BlackStage UK is a free documentary -style web series exposing the racial injustices experienced by Black workers in the UK’s creative and entertainment industries. With each episode focusing on a topic that widely affects the Black community, the series sheds light on industry bias, and explores solutions for moving towards true racial equity in the sector, and in the wider world.
BlackStage UK is an emotional and educational exposé on what it means to be Black in the UK Arts industry, featuring 30 Black and Black mixed-raced workers from across the sector and from all over the UK. Participants were interviewed in the height of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, during the summer of 2020 and the UK’s first lockdown. The resulting episodes are a free tool in anti-racist education for people and organisations who have made public promises to implement systemic change, and a vital starting place for those who are beginning this anti-racist work. The series is also a cathartic sharing of accounts for the black community allowing space for healing, where viewers will finally see the impact of the institutional racism they have faced recognised publicly.
Created and produced by actor Gabrielle Brooks, BlackStage UK launched with the first episode MicroAggressions and Assumptions. The series covers a range of topics, from allyship and the path to true racial equity, through to the problematic use of abbreviations like ‘BAME.’
Gabrielle Brooks said: “I created BlackStage UK out of necessity. This pandemic has exacerbated the systematic inequalities experienced by Black people in the arts and beyond. While institutions have made pledges towards change, they are still leaving a key element out of the conversation. Us, the Black community. This is where BlackStage UK comes in. This series enables a safe space for the harsh realities of the racism which exists in our industry and country to be exposed. This community who have been largely silenced, are finally and rightly being amplified.”
BlackStage UK is supported by Inc Arts and Arts Council England and features a wide range of creatives, actors and professionals from across the sector, including 2020 BAFTA award – winning actor and writer Gbemisola Ikumelo and star of Channel 4’s It’s a Sin Omari Douglas.
Gbemisola Ikumelo said: “So many of the experiences of aggression and racism felt by Black creatives are very isolating. Blackstage UK is giving us that sense of community back, which is so empowering. We all want to feel like we have a tribe.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has had catastrophic effects on the arts industry, and its fight for survival. There is concern that priorities will shift away from developing and protecting an inclusive workforce [source Guardian]. With many freelancers receiving no government help through support schemes, the industry is unlikely to retain individuals who cannot afford to self-support during this period of closure and limited work, meaning the sector will be rebuilt by those with the economic and social means to remain with little or no pay. Staff cuts have already fallen disproportionately on the low paid, casual staff, where the majority of Black and ethnic minority workers in the sector are employed.
BlackStage UK seeks to highlight this already existing disparity of experience in the industry for Black people, as well as trying to prevent the regression the sector may take if collective steps are not taken to prioritise and protect representation.