The extent of inequalities has been amplified during this crisis and as said elsewhere ‘We are all in the same storm but not the same boat’. Our response to the stark ‘materials divide’, that is lack of basic resources in home, is to organise the delivery of packs of art materials to 4,000 vulnerable children in care and pre-school children and also 25,000 packs of books. This is only possible due to support from Arts Council England, The Art Fund, and The Reading Agency and our wonderful education and local authority partners. What has been so affecting for me is the response from children and families. A small, personal and unlooked for gift (our Let’s Create Pack) had made them feel they had not been forgotten, that their needs had been thought about and they could do some fun things with resources they didn’t have before.

The reaction to the murder of George Floyd and the potential that has been created for social change is explicitly about how white people with power demonstrate allyship and take action to right injustice. It demands effortful remembering, and critical engagement with our country’s colonial history and how the legacy of that shapes today, and isn’t shut down in a culture war about statues. Through the West Midlands Cultural Response Unit a new space is being created to enable engagement with the experiences of black artists and cultural workers, a space to have conversations, and a space to create a collective long term programme of action. I’d strongly encourage you to be part of this.

We are living through the twin crises of COVID 19 and Black Lives Matters but we do not all have the same experiences of it. What I am thinking about at the moment is about the power of not being forgotten, the duty to remember, listen and learn, about how to take action with integrity that are values driven, what that means for how I am in the world – and to use the influence that I have to better create places of belonging.

 

Rob Elkington

Director, Arts Connect