Review – Mind the Gap: Designing Residencies for Everyone

Photo: Group Photo: Day 2, 7th of September 2023: Res Artis Conference London – Mind the Gap: Designing Residencies for Everyone


On the 6th – 9th September, PILAA was delighted to be one of the invited session delivery speakers, on Facilitating a session on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Heath Check for Residency providers, at the Res Artis Conference London – 2023, hosted by Acme, in partnership with University College London (UCL). The four-day international event titled “Mind the Gap: Designing residencies for everyone”, brought together a community of artist residency providers, artists and arts organisations, too, as the programme stated, chart ‘a future for impactful residency opportunities, with a focus on optimism and practical working solutions for issues facing the sector’. 

This was the first time that the community was being brought to the UK, which coincided with celebrating the 30th anniversary of Res Artis and 50 years of Acme, with both bodies supporting artists through residencies, awards programmes and affordable artist studio provisions. 

Set across three UCL locations, Here East, at the Queen Olympic Park in East London and the Bloomsbury Theatre in the West End, and with the sessions being live streamed to the local and international communities, what emerged was a rather special event. Here, delegates were keen to impart best practices in addressing some of the challenges that the sector faced. 

The following four points are our top takeaways from the event. We hope that from reading them, they can be of use not only within this sector, but within current and future debates within the EDI landscape:

Lived Experience of hiring through a residency space

Photo: Slide presentation – Saber Bamatraf (Art27Scotland), Residencies for Everyone: Equality, diversity and inclusion in local and global contexts 

In a pre-recorded video transmission Ukhona Ntsali Mlandu, the Founder of makwande.republic and Director of Greatmore Studios in South Africa, spoke about having a deeper awareness around the lived experience of hiring through a residency space. For her, this lived experience referred to knowing what it felt like to go through the residency hiring process, as someone from a marginalised group, where the visa system was seen as a form of ‘weathering’. By weathering she meant that the system perpetuated a form of structural violence against marginalised groups. An understanding of lived experience in this context, looked at the laborious amounts of time it takes to engage in the visa application process, as well as the physical labour of having to travel to different places for interviews. It also would address the feelings of anxiety and financial stresses that one may face. Acknowledging lived experience in this context, was not just a buzz phrase, but rather a felt reality that needed to be factored in, when addressing the inequalities within the hiring process, through a residency space. 

Training for hosts

It was pointed out, that we often hear about the conditions artists may face, or the terms and conditions of the contracts, but one area seemingly overlooked, was about training for the hosts themselves. This is where staff training on themes such as inclusive welcomes, would be pivotal. It was clear that as an artist navigating the residency programmes for the first time, it can often be daunting. Travelling from one part of the world to another, would mean that artists and providers would need to learn about new customs and ways of working and it was important, that providers demonstrated this duty of care for artists, not only as they arrive, but through the whole residency experience. During the listening circle A Continent of Multiplicities: A perspective from the African continent on intersectional iterations of residencies – realised and imagined, the term ‘mothering’ came up, where crazinisT artisT Artist, the Artistic Director and Curator of perfocraZe International Artist Residency in Ghana and Oyindamola Fakeye, Board Member of Res Artis and Artistic Director of CCA Lagos, Nigeria, discussed this duty of care towards artists on residencies, that providers had to show. As a host, you are making sure that no stone has been left unturned, in the health, safety and well-being of the artist. For example, thinking ahead to whether the artist has appropriate clothing if they are coming from a hot country to somewhere cold, or checking to see whether artists know how to access the internet, should they not be used to it. Whilst these may seem like small things outside of the focus of the residency, from the perspective of the artist, it shows that the residency host cares.

Replacing your morning meetings with a craft making session

Photo: Dr Ope Lori’s mask from: Supporting neurodiversity and disabled artists workshop

Supporting neurodiverse and disabled artists, was a highly fun and creative afternoon breakout room session, facilitated by Sheryll Catto, the Artistic Director & CEO of Action Space, an organisation who works with, supports and creates opportunities for learning disabled artists, alongside Michael Achtmann, one of their exhibiting artists. In a group we were asked to work with in teams of five and had the simple task of decorating a blank mask with various materials. After a period of a few minutes, you would then have to pass your mask along to the person on your left, until after a number of passes, your original mask is then returned back to you. This activity was in the aid of highlighting key points around organisations supporting neurodiverse and disabled artists which included:

  1. Please do not let fear stop you – even if you don’t know where to start, don’t let that put you off taking the first steps in making your organisation more accessible, and/or supporting artists who are learning disabled
  2. The provider and artist work together
  3. The artist comes first – It has to start with saying “I’m really excited by your work.” In other words, take on the artist because of their talent and what they do. Remember “right artist for the residency, not from the level of identity.’
  4. Universal versus specific – Remember that each artist has different needs. There is no one single checklist, as you are working with different people.


