Technical director Mark Dakin has criticised the Royal Opera House for failing to show sufficient public solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement.
In an open letter, he called out the opera house for failing to sufficiently support its black and minority ethnic employees or to publicly mark #blackouttuesday on June 2, which saw many companies halting social media activity out of respect and instead posting a black square.
While the Royal Opera House suspended some activity on its social media sites, it did not mark it as others did, with the black square. Instead, it shared a piece of choreography created by principal dancer Marcelino Sambé on June 1 on Twitter and a poem by Joseph Sissens on June 2 on Facebook.
Dakin, writing on the website of Stage Sight, said: “I am ashamed the organisation for which I work has chosen to exercise the privilege of staying publicly silent about the racist murder of the African American George Floyd, proactively choosing to ignore #blackouttuesday, as it always publicly ignores Black History Month, when so many of our contemporaries have chosen to use their considerable influence to publicly stand alongside their black, Asian and minority ethnic employees and communities more widely, in this devastating and traumatic moment.”
He added: “As a man of colour, the privilege of silence is something I do not have.”
Dakin said he was “appalled the burden of representation in this devastating and traumatic moment” had fallen on two “of the few people of colour” in the organisation.
He described the ROH as “an unrelentingly white organisation” and said: “It is obvious what we, your colleagues of colour will be feeling at this time.”
He added: “At a time when other organisations are specifically reaching out to support their BAME employees, my organisation is silent and chooses to not even show public solidarity.”
Dakin shared an email he wrote to the organisation, in which he revealed his “exhausting, burning rage and desolate sadness that still nothing has changed”, accusing the ROH of paying lip service to the inclusion and progression of a black and minority ethnic workforce.
Responding, the Royal Opera House said it supported the Black Lives Matter movement and “works to uphold the values of diversity and inclusion at all times”.
“We are working closely with our technical director, Mark Dakin, our board and our executive team to ensure these values are embedded at the core of everything we do,” a statement said.
Chief executive Alex Beard wrote on the company’s website that the ROH needed to do more to improve under-representation within the organisation, and admitted it needed “a systemic approach, addressing the root causes of under-representation”.
“I encourage everyone to share ideas about how we can most usefully affect impactful change, both in our organisation and within the wider performing arts sector,” he said.