FABRIC: Equalities and Diversity in January

Fabric is a leadership development programme for Dundee’s creative sector, which started in November 2018. It’s created an informal peer-learning space for 20 current and emerging creative leaders to openly and kindly discuss around important challenges and opportunities in the city.

For the second Fabric session, we explored the theme of Equalities and Diversity – what these mean to people in the group and in the context of Dundee. In the morning, we had a chance to visit and hear more about one of Dundee’s creative youth hubs, Hot Chocolate Trust, located in the city centre; and then shared our insights in a special conversation format, after hearing about city-wide strategies and projects in the afternoon.

To start the day, we shared our motivations for ‘why we do what we do’, and one of the main reasons, without surprise, was to offer to others the creative/cultural opportunities and experiences which we had in the past and which helped us grow as individuals and communities. Our passions and what keeps us going in general also include: getting people together to do something, telling the important stories, looking at the world, keeping learning, meeting and engaging with others, and above all, having fun! Although the last might seem secondary or counterintuitive when talking about ‘work’ or ‘practice’, it often comes up as essential when using creativity to spread or share the benefits of what we do, to make a positive impact in the life of the people we engage with through our work. Fun is a simple tool which very often helps us engage with people who are different from us!

Hot Chocolate Trust – which is a grass-root organisation based on a basic need for having a space in the heart of the city for young people to gather and self-develop creatively – is taking this approach. It has created a third space, where young people feel they belong, because they are not imposed any agenda of activities or purposes, and instead they are invited to express themselves and find out what they enjoy or are good at in a safe, loving and fun environment. Their voices are heard and amplified, and the young people are driving the decisions where creativity and fun are used to make a positive difference and to up resilience in people’s life.

Hot Chocolate is a home away from home where love and affection without boundaries creates a big turning point in all our lives. – Hot Chocolatier.

We continued the morning by talking about the missing voices within the city’s creative industries. Gender inequality – particularly in the tech sector – as much as under-representation of ethnic diversity were the first to be mentioned as crucial and urgent to progress. Socio-economic factors – poverty – is also of critical importance for Dundee, this has created (sometimes artificial) boundaries between social groups, local neighbourhoods, beliefs and cultures. So, we went on trying to discuss this recurrent question – how do we get better at making these borders more permeable in our work/practice as well as in our lives?

The discussion afterwards were focused on real-life and local examples – from adapting an artist-led space to better represent the creativity of the city’s social fabric and increase accessibility and a sense of inclusiveness for audiences, to creating a visual campaign to help individual and corporate perceptions grow towards a fairer and more open vision on diversity and equalities, which would be challenging people and processes but never be judgmental. Ideas were shared and collaborative projects started to emerge.

In the afternoon, we were kindly hosted by UNESCO City of Design, Dundee. We heard from people leading city-wide projects and visions for the city, so we could explore the wider context and challenges in which we work, engage and collaborate. From large scale festival and community events to city development and international connections, there are opportunities to make a positive difference for a fair and inclusive city.

Dundee is going through a significant transformation at the moment and much attention has been paid to its cultural life, with the redevelopment of its waterfront and the opening of V&A Museum of Design Dundee last September. In terms of city development, the great physical transformation of Dundee has to be complemented by a strong vision focused on the people who live, work and study here, as the city’s biggest challenges – under-employment, drugs misuse and mental health – are tangled with how we translate the recent success of Dundee’s international reputation into hard jobs for its citizens.

We then shared our insights from the day in a special ‘Fish bowl’ discussion, sitting together in a circle of chairs with another inner circle of four people, who had the task to start and fuel the conversation. To take part in the conversation, people had to stand up from their chairs and sit in the inner circle as others got up and left the conversation by moving back to the outer circle. We think this model of conversation worked well and allowed for a democratic, open and kind sharing of ideas.

A lot was discussed and different points of view were confronted, around how we could (and should) collectively work together, within the creative industries as well as across sectors – including public, health, social, science, etc. – to help develop inclusive systems and services. At the end of the conversation, we identified a common need for collating more data together to better show the creative industries and cultural sector’s socio-economic benefits for the city, which could be easily shared with others.

We’ll be back next month to share more about this collaborative learning experience. Read more about the Fabric programme and participants here.


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