Accountability & Transparency at Fierce
This page was last revised 25/11/2021
See the end of this page for a statement on Fierce and Birmingham 2022 Festival.
Since its inception in 1997 Fierce has always been a fiercely political organisation. The first edition of Fierce was called Queerfest, but changed name in 1998 to better reflect its wider intersectional interests. Fierce has a history of championing a wide range of voices through it’s programme and its team. Notably, all four artistic directors in Fierce’s history were aged between 27 and 28 when starting the job and the senior management has always reflected a wide breadth of protected characteristics.
We value deep conversations, with artists, with audiences, with partners, with friends and with each other about things we really believe matter. We hope that Fierce can act as a space where we can all dream up potential new futures together.
2020 was a year like no other which exposed huge levels of inequity in our society and saw numerous struggles for liberation reach mainstream conversation all whilst capitalism desperately clung onto its desire to maintain the white supremacist status quo. Our thinking here has been informed by numerous different discourses and events including but not limited to:
- COVID-19, the inequality it has exposed and the damage it has done to the arts & cultural sector.
- The 2020 Black Lives Matters uprising (and from this deeply embedded institutional racism across much of the arts)
- The current trans and non-binary revolution and unrelenting attempts to derail this.
- The disability rights movement / our own thoughts and experiences around access, and how we can make things better for others
- Decolonisation, denial of Britain’s history and the necessity to decolonise our society, our institutions and our curating practices.
- Equity, Advantage and class privilege – our relationship and feelings about this
- The work of First Nations and indigenous artists and land acknowledgement (particularly in light of the Mayflower anniversary)
- Ongoing internal conversations about our own working culture and a desire to develop structures that work better for us as a team
- Explorations into horizontal and collaborative leadership models.
- Calls for a universal basic income
- Widespread calls for greater transparency and accountability across the arts and culture sector
- Updating our recruitment processes.
- Fierce turning 25 – acknowledging our status as an institution and celebrating/sharing Fierce’s history.
Following this Fierce has engaged in a number of programmes to develop our work towards achieving a more equitable society including the Culture Reset programme the Birmingham specific More than a Moment programme and Live Art UK’s own anti-racism workshops.
We acknowledge that we have more to do at Fierce, and want to ensure 2020 is a catalyst for permanent change. We want to be the best version of Fierce possible, and ensure our own integrity. We now feel there is value in being more transparent about our thinking. We’re not looking for a way to ‘complete’ this work (we don’t really think anyone can), but we want to get better at sharing the work we’re doing, and be more public about it, so people can dig into it, ask us questions, offer ideas, raise challenges and have conversations. We expect this page to be updated as things change and, as actions are delivered, new ones pop up, our thinking changes. For now, we knew we had to start somewhere. We hope there’s a value to this being in the public domain and welcome conversation and questions on these thoughts. The Fierce team can be reached via email.
Fierce Representational Statistics
In response to calls for organisations to publish information about their staff and programme makeup we hesitantly publish the following statistics. Hesitantly, because we are wary of reducing people to a series of tick boxes – no one is a tick box, but in this moment we think there is some value in doing this. The statistics have been gathered form anonymous staff monitoring forms and gathered from self published artist information in the public domain.
In 2021 our year-round staff team grew from 3-5 people with one full-time and four part-time members of staff. The 2019 and 2017 data includes the freelance teams working on the festivals. Future recruitment will focus on building a team that better embodies the disparate population of Birmingham and the communities we represent through our programming.
Fierce Festival Staff Team
|Protected Characteristic||Representation Percentage 2021||Representation Percentage 2019||Representation Percentage 2017|
|Women Team Members||80%||78%||78%|
|Team Members who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and who experience racism in our society||40%||22%||22%|
|Disabled Team Members||60%||33%||33%|
|Queer Team Members||80%||44%||44%|
|Trans Team Members||0%||0%||0%|
Fierce programmed artists
|Protected Characteristic||Representation Percentage 2019||Representation Percentage 2017|
|Artists who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and who experience racism in our society||30%||26%|
Artists on Fierce development programmes
|Protected Characteristic||Fierce LAB 2019||Fierce FWD 2019|
|Artists who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and who experience racism in our society||100%||43%|
Current Action Points
We have generated this list of short, mid and long term aims regarding our work in this area with the intention of holding ourselves accountable ensuring necessary changes do happen. There are also some points that were previously on this list that have been actioned or are no longer relevant, you can see the work we have already done here.
– Interrogate our current commitment and track record of representation within our programme in relation to the make-up of the geographic location we live and work in, and make changes where required (for example at the 2019 Festival we had 30% representation of artists who defined as Black or People of African or Caribbean heritage and People of East Asian and South East Asian heritage, yet in Birmingham these communities make up for 42% of the population, so comparatively this representation is arguably not enough)
– A continued commitment to open listening / making ourselves available – so people feel able to challenge us easily, always
– Embed anti-racist approaches throughout, Included in policies, quotas and all work. Taking the approach of Accomplices:
- Working behind the scenes to create change
- Treating this work as a state of being, acting and practicing
- Keep our focus on the goal we’re working towards
- Finding ways to relinquish power
As our various policies and procedures come up for renewal we have been reconsidering our language and processes, and getting rid of quotas. So far this has included updating our Complaints and Grievance Policies and Procedures and rewriting our Equal Opportunities an Dignity At Work Policy.
– Work with our partners and stakeholders to challenge them and have difficult and courageous conversations where we think they’re needed
This is an ongoing action and a number of dialogues are currently live, we expect this work to continue.
– All Fierce team members to explore our own unconscious bias and whether training in this area could be useful
– Eliminate the use of abbreviations like BAME within the organisation
As our various policies and procedures come up for renewal we have been considering our language and ensuring abbreviations like BAME are removed. These terms are not used in any of our comms, either internal or external or when talking about our work or the organisations to funders, including Arts Council England.
– Research new service providers/suppliers for Fierce contracts that are either Black, of African or Caribbean heritage, or Asian led OR can evidence strong anti-racist policy/thinking.
– Develop leadership succession plans and (public) timelines that help ensure those that come after us bring different and diverse voices to our own, continuing Fierce’s history of evolving staff representation.
– Develop policies around staff mental health and well-being.
– Explore implementing fixed term contracts on certain Fierce staff positions so more voices get to take on roles of artistic leadership
Fierce and Birmingham 2022 Festival
In 2022 Birmingham will host the Commonwealth Games. This will be one of the largest events ever to have taken place in Birmingham. Alongside the games will be a programme of culture under the banner of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. As Fierce embarks on producing a number of projects within the context of Birmingham 2022 Festival we wanted to make clear that we understand the ethics of working within this context is difficult, at best.
Commonwealth is inherently bound up with Britain’s colonial past and present. Commonwealth is a tangible, official legacy of colonialism. Countless violent and abhorrent acts were committed in its name. Therefore we have had to pause and reflect deeply before working with the Birmingham 2022 Festival. In engaging with the Birmingham 2022 Festival we do so from a place of criticality. We understand there will be a wide range of opinions on whether to engage with this artistic context and think it is important that people adopt numerous different positions and approaches to dealing with this legacy. We support friends, colleagues, artists and audiences taking different critical positions and approaches
We encourage people to read about Commonwealth’s history. We welcome debate and disagreement with our position and are happy to have conversations about this. If you would like to speak to Fierce about any of these issues the team can be reached via their contact emails on the ‘About Us’ section of the website.