CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Fleabag star joins call for more transparency at famous college

New chair promises to make changes with an "enduring" impact

30 October, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has signed the open letter

FLEABAG star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and pianist Julian Joseph are among more than 200 performers who have signed a new open letter sharing their concerns for the future of a celebrated arts college.

The letter came despite the appointment of a new chairwoman at Wac Arts in Belsize Park.

Justina Cruickshank said in her first interview with the CNJ that she was ready to listen to the concerns of students and alumni.

But the Wac Concerns Group say they still have concerns over representation at the top and the financial strategy. It said it had requested the appointment of a new chair to be delayed so people connected with the Haverstock Hill-based institute could have an input in the process.

“There is no personal animosity toward Ms Cruickshank but the interview panel was lacking in inclusivity. There was no handover period,” the open letter said. “The community must have a say in any future recruitments, as such opacity from the board sets an unnerving precedent.”

Wac Arts management says it has been working hard to listen to the complaints, which were laid out at an emergency meeting with disillusioned staff, parents, pupils and alumni.

Wac Arts is based in the old Hampstead Town Hall

The centre has a proud history of helping people to start out in the arts, particularly talent which would otherwise have struggled to get tutoring.

The Concerns group called on Wac Arts to appoint six new board members by the middle of December, made up of people who were inclusive of student, parent, alumni, disability and artistic industry representatives.”

The Concerns group added they want board meetings to be observed for transparency, and new plans laid out to promote anti-racism and provide financial clarity.

New chair Justina Cruickshank

Ms Cruickshank vowed she would meet with the group and listen to their fears, adding: “I am ready to listen, to meet and most of all, I’m ready to take action and to take difficult decisions if need be.  I’m keen to resolve these issues directly, constructively and in the best interests of Wac Arts.”

She said a governance review and new training had already begun.

“Over the next few weeks, I am taking soundings from Wac Arts’ diverse range of stakeholders, and I hope this will include the Wac Arts Concerns Group,” she said, adding that she wanted to make an “enduring” impact and not make “tokenist” changes.

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