Creativity Does Good: Breaking Bread and Barriers

5th April 2024

On a cool Monday evening, a group of us gathered to break bread and ask big questions. While a few members of the group were familiar with one another, for the most part our guests responded simply to a curiosity. An unusual email, a new contact, and a reflective question – how can we use creativity, entertainment and art to advance racial and migrant justice? As a heavy curtain enveloped the intimate corner of the snug in Boundary, Shoreditch, we set about to propose some answers.

The group included leaders from our fantastic funded partner organisations: Nana Bempah (2POCC); Iain Dodgeon (OKRE); Nathalie McDermott (Heard); Almir Koldzic (Counterpoints Arts); Anu Henriques (Skin Deep); and Axa Hynes (We Are Bridge). Additionally, two members of our fantastic Community Council joined us: Adwoa Darko (University College London) and K Biswas (Representology); as well as our Strategic Consultant Alice Sachrajda. In addition to our Power of Pop Community, we were excited to honour guests: Marya Bangee (Walt Disney Studios); Abid Hussain (Arts Council England); Alexandra Pringle (Silk Road Slippers); Rafael Alleyne (The London Screen Academy); Nizam Uddin (Aspen Institute); Melanie Hoyes (British Film Institute). This dynamic group therefore included funders, academics, charity organisations, and creative corporations, who all have a vested interest in the ways creativity can advance social impact.

As the conversation evolved, one member of the group offered that the real challenge of advancing systems change is that community led organisations need to ‘survive long enough to make the difference.’ Inconsistent funding and a lack of structural support can destabilise grassroots organisations, halting their radical and essential work within communities of colour. Delivering meaningful activities is particularly challenging in the context of increasingly polarised public discourse, and broad economic downturn. Identifying the reasons for inequality and the features of our current situation is particularly important to ensure that our interventions and activities have the best chance of success.

What made this conversation particularly unique was the humility with which the group approached the topic. When looking at the extent of racial injustice in the UK, we are clear that no single individual, organisation or even sector is able to solve the challenges in isolation. Instead, it is time to collaborate; bringing those with resources into relationship with those with viable ideas. Our job is not to tell communities or community organisations how to spend money, but instead to support the radical work happening to advance a more equitable society.

In addition to identifying some of the challenges for this work, we also held space for collective visioning. In the spirit of speculative fiction, we asked the group, what does a racially just world look and feel like. As with every straightforward question, we were met with radio silence. It is so rare that people are asked what success would look like with regards to social transformation. As the group reflected, we were reminded of the importance of building community power, having the opportunities to produce unencumbered creativity, and the importance of accessing capital to achieving this. Overall, the atmosphere was warm, collaborative, and optimistic.

As we put our coats on, the question on all of our lips was verbalised, ‘when can we meet again?’

By Maxine Thomas-Asante and K Biswas