Justina Cruickshank, Chair of Wac Arts responds to allegations made by the Wac Arts Concerns Group, a group comprised of Wac Arts’ founder, former employees, ex-students, patrons and some individuals not connected with the Charity, and highlights the response of the Charity Commission:
“Wac Arts plays a critical role across Camden ensuring that young people have access to low-cost performing arts classes that empower them to change their world. Every decision I have made since becoming the Charity’s new Chair in October 2020 has put their welfare first.
Given the severity of the allegations, the majority of which pre-dated the current leadership team, I personally investigated the concerns raised by the Group where possible speaking directly to those involved to understand the full picture.
Where appropriate, historic policies have been changed, action has been taken and further improvements – including some of the Group’s suggestions – are planned throughout 2021.
However, many of the accusations presented could not be substantiated with evidence – which was essential for us to tackle fairly. There was also a discord between the views reported by current beneficiaries and those of the Group.
Concerns about safety were unsubstantiated with no concerns being raised by current beneficiaries or evidence presented. Allegations of “lacerating cuts” were also incorrect with more classes added this year and a continued commitment to ensuring that all classes remain affordable.
The Group also alleged we are upholding institutional racism, yet for the first time in its history, Wac Arts has a Chair and CEO who are from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds. As someone with personal, lived experience of racism, I wish to reassure all young people that Wac Arts is a safe and inclusive environment for all and that we have zero tolerance for racism.
To ensure best practice, and given the damaging nature of the allegations, we sought an impartial second opinion and informed the Charity Commission about the discussions between Wac Arts and the Group. They found no further action was required and that they were confident the “trustees are dealing with the matter appropriately and responsibly”. Legal advice was also sought to ensure action taken was appropriate.
Our 2021 action plan for improvements to Governance and Management includes:
- An external review of our governance
- Creation of:
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion working group
- Stakeholder steering group
- People & Culture committee
- Youth committee
- A Pay Policy
- Appointment of new trustees via the creation of a new open recruitment policy
- Unconscious bias training for the Board and the Senior Leadership Team
- Revising our community engagement plan
- HR and operational policies review
- Review of programmes and programme committee
- Review of organisational structure
I would like to stress that feedback, ideas and suggestions are always welcome at Wac Arts and as we emerge from the current lockdown, I would love to hear from our community via firstname.lastname@example.org. Any changes we make as a result will be reflected on the website and in subsequent mailings.”