Anil Bhanot started by saying that although Race landscape has changed significantly from what it was like say 20/30 years ago, still we were reminded after the EU Referendum that political spin can arouse latent emotions of Xenophobia among people and we get the same hatred attacks that had become a thing of the past under the CRE Commission for Racial Equality era. Nonetheless EMF is a social justice foundation concentrating on delivering empowerment through its social enterprise work for the BAME and other new minority as well as the marginalised white communities whilst continuing its work on social justice for all.
Three salient points from the Integration Report came up whilst talking to people:
1. Unconscious bias
Race relations have moved to a more subtle level where improvement is still required to educate people pn their ‘unconscious bias’ against minorities. As an example Anil Bhanot explained that for their social enterprise ‘arts and theatre’ project in the Peepul Theatre Leicester he spent two years building an ‘ArtsHub‘ of asian performing arts organisations from the Leicestershire area to format projects for which they needed Arts Council help. So the ArtsHub applied for a 50% match funding from the Arts Council to help create new British Asian art forms through these projects but not only the Arts Council rejected their application it funded the same asian arts organisations to perform similar projects in an English run competitor theatre in Leicester, thereby destroying our own ArtsHub itself but more importantly simply ruining our chances of doing such performing art projects at our Peepul Theatre. Those organisations no longer need to come to us as a much larger established English run theatre will now be able to run their performances.
Moreover the ticket price is half of what we would reasonably charge as that theatre has Arts Council funding and we don’t. For instance they charge £10 a ticket but our theatre with its 314 capacity can’t even pay the Artists and staff costs at that let alone other huge overheads of sustaining the Theatre.
When asked the reason for their rejection then the Arts Council said we had no programme of audience development. But how can we develop audience when they fund our competitors enabling then to cut their ticket by 50%. We simply can’t breathe. Disheartened by their reasons we appealed to them to help us somehow, but they then referred us to talk to that same English run competitor theatre. Later as it all sank in this advice became effectively soul destroying. Our enthusiasm to create something a new for the British arts dampened. But reverting to their charge of audience development how could it ever be possible for us when we simply can’t compete on ticket price?
This is the bias we face, especially with our theatre neglected like this for the last 10 years while other theatres are funded by them and if not they have other public funds to reduce the ticket price as some are run by colleges and educational bodies. We do not have that luxury of ‘other public money’ to enable us to compete on a level playing field. We feel the Arts Council at best does not trust us Asians to manage and deliver well and at worst are prejudiced against us.
Anil asked then who do we take our case to? Asian communities pay their taxes and why are we not entitled to our share to develop something new for the country? EHRC has no resources; it doesn’t have regional offices as did the CRE to even mediate on such problems. So Arts Council goes unchecked and in this case the Asian minorities simply have to suffer in silence.
Radicalisation and some faith schools problems ought to be addressed through a structure of interactive meetings among faith bodies and community bodies facilitated by Government departments like DCLG, DFE, FCO and the Home Office to help create and enforce more pragmatic policies suited to the country. Engagement with faith bodies alone has served its interfaith purpose and now their interaction with community bodies is much needed for Government policy work which will help bring a more pragmatic interpretation of old scripture as lived by the larger communities, including women community organisations. DFE’s last policy on supplementary schools didn’t get a chance to be rolled out effectively because of an undue influence of certain faiths and as a result the country suffers and poignantly through the education of our innocent children. Customary Truths are not the same as the eternal Spiritual Truths; the former change with time whilst the latter stand the test of time. Every faith has the capacity to distinguish these Truths so as to maintain its integrity which in essence lies primarily in its spirituality not so much in customs, which are of secondary importance.
The Government now engaging with faith bodies on an individual basis, as opposed to collectively before 2010, is in fact polarising the communities as each faith community has its own demands which are not challenged by interfaith standards required for developing a multi-cultural Britain. Multi-Culture is not Radicalisation and in fact the policy to shun multi-culture is polarising communities and thus having an opposite effect of what was hopefully intended. The recent demand for Sikhs as an ethnic group by some organisations engaging with the Government on an individual basis could be partly due to the lack of a constructive system of engagement with faith bodies by the DCLG.
3. Lords Reform
Finally the EMF report shows how the House of Lords and in particular its appointment commission is acting ultra-virus to the equality laws the House itself is instrumental in enacting. However the Lords have taken a couple of the proposals from the report but only partially, namely a fixed 15 year term and alignment of political parties representation at the end of that term. Anil’s proposals are a maximum of three 5 year terms with 1/3rd retiring every 5 years and for re-appointment requiring an appraisal by the Cabinet Office, which will ensure their accountability, a much needed measure to keep them respectful of the Institution and its laws.
Importantly for democracy, Anil is also advocating a ratio of 51% cross-bench to 49% political party peers, which can be aligned proportionately every 5 years to the general election commons seats. The 51% cross-bench proportion is to make the House independent of the Commons as otherwise it will remain a ‘rubber-stamping’ institution for the Commons and thus not fit for purpose to deliver Democracy. For democracy to flourish the House must be different to the Commons not only in its work as for revising legislation but in its structure of representing knowledge as opposed to people. The cross-bench will bring in ‘experiential-knowledge‘ representation as opposed to ‘popular’ representation, which incidentally is now more in danger of becoming ‘populist’ with the influence of social media and political spin.
Indeed to achieve a 51% proportion of accomplished British talent the Appointments Commission needs to be expanded respecting a real diversity in thought. These changes will automatically lead to a reduced House size of about 450 Peers after 15 years and a House of Peers fully independent of the House of Commons will be fit for purpose….for British democracy, in the mother of parliaments.
During the networking the EMF Trustees talking to the British Council to explore partnership on performing arts: