Safer Spaces Agreement

Last updated May 2021

Why have a Safer Spaces Agreement?

The Art House wants to work for social and ecological justice and be a space where people feel as safe and welcomed as possible.

We recognise that this is not a simple process as everyone involved has been raised in a culture of oppression, inequality and injustice, and this deeply embedded programming can cause us to maintain these structures even when we don’t mean to.

This Safer Spaces Agreement aims to support us to be more aware and inclusive – moving towards a society where nobody experiences prejudice or disadvantage because of their ethnicity, class, gender, gender identity, gender presentation, sexuality, age, income, ability, appearance, immigration status, activist experience or any other forms of difference or perceived difference.

Behaviours and prejudices that maintain structural oppressions might be things that many of us see as ‘normal’ and that usually go unchallenged in groups or organisations. This agreement is drawn up to be supportive of our growth as individuals and as a group and to be a living document that changes as we learn. The main focus is to move away from guilt or shame towards genuine self-reflection, accountability and change.

A collective work in progress…

Creating “safer space” is an aim rather than a claim. We recognise that we cannot and should not ever decide that this work is done, that this agreement is limited, as oppression takes many changing forms and needs us to be in ongoing engagement with it.

We’d welcome any feedback on this Agreement and your experiences with us (especially from those that experience particular structural oppressions).

Our first position is to approach people in good faith with the assumption that they are doing their best and ready to learn from mistakes – we acknowledge that certain people may be used to experiencing more leeway and ‘benefit of the doubt’ than others and seek to rebalance this.

How can we create a safer space together..?

Things to remember:

  • We are not all having the same experience, so avoid making assumptions or sweeping generalisations about people and listen to and believe people.
  • Knowledge, confidence and experience are all privileges and not everybody has the same level, so make space for others to make mistakes and learn.
  • There is no hierarchy of oppression and privilege, these are both things that intersect differently for everyone and change over time and according to circumstances.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Whose voices are being heard and who isn’t speaking up?
  • Am I taking up more space than others? How can I step back and make room for others?
  • In what ways am I privileged? What oppressions do I experience? How do these intersect with each other?
  • Am I exerting power because of my privilege? How do I address this?
  • If my usual privilege is being challenged, how do I manage the emotions around this in a way that doesn’t reinforce mainstream systems of oppression?

Collective responsiblity

It’s up to all of us to help create a space where everyone feels respected, as able to participate as possible and to share the practical and emotional labour involved in creating and maintaining a safer and more inclusive space.

Art can be an emotionally triggering things, things that come up that are emotionally triggering for some people; we ask that folks take care of one another.

If you need to bring something to our attention, please speak to the co-ordinator on duty in the first instance.

If anything in this agreement causes issues for you, please let us know.