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An event driven by action, fuelled by kindness

Abi D’Amore, Sound Connections Workforce Development Programme Manager

Inclusive Practice in Action: Diversifying the Music Education Workforce is not just an event about diversity and inclusion, but an event that has diversity and inclusion embedded throughout the planning and delivery.

Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests which we know have impacted deeply on many young people, it felt timely to programme this event entirely on diversifying the music education workforce, in order to improve access to and engagement with music opportunities for all.

Our starting point was how can we encourage individuals who work within music education (whether organisational leaders, practitioners, teachers, project managers, workshop leaders, students) who may have experienced racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, transphobia, homophobia, hate speech, classism or discrimination of any kind not only to attend, but to feel included, safe, and to know that their voices, opinions and experiences are valued.

As the event organiser this involved thinking about the format and content, and most critically the planning process, acknowledging that I don’t have lived experience of discrimination and/or microaggressions in the workplace in the way that many colleagues unacceptably have.

I brought together (and paid) an advisory group of consultants, with a range of perspectives and experiences: Imrana Mahmood, Jenetta Hurst, John Kelly, Nate Holder and Samantha Spence. You can read their biographies here.

This group did a number of things during a workshop session and subsequent discussions:

  • Scrutinised the aims and intention of the event
  • Considered how the event will look and feel for delegates, particularly those who may have experienced discrimination in the workplace, or felt uncomfortable at other music education events
  • Shaped the content, recommended speakers, and made introductions
  • Advised on the accessibility measures that need to be in place to support disabled music leaders to attend
  • Provided guidance on the communications for the event

During 2020 I also had the privilege of meeting Brenda Rattray, who through her ‘In Conversation’ session that I attended on racism, deeply challenged me personally and professionally on my own behaviours and actions, yet through her kindness, spirituality and honesty helped me to gain some clarity on how I could be an effective and powerful ally to others. It therefore was natural to invite Brenda to be the host for this event, and she has also been fundamental in shaping the look and feel.

Finally we employed a group of five young people aged 18-25 to co-produce and co-facilitate the event: Elija Femi, Henry Baker, Kitty Got Claws, Rochelle Blair and Siobhan Clough. You can read more about them here. Their voices have been critical in shaping the event, particularly the aspects that we hope will appeal to young and emerging leaders.

As a result of all of this provocation, warmth, perspective, expertise and kindness, we have crafted an event that is beyond what I as one individual could have achieved. We have a brilliantly diverse line-up of speakers, who we hope delegates will identify with in different ways. We have put various measures in place to support the psychological safety of all of our delegates. There will be a slow start and a soft ending each day to give people time to acclimatise to attending a large event. There will be an unmoderated space where delegates can go to listen to music, as well as various online ways of enabling people to connect with others. There will be a BSL interpreter, a graphic illustrator and subtitles. We have developed a protocol for dealing with any offensive or challenging behaviour that may cause distress or be triggering for other delegates. We have subsidised the ticket price, and will fully remove the cost for any practitioners, particularly freelancers, who have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic.

Brenda will be hosting a pre-event session on the 11th February exploring identity, micro-aggressions, and what it means to be a powerful ally. This is an open discussion session, where Brenda will share her own experiences and invite others to share theirs, and will be an opportunity to explore themes that are central to the main event in March.

We want people to learn, think, relate provocations to their own practice, make connections with others and pledge actions that will result in a real change. We warmly invite you to attend, and hope to see you there.

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