I suppose I look at this subject from a privileged position. An educated, white, oh-so-nearly middle class, employed house-owner. But also I work for an arts organisation which for 57 years has woven inclusivity into its fabric. Reflective of its home in one of the youngest and most diverse cities in Europe, Midlands Arts Centre not only connects people through the “seeing, making and doing” of contemporary art, but it’s also a vital hub of social cohesion for South Birmingham and beyond.
This is obviously in-part a boast, but also an important context to explain my hesitation to attend the Inclusivity and Audiences Symposium. My internal monologue usually sits there whining “This ISN’T our starting place. We KNOW all of this. We DO all of this”. Fortunately there’s the other voice that reminds me not to be so horribly smug, and that there is always more to learn and ways to improve.
The delegate mix is always fascinating to me. There were those in the room with current strategic responsibility, those in the infancy of their careers wondering how to influence their leaders; but overwhelmingly we were marketers with a passion to connect and care for all our audiences. The speakers were fascinating. My smugness was dealt a few well-deserved blows as I realised where my organisation was failing to deliver the accessibility needed. But it seemed that in the room, who we really wanted were our programmers, creatives, producers and CEOs. How might the leaning have been amplified into meaningful action had we shared the experience together? As shown by the case studies presented during the day, success and impact comes from this shared vision.
Perhaps it was the workshop session with Deaf comedian Rinkoo Barpaga which actually showed us the way: in minutes we learned to communicate without words or formal BSL training. He taught us the answers lie in what we already know, just opening ourselves to others in our gesture and intent. As communicators perhaps we just need to change the ways we communicate within our organisations, before we can truly transform our relationships with our audiences.
Head of Sales and Marketing, Midlands Arts Centre
Image credit: AMA Inclusivity and Audiences Symposium (c) Eleanor Howarth