Yesterday was a humbling day.
Together with my colleague Lynette, I interviewed 12 creatives, artists, administrators for the one post ofTrainee Project Manager, short listed from 43 applications.
So why was it so humbling?
We met artists from really really diverse backgrounds, some declared, some not, some we discovered as the interviews unfolded. We heard their stories, their dreams, their hurdles, but we were overwhelmed by their honesty, and their ability to remain ever optimistic for their aspirations. They humbled us also because they quoted back our words to us like ‘train mentor progress’ ‘personal and political fulfilment’, ‘theatre without prejudice’, ‘risk taking in our practice’ – the cynical amongst you might say that they had done their research well.
Well maybe they had; I would say they felt safe to engage in dialogue with us and be honest because we are open and welcoming when it comes to difference. We are prepared to listen, make the effort to understand despite cultural or linguistic differences. Everything said was said through an honest exchange, person to person, human being to human being. It was a humbling day.
I wish I could give them all paid work and help them on journeys but I can’t.
Many of the interviewees came with much skill and experience and we in the arts and creative industries should ask ourselves the hard questions – why are we not employing such amazing talent? What are we afraid of? Why are we failing to engage with diverse backgrounds: class, gender, religion, language, disablity. What does it really mean to be inclusive – so we don’t have a society so divided as demonstrated by the referendum, so ready to hurl racist abuse and insults.
After the referendum I ‘felt’ the change of mood even in London. The UK is my home, I am entitled to be here as I was born a British citizen in Kenya. And I have a beautiful skin tone that tans really well! But it doesn’t protect me from the anger that is rife in my nation.
I have recently been asked if the funded Arts needs quotas. I would prefer not to go that way. If we ever had to introduce quotas at Spare Tyre it would be a signal for me that I, we, had failed to be inclusive. Currently there is a natural flow of people from all walks of life. The flow comes from leadership that understands that we live in a multi-everything nation, that we are globally connected - and that needs honest and sincere reflection in art, theatre, dance, film, writing etc produced–especially when it is public money.
I read David Jubb’s blog this morning and what I agree with is that we – in the Arts - have been a part of the failure to engage with communities and individuals other than our own. And so we find ourselves in this sorry state. It is interesting to observe that many of us ache to be a part of Europe and yet we ignore much of the UK population and do not engage with them: those of colour, those from economically deprived backgrounds, those who have a faith, those who have a learning disability, those who have mental health conditions, those who come from a different class, gender, sexual orientation. Those are the people that yesterday moved and humbled me.