Anti-racism Update from Somerset House

As we look to the year ahead and reflect on the past year, we wanted to share an overview of progress in relation to our Anti-Racism pledge. We acknowledge that we have not kept up our intended 6-monthly updates, but this is not for lack of activity.

Our public programme

  • Having completed the review of Somerset House’s history to better reflect the building’s role in Britain’s colonial past, this has been used to inform many areas of our work including an update and relaunch of our Historical Highlights tour.
  • Our 2022 programme actively sought to engage with challenging issues, including Grada Kilomba’s powerful O Barco, which had particular resonance given Somerset House’s maritime history.
  • We recently announced our 2023 cultural programme which includes the exhibitions Black Venus: Reclaiming Black Women in Visual Culture and The Missing Thread, which charts the shifting landscape of Black British culture and the unique contribution it has made to Britain’s rich design history.
  • We have also reshaped our Engagement & Skills work and have recruited a new Head of Inclusive Talent. This role will prioritise the creation of pathways into the creative industries for young people who identify as underrepresented and build on the many achievements of our Upgrade Yourself programme.

Our creative community

Internal processes

  • We have undertaken a review of our recruitment practice and we are in the process of recruiting a permanent Director of People & Inclusion. This shift, and a new more senior Director position, reflects our commitment to putting EDI at the heart of our work.
  • Our Anti-Racism Task Force has continued to play a central role in guiding our strategy and meets monthly with the Directorate to discuss all areas of our work. The Task Force has played an active role in contributing to communications and visitor engagement strategies across our programme and have acted as an invaluable sounding board for a wide range of internal teams. They worked closely with the advisory board for our major summer event, This Bright Land, which proactively sought to engage with and platform under-represented communities. This included supporting the organisers of BLM Fest to host their events at Somerset House in October.
  • We have reviewed procurement processes for Live Events freelancers and Commercial Events suppliers, with rewritten tender documents and new contracting processes to embed inclusivity into this process, support applicants from a wider range of backgrounds and diversify the external suppliers we work with.
  • We will also review the best format to share our progress and challenges in this area, in order to better deliver on our commitment to transparency and accountability.