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‘We need to become more proactive in the arts’

ART ATTACK: Visual artist Michael Forbes says networking is key

A PROMINENT writer and editor is urging the black community to become more involved in the promotion of the arts as well as publishing.

Margaret Busby, who is a judge on the Soroptomist International (SI) Leeds literary prize which is geared at creating opportunities for unpublished black women, is encouraging more people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to create their own publishing companies to address the vast inequalities that exist within the industry.

She said: “If you look in the industry you would be hard-pressed to find black editors. This needs to change.

“If they’re all white and middle-class it will lead to inequalities because people will publish what they know, what appeals to them. If everybody in the industry is the same you will get something that is not very representative of our diverse population.”

The SI Leeds prize gives black women, who might otherwise be rejected by mainstream publishers despite having viable manuscripts, the opportunity to get published.

There has also been special effort in trying to raise the profile of black artists within the visual arts.


Nottingham Trent University will showcase the work of prominent black artists at an alumni exhibition on January 8 as part of its 170th anniversary.

Alumnus Keith Piper, one of the founders of the BLK Art Group which is credited with helping to raise awareness of, and debate about black art in Britain, said there has been tremendous progress but there is more work to be done.

Michael Forbes, an alumnus who is known for his work at the New Art Exchange in Nottingham, agreed with Piper.

He said:  “The whole process, involves networking and contacts and if you are not in some of these loops and networks you don’t come on their radar.

“I accept this is an issue for all artists but I think there is particular issue of exclusion for black and south Asian artists.”

Busby said the community needs to be more proactive if it wants to have a greater stake in the arts.

She said: “I have been involved in various initiatives since the 1980s when I was a founding member, along with the likes of the late Jessica Huntley, of the Greater Access to Publishing (GAP).  We campaigned for greater diversity and there have been schemes and initiatives, but 30 years later the situation hasn’t changed.

“We can sit and complain but until we do something about it ourselves things are not going to change.”

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