Wac Arts to instigate ‘governance review’ in response to high-profile critics

WAC Arts

WAC Arts - Credit: Polly Hancock

The board at Wac Arts are to conduct a “full governance review” in an attempt to address the concerns of a group of prominent critics.

Wac Arts – a performing arts charity based in the old Hampstead Town Hall in Haverstock Hill came under fire over the summer with a group of alumni, teachers and pupils upset at its direction.

After a “constructive” meeting on September 11, outgoing chair of trustees Liz Cleaver wrote to the concerns group thanking them for the meeting and suggesting a follow-up.

READ MORE: Wac Arts: Alumni, staff and students send charity open letter detailing ‘concerns’ over governance and diversityMs Cleaver wrote: “We greatly value your input, continued support, and passion for the charity. I know many of you are life-long supporters and feel passionately about our work. We are listening and committed to changing things for the better.”

The Concerns group includes arts figures Che Walker, Danny Sapani and Sheila Atim, and in July they sent an open letter to the Wac Arts board raising concerns about its governance, “microaggressions” arising from a lack of race and class diversity on the charity’s board, the furlough policy during the Covid-19 pandemic and the reduction in programmes on offer.

At the time, Danny – a patron of the charity – said their anxieties came from “a place of love” adding: “We’re family, and we care and love this charity.”

He also said: “We are all patrons, alumni, parents and staff, we are ready and willing to help.”

Last week Wac Arts’ chief exec Darius Khwaja said in a statement: “Racism will not be tolerated at Wac Arts and we take any allegation very seriously. I am proud to be the first CEO of WAC Arts from an ethnic minority background.

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“We are continually striving to improve diversity and recognise that we must go further to reflect the community we work within.”

He added: “We have committed to a new governance review in response to feedback. This will seek to understand how we can strengthen the board and make it more representative of the communities it serves.”

Mr Khwaja said Wac Arts was set to take a number of recommendations to a meeting of its board of governors on September 30.

The governance review will take place when a new chair is appointed – it is understand this is likely to be imminent.