Partnership and Collaboration: Threats and Opportunities

By Ben Andrew

Voice for Change England hosted our Annual General Meeting on the 4th of December at Holloway Road in London. We were pleased to see a good turnout from members around the country, all keen to share their experiences.  

As people had travelled from all over the country, we thought it best to pack the schedule with as many presentations and discussions as possible on a wide range of issues – to make sure everyone got good value out of their day.

The AGM was structured into a number of sections on different issues and discussion points. After a brief introduction, Saqib Deshmukh (Development Officer at V4CE) and Yvonne Field (Founder of Ubele Initiative) led an informative presentation on Asset Management, and how important it is to get relevant information on owning a property out to BME communities.

There were many questions and shared experiences on this topic, some of which were left unresolved, so we are looking to hold a further session on Asset Management in the New Year where these points can be followed up more thoroughly.

Afterwards we broke up into two smaller groups for roundtable discussions about the future of funding to the BME VCS organizations, led by Lester Holloway (V4CE policy consultant) and Dr Sanjiv Lingayah (V4CE consultant). 

The general consensus was that we all need more funding in order to achieve the things which we would like to achieve in our respective areas. The discussions helped to give everyone an appreciation of the issues that different groups are facing with regard to funding.  

The second half of the day consisted of two interview-style discussions about the child exploitation scandal in Rotherham and the controversial Exhibit B exhibition by Brett Bailey.

The debate about the Rotherham scandal was chaired by Yasmin Rehman, a director of End Violence Against Women, who was interviewing Zlakha Ahmed, the founder and manager of Apna Haq.

The discussion was marked by a general consensus about the issues at hand. Both women were keen to highlight that the media's portrayal of Asian men as a dangerous threat to young white girls was false on two levels; firstly that most Asian men are not sex offenders, and secondly that many victims of these abuses are other Asian women and girls.

It was never forgotten how tragic a topic the abuse scandal had been for everyone involved.

After a hearty dinner at El Molino's Tapas bar and a brief interlude for the AGM itself, the day's final discussion got underway on the controversial Exhibit B 'Human zoo' artwork, and the campaign that had led to its removal from the Barbican in London.

V4CE's director, Kunle Olulode chaired the discussion with Sara Myers, a journalist and race equality activist who began the campaign to boycott Exhibit B.  

The debate that followed was more lively than the previous discussions. Sara, along with many members of the audience, was keen to condemn the exhibition, arguing that it had been exploitative, disrespectful, and a symptom of the unequal airtime given to artists from privileged white backgrounds.

Kunle raised some concerns with this position, and suggested that much of the discussion should be centred around whether this constituted censorship, and if some people considering Exhibit B to be offensive justified limiting everyone's ability to view it. However many people felt that the exhibition was not just deeply offensive but was also an exercise in power and control over black citizens.


We hope that everyone who was present got as much out of the AGM as we did, and we would like to thank everyone who came down to London and contributed to such a productive and interesting day.