Earlier this year we officially launched the Tribe Fundraising Network in true Tribe fashion, with good conversations, mutual learning and of course good food.
The concept of forming the network came from years of struggling as Black and Asian actors in an exciting yet very competitive industry where covering the costs for work and independent projects comes at the expense of choosing to either sustain the project or yourself financially.
The Tribe Fundraising Network aims to engage Black and Asian artists in thinking outside the box when considering how they can produce work and sustain themselves financially, rather than taking the usual route of Arts Council funding. The core function behind the network is to be a collaborative place of knowledge transfer and opportunity generation between Black & Asian entrepreneurs and philanthropists and Black & Asian artists.
The launch was attended by around 30 people, a range of artists including actors, directors, film-makers, photographers, musicians and spoken word artists, all at difference stages as practitioners (some eager students), wanting to make a fruitful career in the Arts sector for the long-term.
Our speakers/mentors were a mix of succesful artists and members of charity organisations, business leaders and social entrepreneurs, all willing to find new partnerships, inspirations and explore new ways of helping their communities by helping the artists reflecting these communities.
One question which was posed very early on in the evening of the launch by a performing poet was, ‘how do I get beyond this just being a hobby and actually earn a living off this?’. It’s well been known that being an artists isn’t a traditionally viable career choice for Black & Asian communities, with emphasis on Asian communities. Two of our guest speakers, Sheraz and Ayesha, who are both of South Asian descent, explained similar stories, where they too had wanted to work in the creative industries but were disencouraged due to the cultural expectation of the time. They cited a Muslim-led charity called Penny Appeal, who, in the past, had hosted events aimed at encouraging cross-partnership between investors and artists, but that at the time, there was no traction for this. Later on, some successful Bradford-based businesses, now very successful restaurant chains, were mentioned as possible routes in; business like Akbars, Mumtaz and Cafe Lahore are major success stories in Bradford, and their interest and investment in the Arts could really help galvanise the sector but also make it more diverse for artists of colour to access not just financial support but also business insight.
Many artists spoke of the double-edged sword they believed was ‘the struggle of the black artist’, the creative whose art is not taken seriously amongst their community whilst they are also dealing with the alienation of their work in a predominantly white-led industry.
This is the main reason why we chose our speakers as representative of our audiences’ background as it was refreshing for developing and developed artists to see the positionality of these individuals in organisations that can and have supported independent artists and are also of BAME background.
Many artists shared a few words at the end about how the session was a breath of fresh air and how the positive atmosphere built their hopes in their chosen careers. Ranj, a performer/dancer, summed the session up as ‘helpful, promising and definitely healing; I feel like my soul needed this, the industry is a lonely place and events like this are a reminder that we are not alone and its a wicked way to connect with so many brown faces, I’ve never been to such a blackout event!’
The session was an eye-opener for us as an organisation who are still unaware of just how many members of our community have given up on their talents and chose to focus on ‘normal’ jobs. We learned there is a definite need for this conversation to exist, and further advancement of the narrative is important for the longevity of Black artists to continue producing work.
We now aim to deliver follow-up sessions on a wider-scale, engaging more artists and connecting community entrepreneurs with them, possibly through a buddy or shadowing-type scheme. We plan to connect with more business leaders and create some infrastructure to support communication between members.
These sessions will also help Tribe build capacity within our own internal Associate Artist pool, comprising of BAME Artists from various disciplines in the industry. The Tribe Associate Artist pool are artists we regularly engage in our productions as well as keep them aware of any opportunities, but we also try to offer our assistance on their own projects. We plan to provide artists a platform in future sessions where they can perform and share their work to an audience of investors and independent producers and bid-writers, furthering the cause of the network.
We want to thank Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy for their generous support in making this event happen and all the artists who were able to make it to the pilot whom we acknowledge for sharing their experiences. We plan to deliver on our promise to deliver further networking events to empower and champion the next generation of BAME artists in the West Yorkshire region and beyond.
The Tribe Fundraising Network is a partnership project with the Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy Programme, which works with groups or networks across England towards the development of new training events, conferences, seminars or introductory meetings with the aim of strengthening arts fundraising skills and building robust partnerships across the sector.