News: Talawa Theatre expands Unconscious Bias, Diversity and Anti-Racism training

Talawa, the UK’s primary Black theatre company, is expanding its bespoke Unconscious Bias and Diversity training offer for the arts industry and beyond. As companies look to employ more Black, Asian, ethnically diverse staff and decision makers, many are also realising that they need to address engrained and discriminatory assumptions and structures to expand and sustain their ambition.

Drawing on 35 years of experience tackling social injustices and nurturing Black artists and communities, Talawa’s Unconscious Bias, Diversity and Anti-Racism training was developed internally by staff specialists, facilitators, and practitioners. Talawa’s bespoke training uses theatre techniques to support corporate and charitable organisations to confront discriminatory practices within workplaces, challenge automatic patterns of thinking and dismantle learned stereotypes in the long term.

The programme is typically delivered across three sessions, providing the tools and resources to change behaviour. The three stages incorporate practical activities and experiential learning while safeguarding participant wellbeing. Due to current Covid-19 restrictions and to ensure participants and staff safety, the training is delivered virtually; in-person sessions will resume once social distancing is eased.

Stage One is a structured conversation which unpacks ideas of privilege, unconscious bias and cultural diversity. Stage Two is a critical and focused look at harmful languages and behaviours. A correlating and parallel session is also provided for Black, Asian, and ethnically diverse staff which concentrates on managing and challenging discriminatory behaviour. Stage Three is about identifying and developing solutions by cultivating awareness and understanding as individuals and as an institution about cultural diversity.

This participatory and immersive approach, taking in all staff at all levels and areas of the organisation, ensures that there is company-wide understanding of the barriers caused by Unconscious Bias and Racism which provides the opportunity for individuals, teams and organisations to hold themselves to account and find solutions for embedded change.

Talawa’s preparation for this bespoke work ensures that what is delivered is nuanced and comprehensive. Preparation for the programme can take up to a month as the Talawa team works in conjunction with each organisation to explore how best to tailor the training and logistics to suit different company structures and circumstances.

Each session runs for up to two and a half hours to allow space for conversations to develop fully, with a maximum of 15 participants. The training empowers every participant to take ownership of their personal change as well as the organisation’s.

Community Engagement Producer, Roxan Kamali-Sarvestani commentsed: “Our Unconscious Bias, Diversity and Anti-Racism training has been developed and is delivered by a Black, Asian and Ethnically diverse team. This means that it has an impact that goes well beyond what others are able to offer. Authentic and sensitively guided conversations, rooted in lived experiences, enable participants to be brave about their development, to not shy away from their biases.

Lived experiences and a practical, hands-on approach are at the core of our training, and this makes everyone in the organisation own the brief to step out of unconscious bias and into a more informed way of working.

We want to continue to support Black artists and our arts industry. Sharing our Unconscious Bias, Diversity and Anti-Racism training is one way of doing this.”

Talawa are an Arts Council England NPO.

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