13th May 2021

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art is a small Manchester based gallery with a national and international focus. Founded in 1984, for the past 35 years it has been an integral part of Manchester’s cultural scene and has been responsible for an almost continuous track record of exhibitions and a residency programme which has provided opportunities for artists of Chinese heritage or artists whose work is closely focused on China and the concerns of its diaspora. It is fair to say that the activities of CFCCA have directly supported and benefited the development of many artists at critical stages in their careers.

Trustee Nick Buckley Wood has recently been appointed as Interim Chair, following the resignation of Lisa Yam in March as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Nick, on behalf of the ongoing Board takes this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Lisa for her leadership and for the achievements to date of the Revisioning Process.

Combined Impact of the Pandemic and Resignations from the Board
CFCCA has developed its mission as part of its strategic planning and most recently in 2019, it decided to review its model of cultural production to ensure the organisation remains effective and relevant. As part of this process, in July 2020, CFCCA initiated a Revisioning project as part of a collaborative approach to involve stakeholders. This project has experienced several difficulties including those of the pandemic which resulted in closure of the gallery and the furlough of staff which have created significant delays to its timetable. There have also been six resignations from the Board, for a variety of reasons, including the Chair and Treasurer during this period. This has led to work taking longer and as a consequence, slower progress being made with regrettable de-lays in decision making and communication.

Equality and Diversity
The Revisioning project coincided with criticisms concerning negative experiences of working for and with the organisation, together with a lack of appropriate representation and questions were raised about the manner in which the organisation undertook its work. In response the Board of Trustees initiated an audit of CFCCA’s approach to people management in relation to Equality and Diversity. In December 2020, a statement of apology was issued by the CFCCA Board of Trustees relating to criticisms shared. You can read this here.

The internal Audit of Policies and Processes
The internal Audit of Policies and Processes (People Management and Equality & Diversity) was commissioned in autumn 2020 and is being conducted by an independent organisation Diverse Matters to review and improve CFCCA’s approach to equality and people management. Internal and external contributions were invited as part of this process and a first draft of the report was received by the Board in mid April. Once the report is finalised, the Board intends to share the findings and implement its recommendations.

Actions Taken in Response
In the meantime, however, a programme of staff training and development in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion has been initiated with facilitation by Brap  to enable CFCCA to improve its performance and to ensure it works towards being an actively anti-racist and pro-equality organisation. Recruitment practices have also been reviewed to ensure they are inclusive and effective in supporting CFCCA’s commitment to a diverse workforce and Board. Appropriate to its mission in relation to those of Chinese heritage, CFCCA continues to engage in positive action in these recruitment practices to ensure its culture reflects those it represents. New leadership models are also being considered to ensure that CFCCA is structurally aligned to its mission, and action on this is seen as a priority by the Board. The Board and Director agreed these actions at its meeting in March, 2021.

Artist Working Group
As part of the Revisioning project seven artists were approached and formally engaged for a six month period (September 2020 – March 2021) as an Artist Working Group (AWG), with the remit to work with the Director, staff and the Board of Trustees to provide reflections, insight and ideas. Facilitated by change consultants, People Make It Work, a framework was produced for a co-designed process which furthered the equality, diversity and inclusion journey of the organisation. The AWG undertook their commission in a robust and forthright manner and made suggestions to align the CFCCA’s diversity agenda to a process of decolonisation. While this work, unfortunately, was subject to several delays caused by CFCCA we are grateful to the AWG for their commitment and wish to thank them for their contribution.

Next steps
Our priority actions include the following:
1. Recruitment campaigns for a new Chair of Trustees and Treasurer
2. Recruitment to the Board with immediate effect and an Open Call once the Chair is appointed
3. In collaboration with key stakeholders, exploration of alternative leadership models for the staff team which will help support better representation at all levels
4. Completion of the Revisioning project following appointment of a new Chair of Trustees who will work collaboratively with CFCCA’s Board, Director, team and stakeholders

With sincere thanks
CFCCA’s future structure, engagement and culture is currently being determined by the hard work, tenacity and creativity of key people. With sincere thanks to the CFCCA staff team and Board (past and present), the Artist Working Group, People Make It Work, Diverse Matters and Brap.