We recognise the need for social change that has been expressed through the Black Lives Matter movement and it has been a catalyst for us to re-evaluate and revise our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion programme and policy. It is a moment to remember how important our work on creating greater equity is and a catalyst for making faster change where we still need to. 

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We constantly re-evaluate and revise our approach to equality and diversity but the current crisis of inequalities are a giant push to speed up that process and shift from making small incremental positive changes to making bigger, long term positive change. 

As a learning organisation, we are committed to learning, growing and adapting and never has that been more important than now.

PDSW exists as an arts charity and it’s absolutely inherent in our very existence that we support positive social change, work to make the world a fairer place and bring people together in unity through the joy of dance. 

What have we been doing?

In 2014 we started a Critical Friends Equality group with discussions around the nine protected characteristics from the 2010 Equality Act. These characteristics are :age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.

The group looks across the whole of our programme and structure to strengthen and make more transparent what we do. The people contributing to this group have been generous in their honest feedback and support and we have listened and changed practices in response.

Three clear themes emerged from our Critical Friends Equality work in 2018 : Holding Hands, See Myself and Open Doors. We use these phrases to plan and curate across our programmes and ways of working.

Our Board of Trustees now includes three people who contribute to our Critical Friends Equality group. It is a more diverse governance structure than we have ever had with 25% coming from African or White & Black Caribbean backgrounds, a spread of ages across the 20-34 and 65+ age brackets and 25% who identify as disabled.

We will continue to make this breadth of representation a vital part of our recruitment when appointing to the Board.  Equality and inclusion is a rolling agenda item for every Board meeting.

We run an annual Equality, Diversity & Inclusion training session for staff and Trustees ensuring that we are all more aware of the impact of unconscious bias, of the importance of opening up opportunities outside of our ‘usual channels’ and taking decisions for positive change.

Matthew Syed writes in his book “Rebel Ideas” about the importance of cognitive diversity in creating a more adaptive, relevant, resilient, stronger organisation so this is not entirely altruistic on our behalf!

Image Credit: Hakeem Onibudo | Image description: Man with glasses smiling

In 2018, having listened to Hakeem Onibudo talk about his Agent for Change role at The Place as part of an Arts Council England Changemaker scheme, we contracted Natasha Player, a freelance dancer and producer, as our Changemaker.

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She challenges and supports us to work more closely with people from African, Caribbean and Indian communities. Natasha has created a Toolkit of information that goes to all new staff and Board members to inform decision-making, led an action group of representatives from local communities and collaborated with staff to curate a programme of events and performances by, with and for those communities which were open to all. 

We are proud of the diversity across our professional programme.

We will continue to ensure that panels for events or selection processes are diverse and include independent creatives. Recent examples have been the selection panel for PDSW company in residence and visiting artists in March 2020 and the Surf The Wave Response Pot in June and July 2020.

Covid-19 has destroyed the hopes and plans of many self-employed people working in dance and the arts – an estimated 70% of the workforce.  Their plight has highlighted the vulnerability of a freelancer and the need for a new way of working that gives them greater protection and status.  We have contributed to the Dorset Hardship Fund in recognition of the hard times faced by so many self-employed people in our industry locally. We have sponsored Natasha Player to take part in the National Freelance Taskforce and she is connecting with freelancers in dance and across art forms in the SW to consider how change could take place in the performing arts to better recognise and protect freelance workers. Natasha is in regular dialogue with us in this capacity.

Our children and young people will have been off school or university for six months and are likely to face struggles returning to studies or moving into jobs. There will be negative educational, emotional and mental impacts. We will re-establish our Dance:Connected Minds programme in Autumn 2020 which works with vulnerable young people with a specific goal of helping build resilience through dance. 

We have written our first digital safeguarding policy to take into account best practice when working with young people online and updated our overall organisational policy. This will become a public document in due course so others can benefit from our resourced research.

In the workplace we have become a Real Living Wage employer and benchmarked wages to ensure that we are paying fair rates at each level. We have changed the language used in adverts, reviewed where we advertise jobs and amended the criteria for jobs to make them more open. We have increased the number of part-time roles to enable people to manage caring responsibilities or do other independent work.

We became a Real Living Wage employer in 2019 and have benchmarked wages to ensure that we are paying fair rates at each level. We have changed the language used in adverts, reviewed where we advertise jobs and amended the criteria for jobs to make them more open. We apply flexibility where staff need to manage caring responsibilities or do independent work. In April 2019 we introduced an Employee Assistance Programme to provide confidential expert advice and counselling to staff experiencing challenges in their personal or professional lives and in April 2020 we extended this to include 33 independent artists who we have a close association with.  

In 2019 we commissioned a Disability Access Audit as a result of which we have made sure that our website is accessible, provides clear advice to visitors, that you can book wheelchair access or other support at the point of ticket purchase and we now have a member of the Board with responsibility for this work. We looked across our building to see where we needed to make improvements. In 2020 we signed up as a Disability Confident Employer. 

What do we still need to do?

Our Critical Friends Equality Group will advise and work with us to put in place 9 actions to underpin this Statement to represent the 9 minutes that the policeman applied pressure to the neck of George Floyd and these will be overseen by the Board of Trustees.

We shall make sure that everyone involved in the organisation is aware of the Toolkit created by Natasha Player as our Changemaker, that we update that Toolkit annually and that we use it to guide our work.

Moving forward we will create more changemaker roles to build greater equity into our work. We need to offer the opportunity to do that from within or outside of the formal structure of the organisation. 

We have improved the Equality data that we collect, largely because of the encouragement and policies of Arts Council England, for which we are grateful. We shall continue to be rigorous in keeping records and use the information to influence our decisions and programmes. We shall make this information publicly available. In July 2020 we used an asterisk to note where an applicant represented one of the nine protected characteristics when considering how to distribute the Surf The Wave Response Pot bursaries to independent artists and producers – in order to ensure that it was distributed equitably. We will evaluate the impact and response to that process with a view to explicitly using this process again in the future.

We do not have a diverse staff base. We recognise that this must change. We’ll work with our Board, Changemaker, Critical Friends and local communities to ensure that this happens. 

A programme supporting us to make positive change in recruitment and the workplace is the Women Leaders South West programme. We’re one of nine female-run organisations in the South West taking part, led by The Point Eastleigh, and the aim is to remove entry barriers to women of all ages and backgrounds so that 16 Associates can have placements across the partners and be nurtured as leaders. The start has been delayed due to Covid-19 but the programme should swing into action in early 2021.

We shall use the recommendations of the Freelance Taskforce to influence how we support and work with the independent sector moving forward. This will include reviewing and advertising the rates that we pay. 

As we develop our live and digital programmes, growing from the crisis management of Covid-19, we shall hold our values of kindness, inclusion, inspiration and passion at our heart and look through the lens of access and diversity across all that we do. Checking in again and again to make sure that we stay aware. We will support the creation of work of by and with different communities. Intersectionality, which is the interconnected nature of social categorisations and allows people to acknowledge their unique self, will form the bedrock of our person-centred approach, allowing people involved in PDSW to be who they are and bring their unique perspectives to influence what we do.

And finally, our programme will continue to include different dance genres and styles – representing the whole beautiful spectrum of dance in a contemporary world.

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