Arts Council England (ACE) in their latest attempt to convince everybody that they are not racist and they "get" people that have a skin colour other than white have done what any self respecting organisation does in this day and age, they have launched a website!
Now let's get one thing clear straight way. If you think ACE is racist or biased in any way (with regards to race) then we're pretty sure, here in TheLab™ that you're wrong. If nothing else, being institutionally racist would require a level of organisational coherence that the funding behemoth has failed to demonstrate even once in the last 60 years. So let's move on.
Titled 'Sustained Theatre' (whatever that means) the site lists its aims as follows;
"Sustained Theatre is a network and a call to action for all artists to lobby for positive change. This is the first time we, as artists, have had a real opportunity to take centre stage and have a voice in transforming the future of our national theatre.
We want to keep issues relating to Black, Asian, and minority ethnic theatre artists and practitioners alive and in the national debate. To do this, we need you. We want your voices, presenting us with new challenges in order to permanently establish our collective aspirations and standing in the arts.
We need you to become part of the process, engage with us through this website - make your position heard to make a positive difference. Network and connect, research and debate: this website is just the first stage of a long-term strategy."
It's curious that ACE has written the statement in the first person with the phrase "we, as artists". The domain name for the site is owned by ACE and the site is run, presumably by ACE. Who has overall control is not at all clear. There are published articles by various people but who chose them? Who edited them? Who cleared them for publication? Was it artists, was it ACE, was it us? (now that would be spooky! Ed!)
According to the about page this is also the first time "the people" have had the opportunity to voice their concerns or opinions on the great "cultural diversity" debate. Even if we only take that comment in its loosest possible terms it would appear that ACE has been deaf to the comments, opinions and complaints of the masses ever since its inception.
Also, ACE has just ended the great arts debate or "Public Value Enquiry". Are they trying to tell us they weren't listening then? Did they spend not very much money at all just doing something for the effect rather than achieving a tangible outcome? Would we, as a whole, be shocked to find out that might be the case?
At the core of this website, and its vague goals, it's the same tired mantra of achieving or recognising "cultural diversity". Even though nobody seems able to explain exactly what that it is or how to go about it.
In an interview with Article19 Shobana Jeyasingh said;
"I'm a choreographer because I'm interested in dance, I'm not particularly interested in South Asian dance. I think in some ways that the cultural agenda becomes overblown and actually it stops people appreciating what you are trying to make them see which is actually dance making."
One of the top dance makers in Europe is basically asking ACE and the suits in London to knock it off with this nonsense. If a black artist wants to work with a white artist or a Chinese artist or any other kind of artist then they should do it for the right reasons (like mutual interests, complimentary talents, etc), not because ACE is running a social engineering experiment.
If cultural connections are not made for genuine reasons then it's all a facade, it's fake, it's firing for effect.
Update: ACE told us; "The name of the Sustained Theatre website editor is Neesh Iqbal. Neesh has been contracted by the Sustained Theatre Artists Leadership Team (STALT), who are Garfield Allen, Tyrone Huggins, Deborah Williams, Kully Thiarai and Jonathan Man."