UPDATE ABOUT THICK & TIGHT'S DECISION TO WORK AT THE BARBICAN
15 DECEMBER 2021
This is a follow up to our previous statement (see below) about our decision to work at The Barbican in light of Barbican Stories. Barbican Stories is an online book released in June 2021 containing 98 testimonies of racism experienced by current and former Barbican employees. We wanted to share some further information.
Here is a link to the Anti-Racism page of Barbican’s website which provides updates on their Anti-Racism work within their Equity, Diversity & Inclusion strategy.
The November update includes links to the recent External Review into racism at the Barbican, an HR Audit and a Tackling Racism Action Plan.
Together with our Advisory Committee, we have been trying to hold The Barbican accountable through meetings and Q&A sessions with other artists. The Barbican recognizes that there is a lot of work to do and we want to support that work. As much as we can, in our capacity as a small company, we are trying to make sure that the Barbican delivers on the commitments laid out in its EDI statement and Tackling Racism Action Plan, raising concerns where we feel it is necessary. While we are associated with the Barbican, we will do what we can to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the artists and audiences who we are bringing into the building.
We understand that some of our audiences will feel conflicted about coming to see us perform at the Barbican and fully respect your stance. If you would like us to raise your concerns with the Barbican as an audience member, please write to us. The directors we have spoken to at The Barbican have made it clear that they are “grateful for the dialogue”.
Our Advisory Committee is helping us learn from our interaction with the Barbican, as part of our ongoing work to interrogate and improve our own working practice.
Please get in touch if you would like to talk to us about this.
STATEMENT ABOUT THICK & TIGHT'S DECISION TO WORK AT THE BARBICAN
27 OCTOBER 2021
As part of a 2022 tour of our new programme of work, we shall be returning to London International Mime Festival, this time at the Barbican’s Pit Theatre. Tickets for our show went on sale last week. Alongside the release of the tickets, we are sharing this statement about our decision to work at The Barbican. We hoped to be able to share this statement earlier, and to include reference to an external review currently happening in the institution. The review is taking longer than expected, but as our tickets have now gone on sale we don’t want to wait any longer before explaining our position.
We arrived at the decision to perform at the Barbican following long conversations with their Theatre Department about work the organisation is doing to address its institutional racism. We, our Advisory Committee and the artists involved in our show all felt that the Theatre Department were very open and responsive to our questioning. They shared clear timelines for change, welcomed suggestions from us and asked us to trial a new Anti-Racism Touring Rider as part of our agreement.
As a queer led company which works continually with, for and about people marginalised in different ways, we are dedicated to challenging discrimination of all kinds. We are continuing to learn how best to do this. Our decision to go ahead was not made lightly, and our dialogue with the Barbican is ongoing in order to remain abreast of progress in their anti-racism action. Alongside this, we are undertaking work to improve Thick & Tight’s own working practice. Ensuring the safety of everyone we’re bringing into the building as part of our show is our priority.
A major element of the Barbican’s timeline for change is an independent investigation into racism within the institution. The investigation was commissioned by the City of London Corporation’s Town Clerk and the Barbican’s Board, who appointed law firm Lewis Silkin LLP to oversee it. The investigation was launched after the release of ‘Barbican Stories’ (https://www.barbicanstories.com/), a collection of nearly 100 testimonies of racist discrimination and prejudice experienced by people employed by the Barbican.
The City of London Corporation and the Barbican announced that the report resulting from the investigation would be sent to Barbican’s board in September (https://news.cityoflondon.gov.uk/external-review-launched-into-experiences-of-racism-at-the-barbican/). This September timeline was explained to us in our initial meetings with the Barbican. We asked for an update and have just been informed that the investigation is taking longer than expected, in order to include interviews with a larger number of current and former staff members. We have also been told that the review is likely to be finalised in the next couple of weeks and will be published publicly at the same time as being shared with the Barbican’s board.
Transparency around developments with Barbican’s anti-racism work is vital to ensure that we feel confident bringing our company into the building. The change of timeline has left us and our collaborators in a compromised position regarding our own principles and decision-making. We continue however to hold great hope that while the Barbican does not have control over the findings or recommendations of the external review, that it continues to acknowledge its institutional racism and undertakes a thorough overhaul for lasting and systemic change.
We welcome the Barbican’s commitment to publishing the results of the investigation and resulting action plans to programmed artists, and to the wider public, in the next two to three weeks.
Here is a link to the Barbican’s Anti-Racism page if you would like to read more: https://www.barbican.org.uk/anti-racism
We’re here for an open dialogue with friends, peers and audiences on this topic. We will release an update as soon as we can.