10 New Year’s resolutions that all theatres should adopt for 2019 to build on the progress of 2018 to create a more equitable and inclusive arts sector for the year ahead and beyond.

As we reflect on the many achievements of Artistic Directors of the Future and Beyond The Canon in 2018 including the ADF members who have been appointed as artistic directors/leaders: Tarek Iskander previously appointed as ACE Interim Director of Theatre followed by his most recent appointment as artistic director at Battersea Arts Centre, Suzann McClean (Theatre Peckham), Matthew Xia (Actors Touring Company), Lynette Linton (Bush Theatre), Anthony Simpson-Pike (Associate Director, Gate Theatre), Sita Thomas, (Staff Director, National Theatre), Milli Bhatia (Associate Artist, Bush Theatre subsequently followed by becoming the Trainee Director, Royal Court Theatre), our six Up Next artistic directors that took over the Bush Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre: Tobi Kyeremateng, Sita Thomas, Ruthie Osterman, Tarek Iskander, Lekan Lawal and Saad-Eddine Said and the 11 board shadowers most recently recruited onto the ADF Board Shadowing Programme, in partnership with five Yorkshire Theatres: Hull Truck Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, Stephen Joseph Theatre and York Theatre Royal: Anthony Almeida, Robert Awosusi, Ebenezer Bamgboye, Anni Domingo, Samantha Girdham, Sandeep Malhi, Ella Phoebe Marchment, Sarudzayi Marufu, Naomi Sumner, Sabrina Richmond and Shelley Williams.

On stage the directorial achievements of ADF members: Milli Bhatia who after working on Artistic Directors of the Future UK’s premiere Black Lives, Black Words International Project followed by her work presented and self-directed at ADF Talks Brexit at National Theatre which led to directing The ‘Hijabi Monologues’ and ‘Dismantle This Room’ at the Bush Theatre with an upcoming production Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner opening at the Royal Court Theatre in July 2019, Nicole Charles who after directing for UK premiere Black Lives, Black Words, directed ‘Glutathione’ at the Young Vic Theatre, ‘Emilla’ at Shakespeare’s Globe followed by becoming a finalist for the Genesis Future Director Award 2018 at the Young Vic and Titas Holder and Rikki Beadle Blair who after working on the Beyond The Canon Showcase at RADA have been offered directing/writing opportunities at the school. We are able to evidence how unfunded organisations: ADF and Beyond The Canon under the artistic leadership of Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway has created a dynamic shift in artistic leadership and programming in theatres and academia.

Furthermore, as one of the leading International Black Play Specialists, Simeilia has been instrumental in the revivals of plays such as ‘Leave Taking’ by Winsome Pinnock and ‘Strange Fruit’ by Carryl Phillips at the Bush Theatre and prior to this success, was responsible for the revival of Errol John’s masterpiece ‘Moon on a Rainbow shawl’ which she named a classical play. This year, Simeilia will direct 100 culturally diverse women at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago for the USA premiere of ‘The Interrogation of Sandra Bland’ a transcript of the Sandra Bland arrest by Mojisola Adebayo, commissioned by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway for Black Lives, Black Words International Project, previously staged with a smaller local British cast at the Bush Theatre.

However, nothing has been without its challenges. The road to success is never smooth, however with theatres implementing the ten recommended resolutions by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, we might be well on our way to a more inclusive and equitable arts sector:

  1. A commitment to ‘Opt in and lean in’ – for all of ADF and Beyond The Canon initiatives, we have adopted a way of working which I call the ‘opt in, lean in’ approach. We ask all partners to become active partners: offering their resources, financial investment, staff and expertise to support the programmes to create change for their organisations and to support sector change for the industry as a whole. This also includes taking the responsibility to ensure that all members of your organisation are well-informed on the programme and understand the reasons for partnership.
  2. A commitment to pay culturally diverse artists and leaders an equitable consultation fee for their time, expertise and insight. Consultation for matters relating to diversity and inclusion should not be expected to be free of charge or at a reduced rate.
  3. Only cite the names of culturally diverse led organisations and/or individuals on funding applications and reports if you intend to work with them in a genuine way (this is beyond providing a free room). In addition, if an organisation mentions any said organisation or artists, we ask that funding bodies request evidence of a working collaboration including invitations to review meetings and a budget line to indicate the financial contribution towards the work of the said organisation or individual. Credit culturally diverse artists, leaders and organisations for their work on all marketing and funding material, press and media interviews, especially if the project is initiated by them.
  4. Take legitimate steps to hiring senior management staff members from culturally diverse backgrounds. This includes ensuring that there is at least one person from a culturally diverse background at every stage of the recruitment process.
  5. Steer away from repeating or creating dead-end initiatives and instead look for ways to enhance career development for participants within your organisation.
  6. NPO organisations should nurture and support unfunded or smaller organisations by agreeing to house at least 3 resident companies.
  7. Organisations should provide more opportunities for culturally diverse artists to direct and produce main-house shows.
  8. There needs to be a sector drive to diversify literary managers in all theatre establishments.
  9. There should be a review of the public information in regards to the visibility of the entire organisation, specifically related to the diversity, disability and gender breakdown of senior management teams and board of directors, duration of employment and association to the company.
  10. All organisations should have a whistle blowing infrastructure that is external to the organisation which is shared with the public and with anyone entering into their building.

To opt in is to be a part of the talking shop, to lean in is a full-time commitment to cultural innovation, inclusion, growth, and creativity of our sector. Sector change can only come from taking an honest look at our organisations, adopting the same standards of accountability and moving forward with a real commitment to change and a duty of care for all. So, now, here for the real question: Are you committed to change an aspect of your organisation or are you fully committed to create an equitable and sustainable change to the industry as a whole?

From Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway
Executive Director and Creative Director of Black Live, Black Words International Project
Founder of Artistic Directors of the Future and Beyond The Canon