Report: How to plant magic beans AND build rockets to the moon…

Published in collaboration with Indigo Ltd.

Slate: Black. Arts. World. was a three-year project led by Eclipse that supported Black artists in the North to work regionally, nationally and internationally, building sustainable models for careers in the independent sector. For many years Black artists, and fellow artists also maginalised for their race, have been forced to operate almost entirely outside of the established ‘cultural sector’ with their skills, knowledge, informal networks, funding opportunities and leadership potential remaining undervalued – the project sought to identify the challenges these artists faced and tackle them head on.

This work is now even more timely, relevant and important. At the time of writing the publication, the British theatre industry’s future course was and is still changing daily. Under the umbrella of COVID-19, we have witnessed the murder of George Floyd in the USA. This has led to a deeper and continual exposing of systematic racism in the UK and our world. As the arts sector re-emerges and makes its tentative first steps to a “new normal”, Eclipse shares this report to be used by Black-led companies and artists to make the case for funding and support for change as well as acting as a reminder to the wider sector of the work already done, the lessons learnt and a call to action now and for our all our futures.

There has never been a time in the history of our lives like the one we are facing now and we hope that the ground-breaking work already done over the past three years can be built upon and given fresh impetus and focus.

Click here to read the full report >

The challenges and outcomes – a brief summary:

Slate identified six key challenges that needed to be faced. The programme then focussed on robust and comprehensive initiatives that would tackle these challenges. They were:

  • An historical lack of recognition for Black artists especially outside of London meant that many ‘regional’ artists felt disempowered and ignored. By the end of the project over 46,000 audience members had experienced work supported by Slate,
  • No established networks to share experiences, left Black artists feeling isolated and unsupported. The creation of ‘Slate Socials’ allowed 1,336 artists to meet with other like-minded people and share their thoughts and concerns
  • A lack of dedicated funding for R&D work limited the scope for Black artists to develop new work. This challenge was met with 38 artists receiving R&D funding to enable them to develop their work without financial pressure
  • An absence of clear pathways for progression into and through the cultural sector was limiting opportunities so the Project recruited ‘Enablers’ to work directly with artists to help them establish themselves – 3,696 people were helped in this way
  • As ‘torchbearers’ successful Black artists felt an unreasonable weight of expectation on their shoulders and the project responded to this challenge in two ways – inviting 290 artists to attend retreats where artistic journeys could be shared and creating the ‘Play Pots’ scheme which gave funding, time and support to 85 artists for developing new ideas in a non-judgemental environment.
  • Black artists sat on the fringes of the arts industry in the UK with a lack of influence in the sector so Eclipse used its extensive networks across the North to form the ‘Slate Consortia’ consisting of theatre venues, touring theatre companies and cultural institutions. The Project developed partnerships with 12 ACE National Portfolio Organisations in total

Click here to read in more detail about how Slate tackled these six critical challenges >

“Questions still remain on the inclusivity of this industry and at a time of unprecedented crisis and concern, these questions have never mattered more.

Through Slate, Eclipse created the conditions for artists to be seen, heard and take action. With a collective tenacity shown from our Enablers, Consortium Members and of course the artists themselves, some of the challenges faced then have since been lowered. Because of Slate, there is now a legacy of collaborations, productions, and future cultural leaders.

However, we have now entered the challenge of our lives. Eclipse remains deeply concerned about the lives and livelihoods of us all and in particular Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the UK. We are concerned for our workforce, freelancers and audiences’ safety. Our networks must strengthen in and outside of the theatre sector. We are seeking and creating new pathways for career progression.

It has been a good exercise to take the time to take stock before we forge forward with our future plans. We now call for action in order to move our plans forward. As Slate has proven, we are an ecology and as such need to continue to grow the infrastructure that supports this network in every way we can.

Eclipse’s commitment to challenge our industry to do better in order to be better is our commitment to the many communities we belong to and serve. The dismantling of the power structures and dynamics within our industry that overtly and discreetly discriminate must be our core focus now in order for us to rebuild together in hope and confidence."

Amanda Huxtable
Artistic Director/CEO, Eclipse Theatre

Thank you
Giving thanks to all who contributed to and supported Slate. To view the full list of artists, individuals, other venues and organisations, click here.

This report was designed by Jacqueline Seifert, Orakel Workshop 

Report: How to plant magic beans AND build rockets to the moon…