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Reflections on conversations with our Artist Advisory Group

Thu 30 September 2021
Part of: Working with Artists
Image: Alexah Tomey-Alleyne at No Dress Code, Yorkshire Dance, November 2019

Back in June, we announced our new Artist Advisory Group for Yorkshire Dance who are a subcommittee of the Board of Directors who aim to inform programming and decision making at Yorkshire Dance from diverse perspectives across dance-background, career-phase, age, gender and ethnicity. The Artist Advisory Group is made up of, Alexah Tomey-Alleyne, Izzy Brittain, George Fellows, Keira Martin and Bakani Pick-Up.  Since June, the Artist Advisory Group had their first meeting in July 2021, leading to valuable and insightful conversations. Below you can read our CEO & Artistic Director, Wieke Eringa’s reflections on the first meeting:

When I started at YD well over a decade ago, I always knew I could only do my job if I had a regular conversation with a group of independent artists – critical friends if you like, who we could ‘chew the cud’ with. I knew I needed independent voices who could challenge and inform and support me. Originally they were people I already knew and trusted as I had choppy waters to negotiate. This group evolved over ten years to become a subcommittee of the Board, with formal reporting back at Board meetings and with more diversity at its heart. We had some brilliant conversations, hard, inspiring and challenging and I can point to many direct impacts on how we developed projects and programmes.

The pandemic threw an urgent light on what we already knew as the immoral discrepancy between freelancers and employed people in terms of working conditions, not least income levels in the dance world. We also learned hard lessons following the re-eruption of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 – whatever we had done before was not enough: we had to go deeper and further in our desire for change.

As a result, we completely reimagined the Artist Advisory Group, with new terms and conditions, recruitment and pay. A widely supported open call out led to over 20 diverse applications and, from an inclusive workshop (online) the new group was formed of 5 brand new and very different artists all of whom already demonstrate a strong desire and ability to think, act and influence beyond their own creative practice.

The hard work was worth it: We finally had a brilliant meeting in July 2021, with staff, Trustees and independent artist. As well as building trust and creating a safe space in which people can speak their truth, we focussed on our shared desire for what this process could generate. Desire for sharing each other’s perspectives, for new insight and thinking, for honesty and rigour but also for action, for seeing change. There were tears, confessions and challenge. I felt really moved that this well-considered process had led to a genuinely inspiring start of such a valuable conversation.

One of the outcomes was the clear need for better communication with artists, one of the core audience groups for the organisation, about how we invest in them. A new annual artist event is already in the planning, as well as new artist-newsletter.

Roll on autumn meeting, where we will look more closely at anti-racism and what we can do to further develop the voice of independent artists in the organisation, as this is just the start.

Wieke Eringa, July 2021

 

Image: Alexah Tomey-Alleyne at No Dress Code, Yorkshire Dance, November 2019
Photographer: Ant Robling

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