Glasgow International’s Commitment to Anti-Racism
Glasgow International’s Commitment to Anti-Racism
Update: See our recent update with a note of our current actions here.
On 3rd June, the Glasgow International team put out a statement in solidarity with those protesting racist oppression and violence against the Black community. Along with many organisations in the cultural sector, we acknowledge that longer-term work is required to enact real change.
We also recognise that it has taken significant societal pressure in the wake of the most recent Black Lives Matter protests for the GI team and advisory board* to properly interrogate GI’s role in perpetuating structural racism and white supremacy. Whilst GI has previously sought to act in what was believed to be an inclusive way, we have now begun a more rigorous process of better understanding our complicity, which itself requires ongoing self-education and learning.
The GI programme comprises two distinct strands. The Director’s Programme, organised internally and overseen by the Director, presents commissions and exhibitions in major venues in Glasgow. Alongside this, the Across the City strand is a programme selected by an invited panel together with GI, following an open call to Glasgow-based artists, curators and organisations. GI exists in large part because of the work of those presenting Across the City projects, which make up the majority of the programme. Whilst GI is involved in the selection of the Across the City programme, it is thanks to individual and organisational commitment to equity, justice, anti-racism and anti-colonialism within this strand that GI has benefitted. The Director’s Programme does and has previously platformed work from Black artists and artists of colour. Going forward we plan to move beyond programming to embed the thinking and practice of anti-racism within GI’s operational structures and decision making.
We recognise GI’s significant responsibility as an institution. We are in a position to enable artistic and curatorial voices to be heard, to set artistic narratives and to stimulate future art historical record. We recognise our significant lack of action, awareness and prioritisation towards addressing structural racism across all aspects of the festival’s operation to date. We apologise for this lack of action. We realise that writing a statement about anti-racism is not anti-racism work. Going forward, we hope to be judged by our actions.
Glasgow International’s staff team is made up of an all-white core team. This has been the case since the festival began in 2005, despite regular staff turnover. The vast majority of the GI advisory board are white, including a white chairperson. The position of director at GI has only ever been held by a white person. As the GI staff team and GI advisory board, we see the urgent need to transform into an actively anti-racist organisation. This will require major intervention and the embedding of anti-racist thinking and action in all levels of the organisation – which will be long-term work. We have started to address the disparities between representation, organisational structure and modes of operations and we are only at the start.
White supremacy actively excludes, ignores and erases, and GI has had a part in upholding these structures which must be directly challenged. As a first step we established an anti-racism working group at the beginning of July, made up of the GI staff team with regular participation of the advisory board and Glasgow Life colleagues. In addition, we are actively seeking external accountability partners to work with us on our anti-racist goals for the foreseeable future, and intend to have these in place by December. Within the GI core team we have also established weekly all-staff research, reading and discussion meetings. These are forums to deepen our understanding and learning on structural racism and decolonisation. Anti-racism will be a standing item on all advisory board meeting agendas going forward.
We have serious work to do to make these significant changes to the organisation and we feel it is necessary to ensure an action plan is considered, informed, sustainable and long term. We are developing a detailed plan of measurable actions set against short, medium and longer-term time frames. With our working group and accountability partners we will interrogate our practice and regularly review our progress.
Key areas that this action plan will address include future recruitment, and the whiteness of the staff team and advisory board; curatorial structures, working practices that are sensitive to the individual needs of artists; active working to create opportunities for Black art practitioners and art practitioners of colour across all areas of the festival; research, training and education; environmental action, considering this as part of decolonial practice; and ensuring partnerships are value-led.
Drawing on these areas we will publish an action plan on the GI website from October. This plan and our progress will be reviewed quarterly with updates published accordingly.
Thank you to all artists and audiences for your generosity and investment in the festival and for going with us on this journey.
The GI Team
Molly Mae Whawell
This text has been written by the GI Team, working with Naomi Shoba, Senior Arts, Music and Diversity Manager at Glasgow Life. We are grateful to the input, support and agreement of the Advisory Board and colleagues across Glasgow Life.
We welcome any questions, reflections or feedback- if you’d like to get in touch please email email@example.com