Wac Arts: Staff and trustees to get racism training as new chair promises changes

WAC Arts

Wac Arts, in Haverstock Hill, has promised changes in response to grievances raised by staff and students. - Credit: Polly Hancock

A Camden arts group has promised changes after students claimed they were asked to perform for free at the homes of its benefactors.  

Students at Wac Arts, a registered charity in Belsize Park, said they were told they would be “paid in sandwiches” and “exposure”. 

The group’s new chair said the pledge was one of several measures to be implemented in response to a string of complaints.

Another will be “anti-racism and unconscious bias training” for all staff and trustees. 

Wac, whose alumni include Danny Dyer and Daniel Kaluuya, was hit by controversy this year when complainants, calling themselves the Wac Arts Concerns Group (WACG), compiled a dossier of grievances, including alleged “micro-aggressions” towards Black students.  

An open letter, whose signatories included Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, said WACG had “no confidence” in Wac’s leadership. 

Complainants included students who alleged they were asked to perform, unpaid, at donors’ homes. 

One said they refused after learning they would be “paid in sandwiches”, adding: “The person that did do the event was not even fed.” 

Another said: “I was asked to perform at someone’s house... They told me personally it’s for the rich people that fund Wac... People would be taken out of lessons to go perform for these rich people’s houses or lunches.”  

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After meeting WACG reps last month, Wac’s new chair Justina Cruickshank said: "I am working with WACG to understand exactly what happened in many of these cases so that we can implement the most helpful course of action.” 

She added: “The current leadership has made a commitment not to host any performances in private homes.” 

Justina Cruickshank Wac Arts

Justina Cruickshank, the new chair at Wac Arts, said leaders had promised there would be no future performances at private residences, and all staff and trustees would undergo unconscious bias training. - Credit: Wac Arts

Film director Che Walker, of WACG, said: “Whilst the discussions between WACG and Wac Arts are still ongoing, we welcome this gesture as a step toward acknowledging our concerns.” 

Ms Cruickshank said: “Wac Arts has a zero-tolerance for racism... That means anti-racism and unconscious bias training for all staff and trustees, and we are committed to improving diversity across the charity.” 

Mr Walker said some concerns remained, but WACG was “confident that our improved dialogue, in the spirit of genuine equality and partnership, can address these important points.” 

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