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Implementing real strategic change


Debbie Bandara is Artistic Director of Forest Tribe Dance Theatre, who primarily focuses on directing and choreographing immersive theatre that reflects the diverse and inclusive world we live in. In this blog Debbie considers the issues discussed at the AMA’s Inclusivity and Audiences Day that she attended in Birmingham in November and the need to implement real strategic change.

Over recent years, there has been an increased awareness of inequalities in our sector. However, in order to make changes, we have to be conscious of the systematic difficulties within the structure of organisations. I was one of the participants of Leaders of Tomorrow supported by tiata fahodzi, 20 Stories High, Freedom Studios, Talawa Theatre and RYDTS, my knowledge base of diversity and inclusion was enriched and validated by the speakers. It clarified my aims and key milestones to make a positive difference.

As the IIAN (International Inclusive Arts Network) champion of England for ASSTIEJ UK, I am very much aware of the work created for and by inclusive organisations and artists. I observe and document inclusive work but in order for real change, there must be a platform where all organisations regardless of genre should come together with the main intention to support and remove barriers that encourage mobility within the sector.

The majority of the people that attended the AMA’s Inclusivity and Audiences Day in Birmingham in November were given permission by their organisation to be there. I gave permission for myself, self-funded, to listen to the speakers who spoke with passion, pain and frustrations. It made me realise how important it was for me to be there, a woman of colour, with a voice, and a vision to shift perspectives strategically.

It made me realise how important it was for me to be there, a woman of colour, with a voice, and a vision to shift perspectives strategically.

It seems some organisations are forward thinking enough to make changes to appeal to diverse and inclusive audiences. There really shouldn’t be any barriers, and all organisations should encourage their spaces to represent their audiences and listen to them so that they feel safe, accepted and included in all decision making.

I really want to see progress and action taking place now. There has been an influx of diversity and inclusivity courses, yet minimal change has occurred. It will happen through careful strategic planning and collaboration with the right partners who truly value the importance of supporting those who are not as fortunate as them, and open doors to those who are never given the opportunity. It’s a courageous step forward but one that needs to be done in order to make a real positive change.

Everyone is working in their own organisation and at times not fully aware of the shift that can be achieved if we are able to come together. In particular, many of the “open sessions” during the day consisted of producers , managers and officers finding it difficult to reach certain audiences, yet through conversation it was made apparent that being in an open space allowed new connections to flourish and form. It is creating a healthy ecosystem like this that will promote positive change.

It is creating a healthy ecosystem like this that will promote positive change.

The day was valuable on many levels, and I am still taking time to truly reflect on the wonderful speakers, especially Stella Kanu and Harpreet Kaur. I am already implementing key strategies discussed during the day and apply into my own practice for the future. With a background in Artificial Intelligence, I can see how important it is to ensure that gender, diversity and inclusion become integrated into the algorithms that target marketing to specific audiences, as this is a new platform that will require new skill sets.

Key takeaways:

  1. Importance of highlighting unconscious bias in diversity and inclusivity.
  2. That action still needs to be taken forward, those in power are not doing enough to shift the balance.
  3. To recognise my own skill set and and push for more pro-active change in the industry sector.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Debbie Bandara at or @ftdancetheatre via social media platforms or visit to discuss implementing real strategic change for inclusivity and diversity in our sector for the future.

Video highlights of the Keynote and four Provocations at the AMA’s Inclusivity and Audiences Day 2019 — Smashing Systems & Building Blocks — Birmingham, November 2019 are now available to view in the AMA’s Members’ Area. You will need your member’s login to access.