Cohesion Plus delivered a major online conference on 12th November which brought together BAME leaders from the arts and private sector, to talk about their experiences as people of colour, the challenges they have faced, their lived experiences and what can be done to help dismantle some of the barriers that exist.

The Dismantling Barriers conference was attended by over 160 participants from across England, with a range of arts and cultural organisations including venues, museums and festivals participating and was supported by Arts Council England.

The conference was opened by Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus who spoke his career in the arts and the challenges and stereotypes he has faced. Guest speakers included Paulette Long OBE, a prominent consultant within the music industry, Jaswinder Singh, Director of Asian Arts Agency, Michelle BrambleChair of the North Kent Caribbean Network, Ameet Chana, actor and Associate Director at Rifco Theatre Company, Nathan Holder, author, music education consultant and public speaker.

The private sector was represented by Deloitte who discussed their Black Action Plan and Abid Hussain, Lead for Diversity at Arts Council England who spoke about the work that was being done internally and externally.

Comments made after the conference included;

Invaluable information from people talking about their own experiences, lots of relevant experience….”

Much better understanding of how institutions need to be more relevant to the communities we serve and the barriers for entry into the sector in terms of recruitment and board members”

Hearing the lived experience of the guest speakers was extremely valuable as well as thinking about how I apply it in my own organisation”

Gurvinder Sandher, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus commented, “We have championed diversity in the arts since our inception. This conference was a way for us to share out story and that of some of our peers in the arts sector, so that delegates could understand the challenges that we have all had to overcome, and continue to do so whilst being told over and over again that diversity matters. The pandemic and the disproportionate impact it has had on BAME communities just underlined the work that still needs to be done not just in the arts sector but in society. The sub title of the conference was A Call to Walk the Walk not just Talk the Talk, and I hope that as a result of attending this event that delegates start to look at their own organisations, and start to bring about meaningful change. The feedback we have received to date would indicate that the conference will start conversations in different organisations and start to help dismantling barriers.”

I am incredibly grateful to Arts Council England and our amazing speakers for their support. I am really proud of what we managed to deliver with the conference and our organisation looks forward to progressing these much needed and vital conversations.”