In 2016 Director, Anthony Evans, embarked on a mission to bring the values he’d learnt at as Co-Director of Epic Arts in Cambodia to the UK arts sector.
Anthony identified the need to embed into the UK sector by establishing relationships with key partners and was offered a base in which to do this at Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester. In January 2017 we commenced an Organisation Development project supported by Arts Council England.
Over 18 months we established that the Epic Arts needed to combine it’s experience of working internationally with a diversity-focussed sector facing offer specific to the UK. We also felt it important to reflect the creative case for diversity through within the organisations board and leadership even before embarking on projects. To reflect this change and to differentiate from our International charity aims, we formed the Community Interest Company ‘We Are Epic’ to act as a partner organisation based in the UK and as a conduit for future Epic Arts work outside of Cambodia. Our aims were to:
- Grow A Leader
- Develop Epic Governance
- Explore Epic Possibilities
- Share Epic Thinking
- Create Epic Plans.
Grow A Leader
We wanted to ensure more diverse voices were involved in key decisions within We Are Epic so we brought on board:
Michael Radford, Arts Management Trainee
Recruiting an Arts Administration Trainee was definitely a learning curve for us. One which taught us exactly who applies for traineeships within the arts and disability world. In early 2018 after a long recruitment process, we happily welcomed Michael, a young Actor looking to get into arts admin, onto the team.
Michael’s research project expanded our work beyond solely disability-focused activity. As he pioneered his own project which explored identity and belonging amongst D/deaf and disabled people within the LGBTQ+ community.
“What happens when you don’t fit into one ‘box’? Why is this such a problem? Why can’t we see the whole person?” – Identity & Belonging, Michael Radford
Lou Coleman, Diversity Officer
Lou Coleman, Consultant, Artist and Feldenkrais Practitioner, joined We Are Epic in May 2017 as Diversity Officer. Alongside Anthony Evans she developed the streams of work the organisation was founded on. Lou worked with our teams to develop their understanding of inclusive practice, best practices around accessibility and the importance of inclusive language within the D/disabled, D/deaf and mainstream arts sectors. She oversaw our first international collaboration ‘Buffalo Boy’ as Producer, visiting Epic Arts in Cambodia.
“We were communicating in three languages and this diversity set a wonderful slower pace, a chance to listen, to clarify and to ask questions.”
Develop Epic Governance
We needed to develop a strong governing board that reflected the diversity of the people we work with. We did this by listing the skills we needed specific to the organisation. We needed further voices and expertise from the UK Dance sector, International Dance sector, Fundraising, local knowledge and Inclusive Arts sector to support our work. The We Are Epic board has been significantly developed and it’s been important to take time we needed to establish this.
We Are Epic Board and Advisors
Over the last 12 months we’ve focused on embedding diversity from the ground up. We’re proud to say that we have a board who truly share our values and are committed to our vision. The board currently consists of Abi Reeve as Chair, Anand Bhatt, Katie Davies and Roxie Keon.
In addition to the board we also recruited two Advisors to the Board, who identify as part of the disabled community, Lauren Russell and Nadenh Poan.
Explore Epic Possibilities
We needed to understand the ecology of the local landscape in order to react to the needs of the UK sector and/or audiences. The PinPoint Powwows were a series of research events for local Leicester based performing arts artists, practitioners & facilitators to network, exchange ideas & experiences, & for us to find ways we could support them by using our knowledge, networks and experience to add to their professional development.
We met a number of organisations independently to discuss the development of We Are Epic and it’s position in the sector. These included regional national and international organisations such as:
The British Council, Dance 4, BRB, StopGap Dance, Unlimited, Serendipity, UK Young Artists, Dance Hub, Rosie Kay Dance Company, Aakash Odedra Company, Dan Daw Creative Projects, James Cousins Company, Creative Leicestershire, University of Leicester, University of Coventry, Hubbub Theatre, Sidekick Dance, Corali Dance, Barrowland Ballet.
Throughout the year we engaged with Evaluator, Kathryn Stamp. The diagram tells the story of reflections gathered from the first meeting
Create Epic Plans
We’ve learnt a lot this year, we’ve had the opportunity to establish strong foundation, shared values and clear intentions. So, What’s next for We Are Epic? We have epic plans in mind for 2019 and beyond!
We’re focusing on three main areas, which are backed up by rigorous feedback from independent evaluator, Kathryn Stamp. Take a look at Kathryn’s easy-to-read evaluation to find out more.
“One of the most valuable aspects to come out of the evaluation data concerns the support being provided by We Are Epic to help develop and encourage others, whether that is a individual practitioner, larger arts organisations or staff members.”
– 2017 Evaluation Report, Kathryn Stamp
Our three Programmes for the future
Giving creative people from all walks of life, time, opportunities and space to explore and develop.
International exchange opportunities for artists to play, research and develop inclusive practices.
Sharing inclusive practices within the arts and other sectors.
We were able to explore and develop thanks to Arts Council England’s Organisational Development Grant, and support from Epic Arts Cambodia and Attenborough Arts Centre.