Royal Court Anti-Racist Reflection and Action
We are living through a historic moment with the Black Lives Matter movement. It is our responsibility as guardians of a theatre with the important and influential mission of developing and supporting writers, to build on this and make lasting change happen. We acknowledge that theatre in this country, including the Royal Court of course, is institutionally racist. We understand that every time we communicate our anti-racist solidarity or ally-ship there are people who have experienced racism and discrimination at our hands – we acknowledge that and must take responsibility for it.
This demand for change, born of George Floyd’s murder, is about being Black, and the unique injustices against the Black community from Britain’s civic institutions: the police, the criminal justice system, schools, higher education, media and culture. We recognise this unique pain.
This document is directly in response to Black Lives Matter.
We seek to define Institutional racism so we can recognise it.
Institutional racism is that which, covertly or overtly, resides in the policies, procedures, operations and culture of public or private institutions – reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in return whether conscious or unconscious.
How has the empire and the industrial revolution constructed a racist narrative built on white supremacy that we all tacitly buy into? We need a collective deconstruction of empire and a deep understanding of the way our cultural institutions have developed, in order to finally shift the white dominance of the arts and society.
What are the constructs of the Royal Court’s dramaturgical and international practice, developed over 50 years? How much bias, control and complicity is there within our models for developing writers in Britain and across the globe and telling the stories we want to hear?
Our work ultimately seeks to be for, and include, all people of colour as well as a multitude of different voices and lived experiences. However, this process clarifies more than ever that our work and our language needs to be specific to the individuals and groups that make up these wider, profoundly allied and intersectional communities. We must do equally focused and thorough work to understand and break down the barriers and prejudices which stifle true equality and transformation wherever this is experienced and for all who experience this.
We will work to create a new ethical framework around data capture, which is allied with this vision for the Royal Court.
We are working in consultation with our board and external experts to open up a suitable way of hearing people’s testimonies and experiences of systemic racism, bias and discrimination in our organisation, either as staff or freelancers, past and present. From this work, we will find appropriate ways to be accountable to those who have experienced racism in our organisation and we will establish the necessary actions to ensure this can no longer happen. This will also include work with our audience and stakeholders to fully understand and be accountable to our values. Ultimately this major piece of work must decolonise the organisation and transform all internal aspects of institutional racism and micro-aggressions.
We will create a Justice System for anyone working with or at the Royal Court, or accessing our systems, to raise experiences of structural racism, discrimination, micro-aggressions and injustice at the Royal Court. This will replace previous grievance procedures, which are no longer fit for purpose. This will be a peer-supported structure, overseen by the Board and we will appoint external independent advisors to hold us to account with clear outcomes. We are creating this system in collaboration with our staff at all levels and the Board through July and August.
We will work to ensure that Black people joining the organisation at trainee level have clear pathways through our organisation to more senior roles and set up similar pathways into other organisations.
We will increase representation significantly across all areas of our workforce – focusing initially on senior management and production staff, and aiming to be truly representative of London within four years. We will lead on creating a unique and radical system to see real change focusing at senior management level over a two year timeframe.
We will commit to at least 45% of all cast and creative teams (Freelancers) being people of colour over each year.
We will support and give autonomy to the people of colour group on our staff team which mobilised for the Climate Justice work and the Take Up Space programme to continue to be a force within our institution.
We will hold unconscious bias and anti-racism training annually and formalise it into our induction processes, as we have with the Code of Behaviour.
We will create opportunities through lectures, audits and other works to begin a vivid re-examining of history and undergo a collective deconstruction of empire and a deep understanding of the way our cultural institutions have developed. This will be disseminated and understood widely throughout the organisation across our staff, Board and all stakeholders.
We will critique our dramaturgy – do we only respond to stories we recognise or that affirm our bias? We will take responsibility for how trauma and racism is represented in storytelling and by whom. Where do the approaches we use to support playwrights in development, perpetuate culturally biased assumptions and seek to erase alternative dramaturgies, particularly when working with writers from other traditions around the world?
We will make our policies and systems for reading work and for programming transparent and better communicated.
We will actively challenge racist bias in media and from theatre critics.
We work within education, schools, universities, health and the criminal justice system. We will continue to use our influence and new learning to contribute to dismantling structural inequalities and to contribute to de-colonising the curriculum, in these establishments where we have influence.
We will share resources including plays and work from the canon of Black playwrights at the Royal Court and beyond.
We will continue to place race at the heart of our climate work. The effects of climate change are not shared equally, and are inextricably linked to colonial and industrial growth. Climate justice and anti-racism are central to our transition to net zero.
We will empower and enable Black artists and all artists of colour to be the artists they want and need and deserve to be without the constant pressure of representation.
This document was first published on 23 June 2020. It was updated on 30 June 2020 to clarify that the necessary consultation work to establish suitable ways to hear people’s testimonies of systemic racism is already in progress.