Open Conversations
Voluntary Arts today launches 'Open Conversations: Developing strong, effective connections to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities', the report developed by its BAME Advisory Panel. This Panel was initiated to help put the organisation on a path to greater diversity in all aspects of its work.

The Panel's brief was confined to a twelve month period (July 2015 - July 2016) and the publication of this resulting report is very clearly recognised as a step forward for the organisation but also, more importantly, as the beginning of a significant process of change. The Panel met regularly and interviews were conducted with those involved with BAME creative communities across the UK. These conversations have raised important issues and questions for Voluntary Arts and the wider cultural community. In the report, the panel describe their approach of identifying missing links, opening conversations, listening and moving from inaction to initiating a process of improvement.

The BAME Advisory Panel members were David Bryan (Chair), Jerri Daboo, Bobsie Robinson, Catherine Mugonyi, Nisha Tandon, Maryam Imran, Leanne Rahman and Peter Stark. Four members of the Panel have subsequently been elected to the Voluntary Arts Board of Trustees so that they can continue to offer expert guidance to the organisation across all of its work.

Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts, said:

Voluntary Arts has moved, in a short space of time, from a position of embarrassment about its lack of ethnic diversity to a confidence that it is pioneering a new approach to developing strong, effective connections to a range of BAME communities. The organisation is clear that it is still only at the start of a journey but that first step, which allowed Voluntary Arts to break its cycle of inactivity, has been fascinating, inspiring and great fun. I hope our experience might act as a model for other organisations facing a similar challenge.

David Bryan, Chair of the BAME Advisory Panel, said:

This report reflects on the success created by the determination of Voluntary Arts to persist with a challenge that they, and many other arts organisations, have been committed to for several years – namely achieving greater inclusion. We (society) have made the issues of racial difference and religious difference so charged we have created anxiety. Too many people are frightened by engagement and are therefore not engaging. Working with the Voluntary Arts BAME Advisory Panel was a really beneficial experience and we ended with an understanding of the journeys institutions go through.

Download the full report: 'Open Conversations: Developing strong, effective connections to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities' [Welsh language version]

The 'Open Conversations' report is being launched at events in Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Bradford over the coming weeks. Details of these events are below.

Belfast

1pm - 2pm, Tuesday 29 November 2016
Arts Ekta, 6 Murray St, Belfast BT1 6DN

Edinburgh

Wednesday 30 November 2016
Celebrate Cultural Diversity through Traditional Arts: St. Andrew’s Day Open Conference,
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1SR

Cardiff

8:30am, Wednesday 22 March 2017
What Next? Cardiff