Peak’s aim is to create positive change for people and places, across South East Wales. We work to make rural and post-industrial communities seen and heard, particularly those who are the farthest away from power. Working in sparsely populated rural contexts we are sometimes asked the question ‘racism isn’t an issue here, why does this apply to us?’ As a publicly funded organisation it’s our job to celebrate the diversity that does exist in rural communities and to bring the truth and richness of different lived experiences into rural spaces.
In June 2020 we published this statement acknowledging that as an organisation we have failed to be actively anti-racist in our structures, governance and programming and to say that Black Lives Matter.
Over the last month we have worked with trustees and advisors to create this pilot anti-racist action plan for Peak. To be absolutely clear this statement has been authored by our white staff team of three and developed in discussion with our board of white trustees. We have had recent conversations with Mymuna Soleman and Matthew Gough to discuss the action plan and we thank them for their generosity in responding with suggestions, actions and vital questions. This plan is a working and live document that will develop as we continue to work with young people, artists and communities and hold open-access conversations on race and rurality.
This anti-racist action plan is part of Peak’s wider approach to tackling systemic injustices, both for those people who have protected characteristics recognised in the Equalities Act 2015, and those that experience wider socio-economic barriers of income, class, education and location. Our approach to equalities to date has not adequately considered the intersectionality of race and other characteristics such as disability, language, gender, gender reassignment and sexual orientation. We will work to make these lived experiences heard through our artistic programme.
We acknowledge that Black issues and discrimination are distinct from those experienced by minoritised communities*. In writing this plan, our guiding principle is that we will not ask Black artists and practitioners – nor artists of colour – to carry the emotional and physical labour of anti-racist work at this time.
We understand that the work of being anti-racist is long-term and that must it be based on meaningful relationships, dialogue and above all – action.
• Implement a programme of active anti-racist learning, for staff, trustees, volunteers and freelance practitioners. Our target is a minimum of one externally led training event per year organised by Peak, a budget for our young people’s group sPeak to design their own programme of anti-racist learning, an undertaking by staff and trustees to personal anti-racist education and a commitment to work alongside peers, colleagues, networks and partner organisations. Timescale: immediate
• Place Black artists and artists from minoritised communities at the centre of our programming with a minimum of 30% of programming across all strands being undertaken by artists of colour. This is a commitment to increasing the scale of our work – to collaborate with more artists and creative practitioners with a greater diversity of lived experiences. We will report on this annually via our public channels as well as direct reporting to funders. Timescale: immediate
• Increase the representation of Black practitioners and practitioners from minoritised communities on our board. Our target is to appoint a minimum of two new board members by our AGM in 2021 (representing 25% of Peak’s board membership). We will be mindful of the timing of new appointments so that representation is ongoing and we will offer peer and mentor support to new members. Timescale: November 2021
• Create a permanent library based at our studio in Crickhowell as part of our future capital project, focusing on the intersection of race, climate and rurality. Timescale: ongoing throughout 2021/22
• Hold regular open-access conversations in collaboration with peer organisations and partners, listening and learning in order to support long-term and real change across Wales and implement change across our activities. Timescale: immediate
• Explore the history of the sites and landscapes in which we work, and their direct or indirect links to empire, colonial exploitation, slavery and slave ownership through our artistic programmes, creating safe, inclusive and inspiring contexts to have these conversations. Timescale: Autumn 2020 onwards
• Create annual Peak research residencies for Black and minoritised artists, activists and creative practitioners focusing on issues of climate and land justice, rurality, Welsh identity and language. Timescale: pilot Autumn 2020; open call 2021
• Create an anti-racist code of conduct to be agreed with all our partners, collaborators, staff, board and volunteers before undertaking projects that addresses Peak’s anti-racist work and its commitment to equalities, with a clear protocol for complaints and concerns to be raised and dealt with anonymously. Timescale: Peak’s AGM – October 2020
• Develop networks, create partnerships and shape our recruitment processes to actively encourage applications from Black and minoritised practitioners for employed staff roles (currently 3 people; 1 on a temporary contract), and for open call artist opportunities. Our target is for at least 20% of our employed and freelance team to be Black practitioners and practitioners of colour. Timescale: first recruitment open calls in Spring/Summer 2021
• Offer free access and use of Peak’s studio, facilities and site to individuals and groups with protected characteristics. Timescale: 2021 or as soon as our building reopens
*we’ve used the term ‘minoritised’ to underscore that communities are not ‘minorities’ in terms of language, religion or other but have been positioned as minorities by whiteness in a socio-historic process. We recognise that all terms are problematic and we welcome feedback and dialogue moving forward.
Thanks to Site Gallery, Sheffield for their #BlackLivesMatter statement which has influenced this action plan.
– The Peak team: Justine Wheatley, Melissa Appleton and Rachel Dunlop, Crickhowell, 27th July 2020