Firstly and to make this clear – Theatre Bath is not the Theatre Royal Bath. It’s an independent organisation run at the moment solely by me, Luke John Emmett a 34 year old white male.
I have thought long and hard about this post and how to address the Black Lives Matter campaign with relation to arts and culture in Bath and us as an organisation. What I didn’t want was to be another organisation producing a statement for the sake of producing a statement.
Theatre Bath is a voluntary run organisation. We are small but we do have a voice. We have always spoke out about the things that matter, be that gender equality, fair pay, arts cuts or racism. However there is much more we could have done. In the eight years of Theatre Bath’s existence, it has been made up entirely of white CIS people running the organisation. That’s not good enough and I’m sorry.
I’m not sure what future Theatre Bath has – I restarted it to help give a voice to arts organisations struggling as we entered lockdown from Covid-19 – whether it continues after that remains to be seen. If it does, then it must become more diverse and more representative. But, we are here now and we are choosing to use our voice to speak out.
We can’t speak for other arts and cultural organisations in Bath – we can only hope that they too are reflecting on things and learning at the moment. What we have noticed is that a lot of them have remained silent.
I’ve seen individuals from all organisations posting in support of the Black Lives Matters campaign on their own social media. To these people I urge you to go back to your organisations and ask them what they are doing, what they are going to do and how they are going to move forwards and deal with these issues. We have a duty and a responsibility to speak up so that organisations may also show solidarity on behalf of the people they represent and who represent them. And they have a duty to listen and respond.
This letter is not about pointing fingers. And it’s not about excuses. But it is a call to action and a call to begin having these uncomfortable discussions. Now is the time to do it. If not now, then when?
For me personally, I’ve lost count of the amount of cultural meetings I’ve attended in Bath where everybody looks and sound just like me. It’s always commented on at the time but nothing ever changes. We must do better.
I have seen too many shows locally featuring and about people who look like me. Hearing stories that are about people like me. Audience members that look just like me. We must do better.
So, what is Theatre Bath going to do about it?
Theatre Bath is a small organisation but we have a voice via our website and social media streams. It’s important to celebrate local culture but we need to recognise and champion the underrepresented part of our culture that exists within the city. So one thing we can do with immediate effect is offer our social media streams and website to promote local black artists. Artists from any art form. If we can help showcase your work then we will. Drop me a message or email and I can sort that out very quickly – .uk – We also have lots of connections locally. Is there someone we can connect you with in the arts scene in Bath/Bristol to talk about possibilities going forwards? If we can help, then we will.
I know this issue is not a comfortable one to discuss. But we must, and I make a personal pledge that I am prepared to be involved in larger city-wide conversations about this if others are willing to engage with it.
Now I, like many others will make many mistakes as we begin to navigate our way through and affect change. But we cannot be afraid to make mistakes. We cannot be afraid to try, and get it wrong. We must own those mistakes. Apologise. Correct them. Learn from them and move forward, growing as people in the process.
As Luvvie Ajayi so brilliantly says in her Ted talk “we need to get a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable”.
Who in Bath is willing to get uncomfortable and start these conversations?
Luke John Emmett
Founder – Theatre Bath