Accountability

Accountability & Transparency at Fierce

This page was last revised  05/12/2023

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 its programme and its team. Notably, all four artistic directors in Fierce’s history were aged between 27 and 31 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.

We first published this page in 2020, a year 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, patriarchal and able-bodied status quo. Our thinking here was informed by numerous different discourses and events and this list continues to grow:

  • 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, including the We Shall Not Be Removed principles from the UK Disability Arts Alliance, as well as 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
  • In 2022, when we worked with more freelancers than ever before, listening to the voices of those freelancers and reacting to their concerns around freelance rights and rates
  • Working with a Steering Group on the Healing Gardens of Bab, bringing different perspectives into the organisation and devolving programming power
  • Explorations into horizontal and collaborative leadership models which has led us to develop a model with three Co-Directors
  • 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
  • The election of far-right leaders internationally and the impact of this on marginalised peoples

We continue to engage in wider dialogue on all of these topics. 

We acknowledge that there will always be more to do, and want to ensure 2020 was a catalyst for permanent change. We want to be the best version of Fierce possible, and ensure our own integrity. 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 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. We will update this page every six months.

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 we think there is some value in doing this. The statistics have been gathered from anonymous staff monitoring forms and gathered from self published artist information in the public domain.

These figures include the core team (currently 4 people) and freelancers working across all our projects who are under contract at the time of publishing updates. This includes in 2022 Key to the City and the Healing Gardens of Bab as well as the festivals in 2022, 2019 and 2017. 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 CharacteristicRepresentation Percentage Autumn 2023Representation Percentage Spring 2023Representation Percentage 2022Representation Percentage 2021Representation Percentage 2019Representation Percentage 2017
Women Team Members75%80%75%80%78%78%
Team Members who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and who experience racism in our society25%20%25%40%22%22%
Disabled Team Members25%20%25%60%33%33%
Queer Team Members75%80%50%80%44%44%
Trans Team Members0%0%0%0%0%0%

Fierce programmed artists

Protected CharacteristicRepresentation Percentage 2022Representation Percentage 2019Representation Percentage 2017
Women Artists44%52%46%
Artists who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and who experience racism in our society53%30%26%
Disabled Artists18%12%9%
Queer Artists77%49%56%
Trans Artists14%11%16%


Artists on Fierce development programmes

Protected CharacteristicFierce LAB 2022*Fierce LAB 2019Fierce FWD 2019
Women Artists67%71%
Artists who are ethnically and culturally diverse, and who experience racism in our society100%100%43%
Disabled Artists33%29%
Queer Artists50%57%
Trans Artists17%14%
*This programme is aimed solely at artists who are ethnically and culturally diverse and who experience racism in our society; we have not captured data on other protected characteristics as we did not want to burden participants with the labour of completing forms for no reason.

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

Short-term

– 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

As of 2021, the population of Birmingham who are ethnically and culturally diverse and who experience racism in our society is 51%; from 2019 – 2022 we increased the representation of artists defining this way from 30% – 53% to reflect this. We have also increased the representation of artists with disabilities, however nationally this is 22% of the population so arguably, this needs to increase further.

– A continued commitment to open listening / making ourselves available – so people feel able to challenge us easily, always.

This work is ongoing; the emails for every member of the team are available on the website and when we have opportunities including recruitment and artist open calls, we offer informal conversations and provide specific contact details for these. The Director (Artistic) is offering local people the opportunity to meet with him as part of his work to get acquainted with the city and its people.

Mid-term

– 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, rewriting our Equal Opportunities and Dignity At Work Policy, and writing a new Freelance Staffing 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.

–   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.

During 2022 we successfully made new relationships with more ethnically diverse providers and suppliers, notably documentors and designers and gave work to people we will work with again. 

– Explore becoming a Disability Confident organisation and work to achieve this. 

Fierce has registered for the Disability Confident Committed tier of this scheme which requires us to review recruitment practices and offer student placements to support disabled people wanting to work in the sector. We will continue to review our practices and explore steps to reaching the next tier of this scheme. 

  • Explore more ethical options for banking to move away from the ‘Big Five’.

Long-term

–   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 hosted the Commonwealth Games. This was one of the largest events ever to have taken place in Birmingham. Alongside the games was a programme of culture under the banner of the Birmingham 2022 Festival. As Fierce produced 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 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 the 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 have supported 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.