Anti-Racism at LAMDA - an update

A message from Director of LAMDA, Sarah Frankcom.

07 August 2020

Sarah Frankcom, Director of LAMDA, sent this update on LAMDA's Anti-Racism Action Plan in an email to all LAMDA staff and students on Friday 7 August.

On 3rd June I shared an initial set of actions to begin the work LAMDA needs to do in dismantling the racism inherent within the institution and its structure. 

Since then, we have held five student-led dialogues about racism at LAMDA, which were facilitated by LAMDA Alumna Leah Harvey and representatives of the Diversity School Initiative. Across these meetings, Black students and Students of Colour were invited to share their experiences and accounts or have them read out anonymously. 

These meetings took place online, on 17 June, 24 June, 1 July, 8 July and 15 July 2020. As these progressed, the wider student and staff body were invited to come together and discuss what active allyship and anti-racism looks like and how we can build it into the very ethos of the LAMDA community. 

Furthermore, I have had over 45 individual conversations with Black and Brown alumni and (former) teachers to hear their experiences and understand the history of racism at LAMDA. I want to thank every Black Student and Student of Colour and all alumni for their courage to speak up and share their testimonies. 

I also want to thank Leah Harvey for holding and facilitating the sessions with current students. The testimonies we heard have been anonymised and written into the extensive Anti-Racism Action Plan that is being created, with clear actions and proposed changes set against them. ​​​​​​ 
We held two further drop-in sessions on 22 July and 29 July to further work on the action plan with student input. The main areas the action plan focuses on are: 

  • Black Student testimonies 
  • A new, colour conscious approach to text-, project- and play selection as well as casting 
  • How to train race-aware technicians 
  • Effectiveness of transparent complaints procedure and a system to log micro aggressions 
  • A thoroughly outlined induction process for each student and staff, including anti-racism and unconscious bias training 
  • An investigation into what anti-racist teaching practice and allyship means in action. 

The document will be at draft stage by the end of August and will in the first instance be shared with the external advisory group of Black and Brown alumni and industry professionals, as well as the students - Black Students and Students of Colour - who have helped create this document. This is to ensure there have been no oversights and create an opportunity for further transparency and input. 

This document is both a forward-looking action plan as well as a testimony to the process through which it was created. It will remain an active document and will change and evolve as LAMDA changes and evolves. 

It will in its next stage be put forward to the board of trustees and will form part of the training for new staff and students as we begin the next academic year. 

An update on initial actions from 3 June (as of 3 August) 

1. The creation of an all school action plan which is available to everyone 

  • Update: Action Plan created in dialogue with LAMDA’s Black Students and Students of Colour and the wider LAMDA community. 

2. Regular unconscious bias training for all teaching staff 

  • Update: Teaching staff and SMT have now undertaken stage 1 of unconscious bias training with TALAWA. This will be continued after the summer. 
  • Unconscious bias training will be included within the induction process for all new students and staff alike. It will be refreshed regularly. 

3. A full review of all texts and teaching materials by an external consultant with heads of departments 

  • Update: Texts and teaching materials were discussed in the action plan meetings. The process of reviewing the texts and the approach to teaching is ongoing and will form part of the anti-racist teaching practice developed for and by LAMDA.  The external advisory group and the board will be holding LAMDA accountable in that regard. 

4. Training for all heads of department to reframe and review their own practice and challenge the practice of their staff 

  • Update: An outline for anti-racist teaching practice and active allyship will exist as an annex in the action plan and will form the core of the training for new and existing staff. 

5. An industry advisory group to act as critical friends and hold the school to account on its action plan 

  • Update: A group of Alumni, Graduates and industry professionals is currently being formed. 

6. A logging system that allows all students to report micro aggression which guarantees anonymity 

  • Update: An anonymous complaints channel exists and micro aggressions are fed into a separate channel to ensure patterns are logged and correct response is being monitored. 

7. A regular (monthly) update about how complaints are being dealt with and actioned 

  • Update: LAMDA’s process on anti-racism, the implementation of the action plan, and a reflection on the effectiveness of complaints procedures will be a regular item on the timetable. 

8. The formation of a teachers’ working group dedicated to changing practice and understanding how racism and white privilege pervades our teaching 

  • Update: An Allyship group has been created by teachers. A formalised working group to carve out guidance and framework for good inclusive and anti-racist practice will come into action at the beginning of the new term. 

9. A facilitated dialogue between Black students past and present with teaching staff to gather testimony about their experiences at LAMDA 

  • Update: Seven sessions were held in total, which evolved from a sharing of testimonies and experiences from Black and Brown students, to a response from HODs and eventually split meetings on allyship and drop-in sessions on the action plan. In addition to that, over 45 individual conversations were had with Black and Brown Alumni and (former) teachers to hear their experiences and understand the history of racism at LAMDA. 

10. Continue to work with Diversity School Initiative next year 

  • Update: The work on the meetings and action plan has happened in close contact with Diversity School Initiative and is continuing to do so. 

11. Black student experience as a standing item on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee 

  • Update: This has been actioned. The advisory group of Black and Brown alumni and industry professionals will furthermore sit alongside the EDI committee to monitor progress. 

12. Leadership is regularly held to account by the Board of Trustees for changing implementation of the plan 

  • Update: The action plan will be put forward to the board and will provide the framework by which the leadership will be held accountable.