I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity recently. Some of this was prompted by an initiative we kicked off within the choir called 2020 Vision – the idea was to encourage everyone in the choir to share their dreams of what kind of choir we could be in ten years’ time. There were some really interesting thoughts shared about the lack of diversity in the choir and what we could do about it. Although the 2020 Vision project has been temporarily paused whilst we deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the thought processes that it prompted have kept whirring. That’s been in the background; the event in the foreground right now is the murder of George Floyd, and our reactions to it.
BeVox has never had an explicit diversity statement. We believed that our ethos of inclusivity would be enough. Toni and I have always thought of ourselves as colour-blind when it comes to race (and gender-blind etc too) – we see people as human beings, not black women, white men, gay disabled people etc. We can now see that this is not enough, and it comes from a position of privilege. We can only afford to not care what gender someone is, what ethnic origin they are, what their sexual orientation is, because our choices are not constrained by our own race, gender, lack of disability etc. We don’t have the lived experience of people who are marginalised and oppressed because of these factors (or most of them, at least – Toni has some experience of this from a gender point of view). Turning a blind eye to it is not acceptable.
We have a lot to learn. We’re taking on that responsibility to educate ourselves, to learn about the experiences of people who don’t share our privilege, and to listen to those who are sharing their stories. As with everything we do, we want to become better at this.
One of the unexpected positives that has come out of our enforced retreat into isolation during the pandemic is that we’ve got the time to reflect on what we do, how we do it – even why we do it. There have been a number of things we’ve done as a choir that have been really positive – taking the time to really work on vocal technique, to spend time with every singer in one-to-one sessions, to celebrate our history through sing-alongs with past concerts etc. Our community has come together to support each other in new and glorious ways. We want to make sure we’re really capitalising on this opportunity to reflect on how we can be better – better leaders, better singers, better human beings. Once we’ve taken the time to learn more about what it means to be truly diverse, we intend to involve the whole choir in a discussion about how we translate those ideals into real action.
As I said, we have a lot to learn, and we intend to do just that. This will take time, and we ask for everyone’s patience while we work at getting better. We want diversity to become fundamental to who we are as a choir, not an after-thought or an optional extra. We need to involve our whole community in this, and we need to reach out to people who aren’t in our current community too. We need to ensure that everyone we work with, from venue staff to sound engineers, reflect our values. And we need to use our voices, not just to entertain, but to inform, to educate, to inspire. We will be silent no longer.