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Insights into EDI Change in the Arts with Tonic's Lucy Kerbel

Lucy Kerbel
9 November 2023
Insights into EDI Change in the Arts with Tonic's Lucy Kerbel

Embracing equity, diversity, and inclusion enriches artistic expression and broadens audience engagement, and also ensures that the arts remain relevant, accessible, and representative of our evolving societal landscape. Diverse teams mean diverse perspectives which can drive creativity and innovation. But how can arts organisations get started with EDI in a meaningful way?

We welcomed Lucy Kerbel, founder and director of Tonic, to the Arts and Everything In Between, for a thought-provoking episode in which she shared a wealth of practical wisdom for driving EDI change in the sector, based on her experience working with a variety of arts and culture organisations.

Discover a Lucy's advice, and an introduction to Tonic’s approach:

Some of the key takeaways from the episode include: 

wrightmedia-tonic-workshop-5-1536x1024-1Founding Tonic

Lucy tells us how seeing gender imbalances in UK theatre, contrasted with efforts for greater equity in Sweden, inspired her to take steps to inspire change. Early conversations with leaders revealed openness but uncertainty on how to take action, signalling the need for a hub to support organisations in making change: that’s where Tonic came in.

Starting Out

Tonic began by connecting forward-thinking arts organisations to learn from each other and identify areas for change, revealing that small steps can grow into more ambitious efforts over time. Starting out, the focus for Tonic was on gender balance in theatre, which then expanded into wider arts and culture and EDI considerations more broadly.

Listening and Understanding

Lucy emphasises the importance of research and listening before taking action - notably understanding barriers and the perspectives of the people you aim to impact. Initiatives risk missing the mark without this effort to ensure appraisal and understanding. She advises organisations to get comfortable with small, internal efforts first before going big and public.

DSCF0663-720x480Managing Change

While the arts sector is comfortable "cracking on" with projects, Lucy notes that rigorous, structured processes should be applied to EDI change. Emotion and good intentions aren't enough. She points to existing change management skills within arts organisations that can be mobilised.

Supporting EDI Leaders

With more dedicated EDI roles emerging, Lucy advocates giving these professionals greater support, training, and status. Developing this career strand can build a diverse pipeline of future arts leaders. Tonic is leading the way, running Changemakers, a membership program providing training, community, and support for people driving equality, diversity, and inclusion initiatives in arts organizations.

A Hopeful Endeavour

Although the current climate is tough for arts organisations, Lucy ends on an inspiring note, reminding us that ultimately EDI change is about hope, and making the arts as vibrant as possible. She encourages organisations to find ways, even starting small, to move towards a more hopeful future.

Discover the episode for more of Lucy’s valuable insights, and be sure to check out the show notes for additional resources from Tonic:

Images © Tonic | Stephen Wright

About Tonic 
Tonic works across the UK, Europe and beyond, supporting the arts and cultural sector to achieve greater equality, diversity and inclusion.

About Lucy Kerbel
Lucy founded Tonic in 2011 with the ambition of creating a sea change in how theatre and the performing arts thought about and acted in regards to equality, diversity and inclusion. Over the subsequent years she created Tonic’s ground-breaking range of programmes, methodologies and tools which have enabled individuals and organisations to achieve deep and sustained change. Today Lucy heads Tonic’s work, overseeing strategy, managing key relationships and delivering projects, sessions and events alongside Tonic’s team of facilitators.

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