Grafting Under Tory State With Janine Francois

What is your background?

I am a Black British Woman who grew up in Stratford Newham and whose family roots are from St.Lucia and Dominica, two small but very culturally rich Caribbean islands! I always think of my personal background as a reflection of Britain’s histories.

What do you do?

Many things! I am Lecturer at Central Saint Martins and a Ph.D student researching safer spaces within art museums at Tate. More importantly, I am a feminist activist and Cultural Producer and I am interested in collaborative working and co-production with marginalised communities.

How are you grafting under the tory state?

According to the Arts Council England, (I write accordingly, because whose definitions are we using here?) Newham is one of these least ‘culturally’ engaged boroughs in London and people of colour and working-class communities are also the least culturally engaged groups. Newham is predominately working-class and non-white. As someone who is connected to both communities, living all my life in a Newham, that supposedly has a cultural deficit, I ask, who is going to pick up the tab to fix this supposed problem? Who is going to invest in the artists born and bred in Newham to create work and spaces that speaks to and reflect our diverse lived experiences and that of our communities? We know that arts funding is continuously being cut? So how will funding and opportunities to reach those who are in need of it the most?

What needs to change and how?

We need more equitable funding, that reflects the make-up of London, considering that London is 40% non-white. We need to ensure marginalised groups across race, class, sexuality and gender identity are a part of decision marking processes regarding funding, as many of these aforementioned groups are disproportionately funded the least. Publicly funded institutions ultimately need to be decolonised, we need non-elitist definitions of ‘art’ and ‘culture’ and we more transparent and radical ways of working that is collaborative and decentres embedded hierarchies. We need not a new structure, but no structure. We need this to happen now if we truly want an equal cultural ecosystem in the UK.  We need the bigot Boris Johnson and his bigoted party out of government. If we remain as we are (and I fear we will) this Tory-led government lack of arts funding, will further the divide between those who receive funding and those who don’t and therefore those who cultural engage and those who don’t.

Edited by Isobel Gorman-Buckley

14th February 2020

Photography by Fraser Hanley-Nicholls

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