John Akomfrah CBE, ‘The Unfinished Conversation’ 2012
John Akomfrah CBE
The Unfinished Conversation 2012
Tate
© John Akomfrah / Smoking Dogs Films

Our role at Tate is to share art in all its complexity and diversity. In recent years we have made progress in better representing artists of colour in our collection and our programmes, but that work must go much further. We know, too, that not everyone has equal access to art and its benefits. We are committed to changing this through our work, and to challenging ourselves to dismantle the structures within our own organisation which perpetuate that inequality.

The founding of our gallery and the building of its collection are inextricably connected to Britain’s colonial past, and we know there are uncomfortable and inappropriate images, ideas and histories in the past 500 years of art which need to be acknowledged and explored. We also recognise the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class in the experience of inequality.

These are not new aims for Tate. We have a stated objective to become a more inclusive institution that reflects the world we live in now. But progress has not been fast or significant enough.

This page details Tate’s ongoing commitment to race equality. It will be regularly updated with information about what we are doing to address structural racism, charting our progress towards becoming a more inclusive organisation as part of an open and transparent process. It uses ‘Black, Asian and/or minority ethnic (BAME)’ as a signifier, however we recognise the discomfort that this terminology produces in reducing individuals of diverse heritage to a single category, and we are working to address this.

    May 2021

    Over the past year the pandemic has affected everyone in different ways, including our colleagues, partners, artists and audiences, and has had a disproportionate impact on certain communities. Tate’s Race Equality Taskforce (RET) has worked over this period to accelerate our progress towards being an anti-racist organisation, with an immediate focus on generating recommendations that enable structural change. Meeting frequently since September 2020, their work builds upon that initiated by colleagues in Tate’s BAME Staff Network, among others. An initial Action Plan covering Tate’s people, public and programme has now been agreed with Directors and signed off by Trustees, and progress will be reviewed regularly. This plan is not exhaustive; rather it is the continuation of a long-term process of sustained change, with actions reconsidered and reformulated as the organisation progresses. An overview of the initial recommendations is outlined below.

    Together with the work of the RET, all Tate departments have been encouraged to identify local and individual level actions that will further the goals and objectives set out in the Action Plan. A Race Equality Forum planned for late summer 2021 will present work around race equality and highlight the work of critical friends who are furthering inclusivity. The RET is also working on a Guide to Allyship for Tate colleagues, to help create safer spaces for colleagues of colour and shape positive practice throughout the organisation, which will be shared with the wider arts sector.

    People

    • Create a new senior Diversity & Inclusion role in the HR team and review Tate’s management training and performance review process to equip colleagues with the sensitivity, skills and confidence required to handle incidents related to race.
    • Establish a Guardians programme for colleagues to provide practical and emotional support for those who have faced racism, and develop new guidance and training detailing how to report racist incidents.
    • Ensure that race-related incidents are tracked and shared, including quarterly and annual ‘lessons learnt’ processes.
    • Better define and express Tate’s commitment to zero-tolerance on racism in our Dignity and Respect policy, staff induction pack and visitor communications.
    • Update the application process for senior roles to assess awareness and understanding of race equality in the workplace, and ensure that the Executive Group are kept informed of the overall proportion of BAME candidates applying for roles, starting at Tate and leaving Tate.
    • Take forward the renewed commitment from Trustees to engage in further anti-racism training.

    Public

    • Produce a paper outlining recommendations from schools and teachers to help de-mystify the galleries for those visiting for the first time.
    • Develop key principles for long-term community engagement, building on recent projects and embedding best practices.
    • Review existing marketing activity and audience research in order to identify issues impacting the enjoyment and engagement of specific BAME communities, developing proposals to better serve these audiences.
    • Develop new processes to track and report on any visitor complaints related to race.

