“We acknowledge that theatre in this country, including the Royal Court of course, is institutionally racist”. Royal Court
The Royal Court theatre joins the numerous businesses and organisations that have made statements about how they will address racism in light of the murder of George Floyd. Here is their statement.
Today we are sharing more details on the work we are doing around anti-racism – reflecting on where we are now, and the action we will take going forward. This work is only the beginning of the process.
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.
Action We Will Take
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 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 work to find a suitable and safe way of bearing witness, where necessary, to the experience of systemic racism, bias and discrimination in our organisation – calling this out at all levels, thus undertaking a major piece of work to decolonise the organisation and transform all internal aspects of institutional racism and micro-aggressions. This will include work with our audience and stakeholders too to fully understand and be accountable to our values.
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 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 will explore the possibility of external independent advisors to hold us to account and 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 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 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 share resources including plays and work from the canon of black playwrights at the Royal Court and beyond.
We will commit to at least 45% of all cast and creative teams (Freelancers) being people of colour over each year.
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