Belgrade to stop using the term BAME

Published: 25 July 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

Statement of intent: Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre

Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre has taken a decision to stop using the anacronym BAME for black, Asian and minority ethnic people and hopes other organisations will follow suit.

The Belgrade has responded to a call from the Black Creative Network, a group of black artists based in the West Midlands. It is advocating for change in the arts industry in light of the Black Lives Matter protests across the world.

A statement on the Belgrade web site says the theatre will stop using BAME, BAMER and POC (person of colour) in all its communications.

“We hope that in publicly stating our intention to make this change we will encourage other organisations to follow suit, ultimately building towards the eradication of the term across our industry.”

The Black Creative Network says that by assigning a single collective identity to the vast range of racial, cultural and ethnic groups living in the UK, “it assumes that all these groups share broadly similar experiences, challenges and barriers to representation.

“The truth is far more complex. We believe that to properly identify and address the needs of each of these diverse groups, we must begin to treat them as separate and distinct. For this reason, we will not be replacing BAME with an equivalent umbrella term.”

The Black Creative Network adds that the term “conflates physical characteristics with geographic identity. Black, Asian and minority ethnic are not equivalent terms. ‘Asian’ describes people with heritage from a particular part of the world while ‘black’ refers solely to a skin colour and encompasses people from a huge number of different races, cultures and nationalities across the globe.

“By separating out the different groups currently covered by the term BAME, we hope to create room for all of them to highlight, share and celebrate their specific regional and cultural identities.”

The Belgrade says it believes that “people have a right to define their cultural identities on their own terms and that the industry should respond to this instead of imposing its own jargon on marginalised groups.

“As an industry that is centred on listening to people and telling their stories, theatre and the arts should lead the way in reshaping the conversation around diversity.

“We acknowledge that this is only the first step on a long journey. This is a statement of intent: we know there is more work to do and we look forward to continuing the conversation with marginalised artists to create a more welcoming and inclusive space for all.”