2024/25. The Annual Staff Survey in 2022 reported 12% of the Towner workforce was from an ethnically diverse background, which shows a slight increase against the benchmark figure of 8% from 2019.
We have extended diversity monitoring to include all artists and creative practitioners we are working with and will report on this data in a transparent way in the next report.
In October 2022 we engaged Hollie Douglas as the iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) Curatorial Trainee, supporting the Future Collect programme which culminates in an exhibition by an artist of African, Asian or Middle Eastern background.
We marked Black History Month in October 2022 with screenings of two seminal films exploring black identity: Fritz Fanon: Black Skin, White Mask and Daughters of the Dust
As part of Towner’s commitment to be a community space, we offered free regular meeting space to diverse cultural practitioners, Eastbourne Cultural Involvement Group and Black Creatives Sussex.
We have provided free rehearsal space for ethnically diverse artists and creatives to develop and share work, including choreographers/dancers Jean Abreu and Naishi Wang.
The Year Ahead
Artist Maria Amidu will develop a newly commissioned artwork during 2023 for her exhibition in Spring 2024 at Towner as part of Future Collect, Towner’s partnership with iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts).
We will continue promoting work opportunities within the team and artists opportunities to recruitment sources/platforms that attract diverse applicants to improve workforce diversity
Wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity work - Progress & Year Ahead
Our Anti-Racism commitments sit within our broader Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and there is cross-over across in many areas of our EDI work.
All team disability inclusion training has been delivered introducing the Social Model of Disability, encompassing inclusive language and practical tips for supporting disabled visitors, staff, volunteers, colleagues and artists. A session for volunteers will be given during 2023 to include unconscious bias awareness training and other broader inclusion issues.
Accessibility Information is available on the website for all exhibitions and activities within the gallery building providing clear information on what to expect within the space ahead of visiting including physical layout of the space, format, sound/lighting levels, seating available, guides and any resources or equipment available to support all visitors and participants’ experience.
In July 2022, a partnership with Disabled-led visual arts organisation DASH presented artist Andrea Mindel’s intervention WAR?! WHAT WAR? – How does one achieve eternal bliss? as part of the We are Invisible, We are Visible (WAIWAV) national event.
A Digital Code of Conduct tailored to social media communications is now available on Towner’s website alongside the Code of Conduct and is linked across all digital platforms. The Code of Conduct will be shared appropriately within the building and exhibitions and on public programme resources.
We are developing a consistent and transparent framework for artist and freelancer fees which will be published in during 2023.
We are working on collecting data and benchmarking the broad diversity of artists and creative practitioners we work with and of collection artists and will report.
Our recruitment processes have been reviewed to ensure that our roles are open to a wider pool of applicants, particularly by removing third-level qualifications and replacing with skills-based criteria.
As always, we know that we won’t get everything right immediately and that we still have much to learn. We welcome feedback on the steps we have laid out in this statement. You can get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org