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Anti-Racism at the YV

“Look closely at the present you are constructing; 
it should look like the future you are dreaming.”

Alice Walker

14 April 2021

The Young Vic has a reputation for staging world-class productions that champion unheard voices and tell representative stories. But we hold up our hands. The reality is that in our theatre we’ve made mistakes that have meant Black and Global Majority people experienced hurt. 

It is not enough for us to be ‘not as bad’ in a sector that is institutionally racist. We need to change, follow a clear process, and Get. It. Right. We want to be a theatre where our internal culture matches our external reputation, and where everyone feels that they belong. 

We are incredibly proud to have joined Sour Lemons in their Big Squeeze Partnership to do this deep, important labour. This change has begun, and we will only be successful by making sure actions occur to achieve greater racial equity among our staff and artists.

Since the summer of 2020, we have undertaken a period of listening. We have listened, and we have heard. We take this moment to acknowledge and sincerely thank those who shared their experiences, as these testimonies have been the foundation of our plan which will move us towards a culture that is actively anti-racist. 

We acknowledge the impact racism has had on our staff in the past. Our work with Sour Lemons is designed to prevent this from happening in the future. We will develop skills and undertake company-wide training to actively dismantle the behaviours and thinking upholding systemic racism. 

We are implementing culture change and structures to ensure the work we are doing is effective and permanent and forming cross-organisational Anti-Racism working groups and Accountability groups. We are also setting up a clear process for how we engage with all people working here. 

We want to be accountable for the progress we make. In July, following consultation with those most impacted by racism, we will publish an update with our Values and Vision framework.

Most importantly, however, we know the proof of our commitment to this work must be judged in our doing. Through this process with Sour Lemons, we move collectively to becoming the actively anti-racist theatre our staff, artists and audiences rightly expect us to be. 

A Note on Language

The use and weaponization of language, and the grouping of people with different lived experiences of racism, diminishes individuals and cultural identities and harms anti-racist work. We know the negative impact of grouping people, but we feel it is helpful to explain the YV’s current working definitions, whilst acknowledging there is no perfect wording to represent the complexities of each individual identity. The below will be regularly reviewed in line with feedback and contemporary anti-racism frameworks. 

  • First and foremost, we will be as specific as possible with our language, never defaulting to umbrella terms, whilst also never assuming another’s identity or experience 
  • We reject the term ‘BAME’: it is an oppressive, misleading grouping of the Global Majority of people who have very different lived experiences 
  • We will use the term ‘Black and Global Majority’ people. We know this is not perfect, but it is the only definition at this present time that does not centre whiteness and is also factually true as over 80% of the world’s population make up the Global Majority 
  • We will be rigorous about questioning when and where we refer to an individual’s race in promotional and marketing materials

Sour Lemons is a Young Vic Associate Company. For more information, click here


30 July 2021 - Update

Our anti-racism journey is of highest priority to us; it is not sitting separately to our day-to-day operations. Over the last four months we have facilitated regular workshops for the entire company, including dedicated sessions for white and white-passing staff. We are working to embed learnings across the entire organisation in everything we do.  

We promised to publish an update on this page in July. The current stage of the anti-racism work - which is person-centred and focuses on individual accountability - is taking longer than we forecasted in April. With further workshops scheduled next month, and a town hall for all staff taking place in September, we are at a place in our journey we wish to complete and review before publishing a thorough update.  Therefore, we have chosen to miss our self-imposed deadline this month, rather than publish an update which might feel unsubstantial or tokenistic, as we believe this does more harm than good to anti-racist practice.    

As we stated at the beginning of this journey, we want to undertake this process in a way which is meaningful, effective, and results in permanent change. An update will be published by Autumn 2021.