BOM’s Commitment to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

BOM is a diverse-led and diverse-driven organisation. Our founder and Director Karen Newman is neurodivergent (ADHD), mixed-ethnic, and from a low socio-economic background. We have strong representation of diversity including protected characteristics across our workforce, leadership and governance, with two thirds of our team identifying as neurodivergent.

Because diversity matters to us personally, we take an activist role in addressing barriers to cultural participation through experimental engagement, partnerships and leadership.

Our commitment to diversity at every level – from delivering equality and diversity SMART objectives for our programmes aimed at groups with protected characteristics (including disability, sex and race), we are supporting Arts Council England’s ‘Inclusivity and Relevance’ Investment Principle.

Through our work, we are building closer connections with our communities, particularly those underserved, embedding diversity and equality at the heart of artistic work, international outreach and all of our work with children, young people and communities with protected characteristics. This ensures our programmes have relevance for our communities, practitioners, and the partners with whom we work.

Our International Outreach work, for example, partners with environmental scientists to address the global challenge of air quality affecting the health of communities in low income countries and contributing to climate change. Our work with the British Council responds to ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) goals to reduce poverty and address inequalities for communities in low-income countries.

BOM’s building was refurbished in 2018, having been re-designed with the autistic community. This demonstrates how BOM is listening to voices of the public, and the communities with whom we work.

Our spaces continue to evolve through dialogue with the diverse artists and communities we work with. Between 2022 -2023 our commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion will centre on the following areas:

• In 2022 we will take radical action to focus our artistic work in response to audience data and shifting audience trends. We will invest in new immersive commissions that we know will succeed in attracting larger, wider audiences through touring and outreach than we can attract TO our Dudley Street venue

• We will deliver our inclusive Creative Digital Skills programmes upskilling disadvantaged people to work in the creative industries. There continues to be strong demand for this work. We are designing this programme with our Residents and leading immersive practitioners, offering access support to practitioners at risk of exclusion

• Our work increasingly responds to regional strategic priorities around digital exclusion, particularly those needs highlighted by WMCA in their Digital Roadmap strategy. This is at the heart of our future plans in securing a permanent home to site a Centre for Digital Inclusion where we can make a significant difference across the West Midlands and working with other diverse-led creative social enterprises

• We will continue to demonstrate leadership in digital inclusion regionally. Our Director sits on WMCA’s Cultural Leadership Board, Coalition for Digital Inclusion, Social Economy Taskforce and Southside Business Improvement District Boards. Through these connections we stay connected to community needs and understand the changing political and economic landscape in which BOM can create strong, positive creative interventions in response to regional need

• We will uphold our pledge to Culture Central’s More Than A Moment movement, which acts to remove systemic barriers that prevent Black creatives and communities accessing the creative industries. Our Equality Action Plan identifies three key actions we are taking this year in support of More Than A Moment.

We are leaders in neurodiversity and technology, creating change in this area through specific programmes aimed at the autistic community such as Propeller, a professional development programme for autistic adults, to neurodivergent artist Residents and engagement partnerships with SEND schools. Through our work, we are sparking new thinking around neurodiversity and helping to shift the debate around disability politics away from a physical focus to the creative potential of neurodivergent people.

Key to our future plans is the development of a diverse-led Immersive Studio model within BOM, expanding our immersive work through collaboration with Black, Asian, mixed-ethnic and neurodivergent creative practitioners. This includes our current Hidden Kingdoms project, including BOM Residents Harmeet Chagger-Khan (South Asian) and Edie Jo Murray (neurodivergent).

We are progressing two key elements of our Mother Nature mixed reality proposal, developed through R&D in 2020 – 2021 headlined by Black performance artist Gloria Adereti and South African robotics artist Michael Candy. Launching in 2024 and 2025, these projects are designed for participation with disadvantaged communities.

Through our digital skills programmes, we remain committed to engaging and supporting neurodivergent people to realise their creative potential. Propeller is an ambitious £270K 3-year programme funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, offering soft skills support and digital skills development to help neurodivergent practitioners access and thrive in the creative industries.

We are publishing our learning with practitioners as we go, such as Am I Autistic? (2022) an accessible printed and online publication written by our autistic consultant Sonia Boué, which supports people through the process of a diagnosis; Designing for Diversity Handbook (2020) aimed at making creative industries organisations more autism friendly; and talks on neurodiversity (Neodiversity Talks) and disability (SAMA Festival) on BOM’s YouTube channel.

In 2022, we are initiating a new ND+NPO network of organisations delivering creative professional development for neurodivergent practitioners, and / or with neurodivergent leaders. These are some of the ways BOM is committed to sharing knowledge and best practice and amplifying the wider support offer to neurodivergent practitioners. We will continue to participate in national and international events advocating for diversity, such as British Council’s Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) Global Webinars which we’ve participated in since 2019.

BOM’s Director also plays a leadership role at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)  and Southside Business Improvement District to ensure cultural diversity, neurodiversity and disability is represented in forward cultural plans for the region at strategic levels. At WMCA she chairs the Leadership and Entrepreneurship Working Group which devised, and secured funding for, a new Creative and Cultural Social Enterprise pilot for diverse-led organisations which launched in 2021. Karen will continue supporting the first appointed Black and Asian-led creative social enterprises (Girl Dreamer, Birmingham and Kiondo, Walsall) through the evaluation and wrap up of this programme in 22/23, working with WMCA to embed learning and take future action to help grow a diverse cultural sector in the region.

As a Director at Southside BID, Karen also secured GBSLEP Strategic Enabling Funds to commission a new Access Strategy for the District to improve wheelchair access between cultural venues, China Town and the Gay Village, re-route traffic to improve air quality. This work will help to position Southside as a Cultural Action Zone in 2022.

Between 2022 – 2023 BOM will continue to deliver its strategic programmes and partnerships to build new diverse audiences including Black, Asian and disabled people and young people excluded from education who are not otherwise engaging in arts and culture. This underpins our Audience Development Plan.

Our Equality Action Plan is updated yearly. This details how we will achieve diversity and equality across our programming and operations in line with Arts Council’s Inclusivity and Relevance Investment Principle.

In 2022 – 2023 this includes BOM’s commitment to the More Than A Moment Pledge – taking proactive action to support Black artists, communities and staff. Our Equality Action Plan also details how we will continue to ensure that equality and diversity is embedded into the shortlisting of new board recruits, staff posts, residents and artists we work with.

To find out more about our plans this year for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, download our Equality Action Plan(PDF)

You can also read our pledge to More than a Moment (PDF)