Last year, following the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020, and Black Lives Matter protests, the Crafts Council voiced its support for the Black community. Like many others we were called out for failing to show sufficient commitment to anti-racism and inequality. Since then, we have stepped up our work proactively seeking ways in which we can make a difference.
In response to the criticism, we held a meeting in June 2020 to discuss how to address racism and inequality in the craft sector. Over 100 people attended the meeting which was incredibly positive in its commitment to making change happen but very painful and upsetting for those who have experienced racism and inequality and frustrating in the lack of progress or positive change over sustained years. Following the event, we, published a series of commitments to making our own change and to build trust in us as an institution. We have a responsibility to address our own inadequacies and consider the inbuilt bias that has failed to express diversity in all aspects of our work.
One year on this is a summary of what we have done and plan to continue.
Whilst we have seen some positive changes it is only a scratch on the surface of this issue.
Yes, a police officer was convicted of the murder of George Floyd; and a change of political leadership in the US has seen a turnaround in some of its most extreme policies. However, the debate in this country about our responsibility for slavery and colonialism and what to do with that heritage in our buildings, public art and collections quickly became polarised. In April 2021, The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published The Report which has become known as The Sewell Report. An investigation into race and ethnic disparities in the UK it was met with a surge of criticism for the inaccurately optimistic picture that the report paints of the state of race in Britain, and concerns for the repercussions of its recommendations.
We recognise that the Crafts Council must use it programmes of activity to promote a different narrative: one that challenges institutional racism and inequality and one that champions social justice.
One key action for us has been to work with a small informal steering group to develop a Global Majority branch: a network for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse makers, craft businesses and professionals. Most importantly we have agreed the creation of a Relationship Manager post to support both the group and Crafts Council staff in developing this work and network; and in celebrating the diversity of craft. This, we believe, is a proactive and positive response to the argument made by those who say there is no problem and that we simply need to reframe the argument. This is not what we, or the steering group, recognise as the reality of the situation.
Craft is a deeply intuitive activity which is at the heart of all cultures. It speaks of humanity: of our creative expression and engagement with the material world. Craft can be both a voice for protest and dissent as well as build dignity and self-esteem in people. We must use it as a force for good: creating programmes of activity that are delivered through co-creation and collaboration. We fully recognise that whilst we have made some small steps, we still have some way to go. However, by working with others and being a good ally, we intend to continue the journey.
Read our June 2021 update on our commitments to diversity and inclusion
Read our December 2020 update on our commitments to diversity and inclusion