On 8 June 2020, Coventry City of Culture Trust issued the following statement.
The team at Coventry City of Culture Trust has been listening to the international, national, and local conversations around the murder of George Floyd and the global protests his death has sparked. As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting our Black colleagues, audiences, and artists, two of the Trust team (Elizabeth Lawal, Producer and Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive) have co-written a response.
Elizabeth is a producer, theatre maker, cultural researcher, and activist. She is a firm believer in the power of young people and social change. Previously, she was Head of Community at Free Radical, part of the Beatfreeks Collective. Elizabeth has been helping to shape the region’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement through her role at the Trust and as a member of the Culture Central Board.
Before joining the Coventry team, Martin was Chief Executive at Northamptonshire Arts Management Trust, overseeing the Royal & Derngate theatres, Northampton Filmhouse and The Core at Corby Cube.
“At the heart of Coventry lies a real culture of care and change.
From Lady Godiva, to the two-tone movement, Coventry has a history of stepping up and taking a stand. It seems that once again, this is the time to step out and make a real difference.
On the 25th May, during the Coronavirus pandemic, which has transformed the way we as a global community operate, the world witnessed the death of George Floyd. This has led to outrage, hurt and fear in the Black community worldwide.
His death has posed two questions, do Black lives matter and how are we perpetuating the systemic racism that has fuelled the fire for further outrage?
We understand that the Black community is mourning, is needing to be heard and is seeking real change to the racial inequality that has enabled more lives lost without accountability, fewer people in spaces which can make fundamental change, and therefore a very unequal stake in society.
It is time to look inward, listen outward, and ask some serious questions. We must refuse to make the same mistakes and take equitable action.
As a cultural organisation led with, for and by the people of the city we are looking inward and holding ourselves to account. We are making it clear that we are standing with, for and alongside the Global Black Lives Matter Movement, because we all need to make a change to the way we operate, to move forward and to care radically.
In the last year we have invested in the Belgrade Theatre to support their recruitment of Black and Asian co-artistic Directors and have launched a leadership programme which seeks to transform the cultural leadership in the city. We have been working with our partners at Positive Youth Foundation and the Refugee and Migrant Centre to provide resources to young, Black citizens and our Producers continue to work in communities across the city to co-create projects that will feature in the 2021 programme. But we need to do much more.
We are making space within our organisation to listen to our Black colleagues who are hurting, and we are introducing unconscious bias training for all team members. We will reflect the richness of Black culture within our programming choices. Through our leadership programme and our support for frontline 3rd sector organisations we can shift power to the people who need to be seen and heard the most.
We will continuously hold ourselves to account and expect to be held to account by others.
We are, and will be, listening to the needs and wants of our Black community within the city, because we know that Black Lives Matter.”