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Arts leaders call on PM to tackle racism with ‘real institutional change’

Figures from across the arts world outlined steps they say would help defeat racial inequality.

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Chi-Chi Nwanoku is among the signatories on a letter demanding action on racism from Boris Johnson (Yui Mok/PA)

Chi-Chi Nwanoku is among the signatories on a letter demanding action on racism from Boris Johnson (Yui Mok/PA)

Chi-Chi Nwanoku is among the signatories on a letter demanding action on racism from Boris Johnson (Yui Mok/PA)

Leading figures from the arts world have signed a letter to Boris Johnson demanding he implement “real institutional change” in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Led by Chi-chi Nwanoku, founder of the Chineke! Foundation, Europe’s first majority black and minority ethnic orchestra, signatories said people of colour have “felt abused, powerless, underrepresented and ignored for too long”.

The letter, signed by 88 leading industry figures including violinist Nicola Benedetti and composer Sally Beamish, outlines several steps the writers say should be taken to tackle racism in society.

They include “de-colonising the curriculum,” with calls to include the contributions made by writers, musicians, sportspeople and others from diverse backgrounds.

The letter calls for “an open, honest and historically accurate debate” about Britain’s involvement in the Atlantic slave trade.

The Government needs to address the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus pandemic on black, Asian and ethnically-diverse communities, the signatories say.

And they demand greater investment in the arts to ensure classical music, theatre, drama and dance are are not “the preserve of a privileged elite”.

The letter also criticised Mr Johnson’s recent pledge to establish a cross-government commission to examine “all aspects” of racial inequality in Britain.

That proposal is “lip service”, the signatories say, adding: “The research has been done, we know the statistics and that structural transformation is needed, so now it is time to take action and implement the recommendations.”

Writing in The Daily Telegraph earlier this month, the Prime Minister acknowledged that Britain had much more to do to deal with the issue.

He said the commission on race and ethnic disparities would look at “all aspects of inequality – in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life”.

PA