    Programme

    • Improve internal transparency around the decision-making processes for acquisitions and programming, ensuring race equality is better considered in these processes.
    • Explore and test how consultation processes could help amplify the voices of underrepresented audiences in programming decisions.
    • Share learnings internally relating to the use of language, especially in relation to describing art and art history, and how this can apply to each team’s area of work.
    • Implement schemes such as Kickstart to improve routes in to working at Tate.
    • Update the performance review process to encourage and enable colleagues to take on new projects and programmes which further race equality.
    • Tate’s Race Equality Taskforce has now been established, comprising staff from across the organisation and service providers. It includes a member of Tate's Executive Group and makes recommendations to this Executive Group with additional support from two Trustee co-chairs. They have begun meeting regularly and working on an action plan, including commissioning a guide to ally-ship to help shape positive practice in our sector.
    • Tate’s latest Workforce Diversity Profile for 2019/2020 has been published, reporting that 17.2% of our workforce identify as Black, Asian and/or minority ethnic. This has increased slightly at all levels, most notably in Bands 1 and 2 (representing heads of department and senior managers) which have risen by 4.9% and 5.9% respectively. We will continue to work on our recruitment and retention policies to ensure this can progress further.
    • A roadmap for diversifying recruitment has been completed, which has led to a new commitment to ensure diverse interview panels and a new recruitment and selection training scheme. Other new training and development programmes include mandatory inclusion training for new starters, Active Bystander training (an industry recognised programme to equip people to tackle racism and bullying), new diversity and inclusion training for volunteers and managers, race discussion seminars led by Business in the Community, and a development programme for those underrepresented in Tate’s workforce.
    • Tate has signed up to the Race at Work charter and in line with this we have appointed executive sponsors to both our Black, Asian and/or minority ethnic Staff Network and Race Equality Taskforce, published ethnicity data to chart our progress, and reaffirmed our commitment to zero tolerance of bullying and harassment.
    • Tate’s Black, Asian and/or minority ethnic Staff Network hosted emergency meetings in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, offering a PoC only space to provide wellbeing support for its members.
    • Tate Britain's Rex Whistler restaurant mural, which contains racist imagery, will enter the next phase of consultation once the covid restrictions are lifted and the artwork can be viewed and discussed in person. The restaurant remains closed.
    • As part of the restructure of Tate Enterprises Ltd two new roles were created for Diversity and Inclusivity Retail Producers. An Equality Impact Assessment was also undertaken, which ensured that staff at the company who identify as Black, Asian and/or minority ethnic were not disproportionately affected by the restructure.
    • Tate’s current programme includes exhibitions and commissions that directly explore race and cultural heritage, including Zanele Muholi at Tate Modern and the learning programme around this, and Chila Kumari Singh Burman’s Winter Commission at Tate Britain.
    • Our Learning team along with a network of partners have published an independent research report entitled What Next?, commissioned in late 2019, which aims to help us better understand how we can support routes in for under-represented young people at Tate and across the sector.
    • A range of online events and content was launched to mark Black History Month and UK Black Pride this autumn, including a social media campaign devised by colleagues of colour across Tate to help amplify awareness beyond the gallery walls.

    In response to the tragic events of the past few weeks and the powerful anti-racism protests across the UK and around the world, we wanted to reaffirm Tate’s commitment to combating racism. We stand in solidarity with all those who are peacefully protesting and we hear the demands for change from our own visitors, supporters, artists, colleagues, partners, and the wider community. But making a statement isn’t enough. To address structural racism and the inequalities underpinning society, we have a responsibility to act.

    Our role at Tate is to share art in all its complexity and diversity. In recent years we have made progress in better representing artists of colour in our collection and our programmes, but that work must go much further. We know, too, that not everyone has equal access to art and its benefits. We’re committed to changing this through our work, and to challenging ourselves to dismantle the structures within our own organisation which perpetuate that inequality.

    The founding of our gallery and the building of its collection are intimately connected to Britain’s colonial past, and we know there are uncomfortable images, ideas and histories in the past 500 years of art which need to be acknowledged and explored. We also recognise the connection between our commitment to address the climate emergency and actions to combat social inequalities. This includes the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class in the experience of inequality.

    These are not new aims for Tate. We have a stated objective to become a more inclusive institution that reflects the world we live in now. But progress has not been fast or significant enough, so we are taking a number of actions in response. These include:

    • Creating a properly resourced internal taskforce this month to accelerate our progress toward being an anti-racist organisation.
    • Developing an action plan in dialogue with colleagues, which will be published on our website this summer, with progress reports shared publicly at 6-month intervals.
    • Redoubling our commitments to diversifying our volunteers and our workforce, especially at the highest levels, and supporting ethnic minority career progression. This will include publishing updated statistics to measure progress.
    • Reaffirming that we have zero tolerance of harassment and bullying, and to any form of racist abuse or collusion with racist abuse. Also introducing mandatory anti-racism training alongside existing unconscious-bias and structural racism training.
    • Commissioning a guide to ally-ship from recognised BAME leader(s) in this field for those who work at Tate to help us shape positive practice in our sector.
    • Continuing our work to diversify our collection and exhibitions, as well as finding new opportunities to amplify the voices and creativity of artists of colour.

    Some of these actions will have immediate effects, while others will take longer to accomplish, so we must hold ourselves accountable for maintaining this focus in the long term. In setting out these commitments, we also want to acknowledge that we do not have all the answers and have not always got things right in the past, and we will continue to educate ourselves and listen to others.

    Further resources

    With thanks to our BAME Staff Network and Race Equality Taskforce for their recommendations, we wanted to share some causes and organisations below whose work and expertise we can all learn from. This is a brief selection and not meant as a complete list, but a starting point ...

    Black Cultural Archives

    • A national heritage centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain.

    Black Lives Matter

    • A global organisation whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities.

    National Museum of African American History & Culture

    • Museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.

    Racial Equality Foundation

    • Promoting race equality in social support and public services.

    Resourcing Racial Justice

    • A coalition of people of colour innovators, change makers, activists, artists and social leaders dedicated to social change.

    Responses to Tate's Collection by our BAME Network

    • Tate's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network is made up of a diverse range of voices of Tate staff.

    Shades of Noir

    • An independent program created by Aisha Richards that supports curriculum design, pedagogies of social justice through representation, cultural currency and accessible knowledge.

    Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

    • Working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to inspire and enable them to succeed in the career of their choice.

    Updated on 20/05/2021