Anti-racism pledge

Opera, ballet and the Royal Opera House should belong to everyone. We commit to confronting racism and discrimination, to employing and celebrating work by people who are ethnically and culturally diverse and who experience racism, and to creating

  1. Responsibility Opera, ballet and the Royal Opera House should belong to everyone. We acknowledge that people have experienced long-standing underrepresentation, inequalities, discrimination and micro-aggression as a result of their skin colour, ethnicity and/or faith. We take responsibility for driving change in our organisation and in its artforms, in the UK and internationally. Specific actions and targets are set out in our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion plan which will be regularly reviewed and updated by the Executive team.

  2. Zero tolerance – Racism and discrimination will not be tolerated at the Royal Opera House and will be confronted. We will support and empower staff and artists to challenge, report and take immediate action in response to racist language or behaviour at any level in the organisation, in the rehearsal room and in interactions with customers and funders. We have clear grievance and customer complaints procedures. Staff concerns can also be raised anonymously via HR. All issues raised will be taken seriously and investigated. Equality and inclusion will be stated requirements in job descriptions, tender processes and contracts; our commitment to eliminating racism will be clear to everyone who comes to work with us.
  3. Self-education – All staff at all levels will take part in mandatory training and personal development, led by external specialists and tailored to facilitate deeper exploration of department-specific issues and leadership responsibilities. We will commission research into the history of our organisation, its artforms and its repertory, making an honest appraisal of links to imperialism and racial stereotyping, and acknowledging hurt caused.

  4. Setting expectations – We will address the perception that, in ballet, in opera and at the Royal Opera House, white is the ‘norm’. We will celebrate the contribution of ethnically diverse people , today and throughout history, across our website, social media, print, films, front and back of house displays and recruitment material. We will diversity as the expectation, not the exception, in production designs and in our protocols and stock for costume, wigs and make-up. We will also ensure our working practices, environment and support offer for staff are inclusive for those who practice different faiths.

  5. Evolving the canon – The work we choose to place on the Royal Opera House’s stages influences a world stage; the version of ballet and opera we present to young people is the version they will take forward as the audiences and artists of the future. We will commission practitioners from ethnic and cultural backgrounds that have been under-represented in ballet and opera (including through open calls), surface lost works and raise the profile of ethnically diverse people and their work within our sector, with audiences and learners to make a generational shift in whose stories get heard.

  6. Diversity in decision-making – We will sustain our recent track record in appointing more ethnically diverse people as trustees and, in recruiting to senior roles, making it a priority to address historic under-representation. We are exploring new models for bringing more diverse perspectives to our artistic programmes.

  7. Equality backstage – We will draw on data and staff experiences to assess the impacts of the anonymous shortlisting processes introduced in recent years, continue removing unnecessary criteria from job descriptions, and extend advertising to reach a more diverse pool of candidates. We will take action to level the playing field for ethnically and culturally diverse people, both as job applicants and in their progression to senior roles. We are publishing Equality Impact Assessments on our restructuring plans to all staff. Alongside our growing Staff Diversity and Inclusion Network, we have established a confidential staff forum in which people who are ethnically diverse and culturally diverse, and who experience racism, can share their experiences.

  8. Equality on stage – We have set stretching targets for employing ethnically diverse people as creative practitioners and will introduce new targets for performers, becoming more specific in how we define and monitor diversity. Currently we do not require our performers to share the assumed or known ethnicity of the characters they play and will not use make-up to suggest or to mask ethnicity; we will further debate this approach with staff, artists and experts in the field. We will continue to offer auditions to any singer who applies who has relevant training or experience and is from African and South Asian diaspora heritage. The first round of singer auditions for the Jette Parker Young Artist Programme take place screened, while emerging conductors and stage directors of African or South Asian diaspora heritage with an appropriate skills base are encouraged to apply and given priority access for training. We are also trialling screened auditions in the initial stages of orchestral recruitment.

  9. Youth talent – We will increase the number of young people of African diaspora and South Asian diaspora heritage who benefit from the long-running Chance to Dance programme. We are establishing a working group to grow the number of child opera performers from these under-represented backgrounds. 

  10. Accountability – Increasing ethnic diversity, creating an inclusive environment and dismantling racism will be included in every department and performing company’s goals and key performance indicators. While this pledge sets out our overall commitment and approach to racial equality, our plans and targets will be specific to people’s distinct identities, the issues they face, the ways we address these, our targets and our reporting. A Board sub-group, including ethnically and culturally diverse people, bringing expertise from within and outside arts and culture, and Chaired by David Ross, Chair of the Royal Opera House, has been formed to oversee this work and hold the Executive team accountable.

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Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation, a charitable company limited by guarantee incorporated in England and Wales (Company number 480523) Charity Registered (Number 211775)