Wac Arts: West End stars among ex-students who can 'no longer endorse' charity

Actors Sheila Atim and Jamael Westman were among who said they could 'no longer endorse' Belsize charity Wac Arts

Actors Sheila Atim and Jamael Westman were among who said they could 'no longer endorse' Belsize charity Wac Arts - Credit: Polly Hancock / PA

Prominent alumni of Belsize Park charity Wac Arts have followed patrons in expressing their "great disappointment" at the organisation. 

Almost a year after the Wac Arts Concerns group first made criticisms around a lack of diversity in leadership positions, and what they called "microaggressions", a group of ex-students have written the charity is "not the Wac we knew and loved", and reiterated concerns that it "is departing further away from those values and has become a place of distrust, poor communication and unclear motives".

Among 60 people to sign this new letter include West End stars Sheila Atim MBE and Jamael Westman - and former EastEnder Maddy Hill. 

They also raise concerns that some students were disappointed by a "lack of care" from the charity during lockdown and the pandemic, and said they could "no longer endorse the charity as an accessible, safe space for young people to train". 

Justina Cruickshank. Picture: WAC Arts

Justina Cruickshank. - Credit: Wac Arts

In a statement, Wac Arts's chair of trustees Justina Cruickshank said: “The wellbeing and safety of young people has always been and remains the highest priority at Wac Arts and I wish to reassure all young people that is a safe, open and welcoming environment for all.

"Wac Arts has a leadership team diverse in ethnicity, background and experience. For the first time in its history, we have a Chair, and CEO from ethnic minority backgrounds. As individuals with lived and painful personal experiences of racism, we have always been strongly committed to tackling inequality and ensuring that the charity is a welcoming environment for all."

Justina said no current students had ever raised issues of safety.

WAC Arts

Wac Arts - Credit: Polly Hancock

She said Wac has "zero tolerance" for racism or bullying and has "personally investigated" all allegations raised to her.

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She added: "We have not hesitated to halt historic practices of concern or review and improve policy. Our priority is that all our young people feel able to speak openly, knowing any concerns they have will be listened to and taken seriously."

Justina said when she took over the role she had been "aware of issues that span more than a decade", adding: "There is more work to be done but I am very proud of our staff and the life-changing work completed so far. We might not get it right all the time and some people might not agree with all our decisions, but that is normal for any charity."

She said she is disappointed the Concerns group no longer wishes to work with Wac going forward.