Anti-racism Update from Somerset House

Since June 2020, Somerset House has been publicly releasing information on the actions it is taking to combat racism. We have committed to sharing our progress every six months, providing greater transparency to our work so that we can continue to be held to account and enact change. You can find our latest update below. 
We recognise that this is a journey. We regularly discuss our areas of priority and develop our approaches in between the updates we share. 
We continue to work towards the end of systemic racism. We are committed to being actively anti-racist across all areas of our work and we are determined that all of this work in progress will lead to long-term culture change at Somerset House.  If you would like to share any thoughts or suggestions, we are listening at


  • Completing the project to investigate Somerset House’s history, led by Dr Michael Bennett & Esther Brot, with a particular focus on Somerset House’s role in Britain’s colonial past.
  • Recruiting a full time, permanent role to manage our Black Business Incubator programme and bursaries for our shared flexible workspace Somerset House Exchange.  We currently have 15 members on our Black Business Incubator programme. 
  • Inviting applications for the second cohort of the Black Business Incubator, expanding to 35 Black-led creative businesses, based in South London. 
  • Inviting everyone across Somerset House’s resident community to complete an anonymous Diversity and Inclusion survey to better understand representation across our community. We would like to note that the response rate was lower than we had anticipated (an average of 22%), which has not provided us with meaningful data to move forward in addressing areas for improvement and allocating resources appropriately.  We will review this survey process in the next six months (see below). 
  • Undertaking a review of our recruitment policy and processes, supported by Challenge Consultancy. 
  • Updating our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy and our Anti-Harrassment and Bullying policy, both of which further support our commitment to ensuring that all of our staff feel safe and respected at work.
  • Expanding our networks for recruitment for new freelance positions.   


  • Publishing the historical review.
  • Exploring creative ways to interpret the updated historical information for our audiences, potentially through our cultural programme, guided tours and on-site signage and interpretation. 
  • Commencing roundtable sessions where anyone who is part of Somerset House’s resident community can openly discuss issues they see here and express ideas on how we can create more positive change for the future.  These cannot take place until our chairs of our Anti-Racism Task Force have received appropriate facilitation training and we are currently devising a support programme for them. 
  • Enrolling all new starters on an anti-racism training course. We are reviewing our training offer to join up anti-racism training with our existing unconscious bias provision.
  • Review language used in contracts issued to freelancers in reference to Somerset House’s expectations for their employment. We expect any third-party contractors to sign up to the policies established. 


  • As part of our ongoing learning, our chairs of our Anti-Racism Task Force will participate in the Museums Association conference to discuss issues specifically related to cultural arts institutions and racism. 
  • We will review how the Diversity and Inclusion surveys for our resident community are communicated and conducted to encourage more active engagement, highlighting its importance in helping us to monitor our data and make change.  
  • We will evaluate the results of the review of our recruitment policy and processes and identify key areas for action. 
  • We have started to update our programming framework to provide more in-depth questions about anti-racism for programmers and encourage the widest variety of viewpoints to be expressed before proceeding with any proposal, but this still needs to be completed. 


  • We continue to explore themes of race through our public programme, with our current Terrace Rooms exhibition We Are History curated by Ekow Eshun.
  • Relaunched our Upgrade Yourself: Kickstart Creative Industry Placement programme as part of the government’s Kickstart scheme. 
  • By April 2022, we will open a new round of bursaries for Somerset House Exchange. We are planning to host a minimum of 50 individual members on bursaries at any given time – currently we have 36 members on bursary placements in our Exchange.