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Guest Blog — Stella Kanu & Shawab Iqbal: ‘The #AllofUs Redundancy Care Campaign will help those in crisis and prepare workers for their journey back into the workplace.‘

A new initiative has been launched to support Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the arts who are facing redundancy. Stella Kanu  and Shawab Iqbal tell us all about #TheAllOfUsCampaign.

Stella Kanu (Executive Director, London International Festival of Theatre LIFT)

It would be extremely easy, and of course relevant, to spend this entire blog only reflecting on the despair and pain which our sector has faced due to COVID-19. We are indeed in unchartered and difficult waters. The things we have uncovered in the last 6 months about the creative and cultural sector has been unsettling – 70% of our workforce working freelance with 86% of all freelance staff engaged by National Portfolio Organisations identifying as Black, Asian or ethnically diverse.

High levels of freelancers have been left high and dry excluded by restrictive eligibility criteria for emergency funds. Work cancellations, event and show postponements, venue closures, restructures, and mass redundancies and still we await fine government detail about the roadmap to recover and most venues reopening. 

We have been reminded that we may still have to wait for the social case for arts to match the economic imperative. In this climate we have been able to remind the public and ourselves of our financial contribution to the British economy and the identity of our nations. But these days have also been filled with direct action coupled with moments of people coming together, collective generosity and displays of practical care comingfrom the ground up.

Shawab Iqbal (Executive Producer, Eclipse Theatre and Senior Artistic Associate, Bush Theatre)

Between us, as both leaders in the industry and members of the Arts Council’s London Area Council, we have sat in endless Zooms of discussion about the role of diversity and inclusion in recovery; we have pushed for the equitable democracy in who is contributing to decision making and most importantly we have been asking what will save our diverse workforce who were being made redundant in record numbers. Urgent, driven action is often challenging to achieve in mega scale governmental or Arts Council bureaucracies. Things take time, channels for decision and check and balances are often counterintuitive to any calls for action now! Now! now!

The sector already employs then than 4% of its senior leaders from a diverse pool and the general workforce ethnically sits a 14%. Our concern is that much of these almost daily redundancies weigh towards staff in public-facing and junior roles, which is further compounded by statistics that Black, Asian, ethnically diverse and migrant arts workers are most likely to be in those roles.

We decided 2 weeks ago to just go ahead and do something ourselves. We could take no more anxious-ladden phone calls, DMs and emails from distressed and worried ethnically diverse colleagues. An early morning simple text between us, snowballed into us calling in the Black Womxn in Theatre team, pulling our networks, and shaping a programme that could prevent an impending talent drain among non-artistic and back end roles that keep community work, organisations and venues running smoothly.

The #AllofUs Redundancy Care Campaign will help those in crisis and prepare workers for their journey back into the workplace. It is built around the concept of the cultural sector helping itself. We raise money through the sector, asking our cultural leaders to lead by example and give the minimum of £100.

Many are having to make heart breaking decisions about people they care about– we are all at the end of the day emotionally feeling our way through this time, despite the number crunching and cash flow reporting. We also want to track how the redundancies and restructuring now taking place may disproportionately affect all ethnically diverse workers across every level from the most junior to the most senior, creating our #AllOfUs Crisis fund.

#AllOfUs will present a series of programmes starting with #HereToStay in August. This will be a 4-week package of practical support to help upskill and empower workers who face employment uncertainty to regain their confidence in the workplace. Recipients will get financial assistance, coaching, mentoring, masterclasses, plus CV and application guidance, delivered by a team of senior arts professionals with a wealth of experience. The programme is open to people working across all art forms, including theatre, music, dance, comedy, museums and galleries.

We just want people to feel valued and motivate everybody to focus on rebuilding the sector and getting back to a new kind of normal.

The #AllOfUs Care Package (inclusive of the crisis fund and #HereToStay programme) will be announced on 27 July 2020.