Somerset House’s Anti-racism Pledge

On 1 June 2020, Somerset House released a public statement, adding our voice in support of an end to systemic racism and inequality against Black people.  

We recognise the pain and anger that Black people are feeling right now and the long and shaming history of racism going back hundreds of years.  We are sorry that it has taken global Black Lives Matter protests to make ending this a top priority within our own organisation. We want you to know that we have already started the work required to be actively anti-racist and to stand stronger with the Black community.

Somerset House currently has two Black Trustees, we have no Black people in senior leadership, and Black people are underrepresented across our organisation as a whole. 

Today we are making this initial pledge setting out the first steps we are taking to actively combat racism at Somerset House. In September, we will share our progress and let you know what comes next.  This may seem like a long time, but it’s important that Somerset House staff, artists and community are given the time and the space to contribute. 

To arrive at this pledge, we formed a core accountability group of Black staff, artists and residents, seven people in total, and their input is invaluable. We know we need to continue to be held to account.  

Our Pledge 

  1. We have set up an anti-racism task force to focus on these issues.
     
  2. We will support all staff and Trustees to engage in anti-racist learning by providing them with the necessary literature and discussion space.  
     
  3. We will be appointing an independent consultant to work with us to understand the experience of racism amongst our staff, volunteers and community, and to support us in making change. 
     
  4. We will rigorously examine why the recruitment measures we have taken to improve representation amongst our staff haven’t worked and what future actions are needed. 
     
  5. We will build on our existing mandatory unconscious bias training for staff with dedicated anti-racism training, starting with our Board and senior management team.
     
  6. We are now looking for a historian to update the history of Somerset House and its role in Britain’s colonial past.  We will share this on our website and in our building. 
     
  7. Anti-racism will now be a standing agenda item monthly for management and departmental meetings, and at all Board meetings.  All staff with specific roles focused on building inclusion and representation will be properly supported and resourced, recognising the emotional labour that can be involved in sharing these experiences.

We will continue to work with Black creative practitioners, artists and freelancers to amplify the voices of Black art and culture in our public programme. 

Equality and social justice in all their forms are central to our objectives and values as an organisation. It’s clear we need to do more.  

Words are not enough, actions now need to be taken in the weeks, months and years ahead. We'll be sharing our progress here every six months.

If you have any questions or comments, we’re listening at change@somersethouse.org.uk.

Jonathan Reekie, Director, and Somerset House Trust  

15 June 2020