Following the murder of George Floyd last year, the call for immediate action to end structural anti-Black racism echoed around the world.
20 Stories High have always been activists and advocates for diversity, equality and inclusion.
And although we are a culturally diverse organisation – in terms of participants, audiences, artists, staff team and board – the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests were a turning point, and a wake-up call.
We realised that we have so much more to learn – and that we needed to be even better activists as well as allies.
This means us learning, listening and growing as a company, as well as sharing practice, working in partnership and also speaking truth to power.
Throughout 2020/2021 we have begun to put this into practice, initially focusing on anti-racist work specifically, and then thinking about activism more broadly in terms of making a more equal, fair society.
Our work over the year has included:
Making Activist Art:
- Commissioned 7 short films by local young Black artists for our series Black with a Capital B:
- Black, Scouse and Proud a short film by Nathan Powell and Black youth theatre members:
- Touchy, commissioned by the Wellcome Collection, in association with the Unity:
- Buttercup created by Dorcas Seb, Odile Mukete with 20 Stories High and Tigerlily Films for BBC:
Team and Training:
- Offered a range of training opportunities led by relevant partners and trainers, for staff (6), board (1) and young artists (2).
- Diversified our staff and board: took steps towards having a more representative core team.
Policies, Partnerships, Accountability
- Planned the process for creation of an EDIA (Equality, Diversity, Inclusion & Activism) steering group, bringing together staff, board members, freelance associates and Young people. This group will ensure the company is living its values.
- Created new and strengthened existing partnerships with leaders of excellent practice in the areas of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Activism e.g. Inc Arts and Graeae.
- Worked with individual partners and broader networks to challenge each other’s practice, develop our learning and hold each other to account.
- Co-led EDI COoL task group with COoL colleagues, working with cultural organisations across Liverpool.
- Used social media platforms to share information and amplify voices.
- Worked with health care professionals, Artist Wellbeing Practitioner Lou Platt and experts from our industry, to support the wellbeing of our team and community of young people and artists, through one to one and group sessions.
This learning and activism is an ongoing process. Our plans for the next year include the actions below:
Making Activist Art
- Celebrating the work of diverse young artists with wide audiences in Touchy and Buttercup.
- Ongoing work with Youth Theatre members to explore themes of inequality based on lived experiences within the group.
- Quarterly creative workshops with young artists to explore key areas.
- Continue to develop a programme of training, reflection and action planning, curated by with Nathan Powell for staff and Board e.g. Disability and Inclusion with Graeae, gender equality with Women of the World.
- EDIA training sessions as part of our Launch programme (professional development programme for emerging artists).
- Continuing our State of Mind project – looking at all of our artistic and activist work through the lens of mental health and wellbeing.
- Continuing to work to diversify our current and future teams: staff, board and freelance.
Policies, Partnerships, Accountability
- EDIA steering group to run bi-monthly. Group to create a framework in which our action sits and hold the organisation accountable.
- The creation of a living, breathing Manifesto of Actions, rather than a static Diversity Policy document.
- Developing partnership agreements with the organisations we work with, looking at anti-racism riders and the creation of safe spaces.
- Participate in Equality, Diversity & Inclusion networks and forums, locally, regionally and nationally – taking supporting or leadership roles as appropriate.
- Continuing to support young people and our local community to challenge and hold to account institutions and organisations for current and past failings.
- Continuing to use social media platforms to share information and amplify voices.