LADA Statement of Commitment on organisational change and racial equity

On 10th June we announced some significant changes at LADA. This statement offers some background and context to our thinking, states our commitments in more detail, and the initial stages of our plan.

There is no irony in saying that 2020 has brought a clarity of vision about what kind of world we want to occupy – about who and what matters, about how we can work together and what we can do, and how that change can and must be made.

Background to LADA’s work

 Lois Keidan and Catherine Ugwu co-founded LADA in 1999 as an organisation that would work for change in relation to radical performance practices and practitioners, advocate for innovation and risk in contemporary culture, champion new ways of working, and place ideas and issues of difference and diversity at the centre of its work.

Our mission is realised across an ever-expanding portfolio of activities that, over 20 years, has provoked, shifted and adapted to change in the cultural landscapes and contexts, and the evolving needs of artists, and has always been developed in dialogue and collaboration with a wide range of artists, thinkers, activists, and other stakeholders.

LADA’s commitment to representing and championing difference and diversity runs across all aspects of our programmes – from artistic and professional development programmes, bursaries, and collaborations with artists and thinkers on commissioned artworks and curatorial programmes, to publications and resources profiling underrepresented artists and practices.

Contexts for organisational change

LADA has been exploring questions of organisational change since we moved to The Garrett Centre, a centre for social action, in September 2017.  The relocation to a new space, context and community marked a new chapter in our history. That this new chapter was beginning in such different and difficult cultural, social and political times, challenged us to rethink the organisation’s role, imagine other ways of working, and investigate new models of leadership.

During LADA’s 20th anniversary in 2019, we began planning for the organisation’s next 20 years – what it could and should be.

A framework for much of this thinking and planning has been our Managing the Radical research project. Using LADA itself as a case study, our intention was that this project would begin a process of organisational transition and leadership succession, including Lois Keidan stepping down from her role as Director over a 3-4 year period.

Given the renewed urgency of addressing racial inequity, disenfranchisement, and the unprecedented crises the world is facing, we are accelerating these plans for LADA’s future. Starting now.

Addressing the issues

To do that, we must start with who we are. LADA currently has a white workforce, something that perpetuates racial inequalities, underrepresentation and whiteness in Live Art. Our team does not reflect the lived experiences, and excludes the agency, of people of colour. We are acutely aware of our failure to recruit a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and the consequences of this for our work, those we work with, and our audiences.

LADA has always understood that its ‘legitimacy’ as an organisation funded by Arts Council England is a form of power, and we have always used this to ‘legitimise’ unclassifiable practices, make visible untold histories, develop resources and contexts for underrepresented artists, and be in service to new forms of agency. While so much of our work is seeking to effect societal and cultural change, we know that if we don’t also change ourselves and our own structures, we are part of the problem, not part of the solution. In working to support the dismantling of the structures of privilege and power that dominate UK culture, we also recognise that in order to effect meaningful change, LADA needs to address its own privilege and restructure and redistribute its power.

LADA is one of a huge number of organisations in the cultural sector who continue to fail artists and arts workers of colour – particularly those from Black communities. They have been rightly outraged by the gestures of solidarity shown to them by many cultural sector leaders in response to the urgency of the Black Lives Matters movement. So many artists and arts workers of colour now expect those in positions of power to say much while doing very little. That is a damning indictment.

Over the last year LADA’s staff and Board have been working on strategies to create a more diverse work force, to reassert our mission and cultural values within our operations as well as our programmes, to reflect critically on our work (including who we work with and for), and to ask what kind of organisation we must be for times to come. Work we have undertaken includes:

  • A. We commissioned artist and writer Season Butler to revisit and adapt the language around race and representation in our organisational policies.
  • B. Staff have attended race equality and unconscious bias training from equality charity BRAP.
  • C. We have continued to increase the diversity of our Board members.
  • D. We created 6 Leadership Bursaries for artists and arts workers of colour as part of the Diverse Actions project.
  • E. We initiated ongoing research for the Managing the Radical project, including issues of agency, privilege and power in relation to race and other identity markers.
  • F. We implemented a recruitment drive which aimed, but failed, to reach or recruit people of colour for three LADA positions advertised in 2019.

Immediate plans for organisational change

Real change must come sooner and must come from the top – from organisational leadership and governance. It is for this reason that Lois is acting on her commitment to LADA being at the vanguard of change by accelerating plans for organisational change and stepping aside as Director earlier than planned to open up space and new possibilities for leadership and representation. A new and important part of her role as Director over the next year will be also working with the Board and staff to support the organisation, and ultimately the new leadership, through a process of transition and succession.

This process will involve close dialogue with a diverse range of artists, activists, academics, arts workers and other stakeholders, including those less visible and vocal within existing structures, and holding specific space for Black members from within and beyond LADA’s communities.

The process will be shaped and steered with younger cultural leaders representative and reflective of the diversity of society, making opportunities to create radical and generative spaces to discuss the future of what LADA does, how it does it, who does it, and who it does it with and for.

The remainder of this statement of commitment, and statements to follow, go into more detail about our plans for change and when these changes will take place.

 Our commitments

We are accelerating this process of organisational change from now – June 2020.

At our Board Away Day in July 2020, we will work towards a detailed plan for the next year focussing on the following:

  • Opening up dialogues and paid consultancy with artists and arts workers of colour to invite their voices as part of our work moving forward
  • Creating and holding specific space for Black artists and arts workers from within and beyond our communities
  • Reviewing our recent recruitment round to understand and comprehensively address our failure to recruit people of colour
  • Commissioning a specialist with lived experience of racism to assess and scrutinise our policies and practices (especially recruitment and governance)
  • Continuing diversifying Board membership through recruitment this year
  • Identifying the support structures we need to put in place to welcome racial diversity in our workforce
  • Ensuring that this work addresses intersections of class, able normativity, gender and sexuality, particularly QTIPOC – Queer, Transgender and Intersex People of Colour, and including individuals and groups.
  • Making financial donations to Black-led organisations who are at the forefront of dismantling racial injustice

These actions will support the recruitment process for new diverse and inclusive leadership for LADA.

Following our Board Away Day, we will publish more detail, a plan and timeline for our organisational change. We are committed to this change and will continue regular communications about our plans.

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