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The next step needs to be action: Music Mark Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Report (April 2021)

As guest editor for this week's bulletin, I am very pleased to share with you my research report on Diversity and Representation in London Music Education Hubs (MEHs).

The death of George Floyd, and the worldwide BLM protests and movement, sparked a collective raised consciousness and awareness about racial injustice and the affects of systemic racism on all of society. Although this was nothing new, this time felt different. A shift. A definite movement and palpable desire to do more. Do something. To take action.

Reflecting on this research, it has been a bit like running a marathon. It started out with energy, joyful urgency and excitement. I was inspired by the level of commitment and support from the London MEH network and Music Mark to do this work, to ask and find answers to difficult questions and learn more about the diversity and racial attitudes of our sector. It then became a bit challenging. Difficulties in collecting workforce data, encouraging people to engage and talking to people who had opposing views about this work, reminded me of the challenges and fears that exist for some when talking about racism. I kept going however, determined not to give up, supported by those who believed in me and the importance of this work. And then it became painful. Speaking to people who had experienced racism, hearing their stories, reading and recording people’s lived experiences of discrimination. At times I found myself reliving past trauma and pain. It hurt. I was surprised at how much.

Conversations are vital but what we do with the knowledge and awareness that comes from them, and how we move forward is key.

What kept me going to end? The fact that this sector is one where the vast majority want to make a difference. Want to do more, want to take action so our workforce is more representative of the communities we serve, has role models for all, drives change from the top, embraces difference and wants to fight against racism and injustice.

Having completed the report (and collapsed over the finish line!) for me there is the sense of joy and achievement. But the work doesn’t stop here. This really is just the first step. Throughout the report are considerations for readers to reflect on and take away to discuss. To keep EDI and race in the foreground and ensure the right people are part of the conversation. Conversations are vital but what we do with the knowledge and awareness that comes from them, and how we move forward is key.

I recently presented as part of Sound Connections Inclusive Practice in Action conference which was an example of how to move beyond strategy and into action. 95% of the presentations, workshops and keynotes were by people of colour. It was a powerful and emotional experience for me and a reminder that change is always possible. If you can see it, you can be it.

Over the summer and into autumn, I will be working with Music Mark’s on what we are calling: Talk Into Action. We don’t have to work in silos and are more powerful together. Talk into Action will provide a space and opportunity for all who want to, to be part of a collective call to action with goals to measure impact, resources, training, staff networks and more embracing the wider sector and broader ED&I aims to ensure sustainable long-term change.

I want to acknowledge all the hub leads, heads of services and staff who were part of this research and look forward to the next stage of the journey together.

Samantha Stimpson

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