Sophie Akbar, Development Producer at Without Walls, on our Anti-Racism Statement

13 February 2023

A note from Sophie Akbar

This note is in response to the anti-racism statement recently published by Without Walls.

A note from Development Producer, Sophie Akbar:

At the end of 2021 I was asked to join the Without Walls team to take up the new role of Development Producer. The role had been created in response to recommendations made in an independent review we had commissioned on our work to date with under-represented ethnic groups. I was asked to work with the team to help make change happen, so that we could see more artists from under-represented groups being commissioned and supported in our programme and more professionals from under-represented groups in positions of leadership, plus a host of other things. It was an exciting, challenging and daunting prospect.

As a Pakistani woman working as a Producer in the outdoor arts sector for over 20 years I had usually been the only Asian face in the room, sorry correction, the only Asian face in the muddy field! So the ambition and commitment of the Without Walls team to make anti-racism a priority area in their movement forward really struck a chord with me.

Two people dancing against a purple bacgkround. They are angled down toward the left with their other arms point up towards the right. The person on the left wears a white backwards cap, a white tight-fitting top and matching lilac tracksuit and scrunchie on their wrist. The person on the right has long, dark braids, half tied up in a bun and half down. They wear a tight-fitting white top and matching light blue tracksuit and scrunchie on their wrist.

A lot of work had already taken place when I joined, including regular EDI trainings, a Board Shadowing programme in collaboration with Artistic Directors of the Future and the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion Action Group (DIAG) to drive this important area of work forward and push for bolder change. Since then we’ve also supported three Associates to develop their skills as Producers, funded ‘Stepping Out’ a creative lab for South Asian artists wanting to develop their work in the outdoors, and we are about to embark on a 6 month training programme to support our partners in improving their anti-racism recruitment and retention practices.

There is a long way to go to address the imbalances in our industry and as I said, it’s a daunting task, but we are committed to making change happen. If you’d like to know more about our actions so far and what we are planning to do please read our anti-racism action plan. We’re likely to get things wrong at times and we would like you to help us on this journey, so please get in touch if you have something to share, my details can be found below. A quote from a recent EDI training plays back in my mind a lot: ‘If equality is the goal, then equity is the means of getting there.’ I really hope we can do that quote justice.

Sophie Akbar, Development Producer

If you would like to find out more or speak to someone at Without Walls about the work we are doing you can contact:

Sophie Akbar, Development Producer:

Image credits:

Lives of Clay, The Clay Connection at Brighton 2022 © Peter Chrisp
the album: skool edition, SAY Dance © Camilla Greenwall