We heard the term ‘learning disabled artists’, as used by Sheryll Catto, when speaking on the panel, Residencies for Everyone: Equality, diversity and inclusion in local and global contexts. This term pre-fixes learning as opposed to simply using disabled artists. We also unpacked the word accessibility. Often, accessibility is used in reference to the physical environment, but it was pointed out, that we should also consider it in recognising challenges in the mental health and well-being space. For example, recognising the potential feelings of anxiety for people who are learning disabled, and who might not want to give artists talks about their work in a traditional lecture hall space, as well as other marginalised groups, where being the only one, can often be uncomfortable. Accessibility was also used in the sense of various bodies being allowed to pass. As we mentioned earlier, the visa application processes can indirectly discriminate against marginalised groups and so by accessibility, we should think of the total ways in which this term is being used and recognise the various barriers that can limit a person’s movement or sense of belonging. 


If you are looking to implement an inclusive welcome training course, please get in touch!

Spotlight – The Connection at St Martin’s

For this month’s spotlight, we feature The Connection at St Martin’s (CSTM), a long-standing homelessness charity in the heart of London, who work with people who are rough sleeping to move away and stay off the streets in the capital. The charity probably needs no introduction given its rich history and impact over the years in this area. This feature is to highlight the work which has been taking place and is yet to come, in their Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) journey.

Over the last couple of years, many organisations have been questioning their work culture, as a result of key events happening within the social and public arena. These have included: the tragic murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in 2020. The murders of sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry in 2020, Sarah Everard in 2021 and Sabina Nessa some months later, all by male perpetrators in each case. These unrelated incidences and the most recent murder of Zara Aleena by a stranger in June 2022, remind us of the continued fight in addressing acts of violence against women and girls, and their subsequent safety on the streets. Finally, since 2019, the world has participated in the fight against Covid-19 and the ensuing pandemic, which has magnified social and economic inequalities across various communities, including our health, social care, and education systems to name a few.

CSTM has engaged with the themes emerging from these incidences. At the end of last year, 2021, members of the team from various departments and at different levels, who were eager for the organisation to be proactive in understanding how inclusive it was, put out a tender to carry out a 3-month EDI review. This took place between January to April of this year. They recruited Dr Ope Lori as a consultant from PILAA to carry out the assessment, which would culminate in a set of recommendations being outlined that the organisation could implement.

As part of the assessment, they wanted to know how they could best improve their approach in 3 key areas:

1. Recruiting and managing our workforce and volunteers

2. Developing anti-discriminatory practice in everything we do

3. Working towards excellence in being a diverse and inclusive charity

The review saw a qualitative approach being taken, through 1-1 informal interviews being conducted between Dr Ope Lori and roughly 75% of their workforce. In addition, there were 1-1’s with Trustees, a Volunteer and as important, a group of clients, whom the charity serves. The project was a collaborative endeavour, built on trust, mutual respect and a shared desire to improve on EDI.

An executive summary about the report and the ensuing recommendations will be made public by the CEO Pam Orchard in the coming months and will be published on the organisation’s website. Here we briefly outline 3 key themes which emerged from the review, but which are part of a larger conversation across the sector and other workplaces at large.

Actors discussing challenges in the workplace from past experiences (2021) PILAA

Lived Experience

The first was around the notion of ‘lived experience’. It became a key phrase throughout the review and from an EDI perspective, we learnt that it was more complex than meets the eye. Having ‘lived experience’ is a criterion which is being used more frequently within the landscape of recruitment, however within the context of the organisation, what is being referred to is, ‘the lived experience of homelessness.’ Multiple users spoke to this, not only as a criterion to be included on job descriptions or within the criteria for trustee selection, but more crucially, within the lens of what it meant for the services to be delivered in an authentic way. A lot therefore could be learnt from tapping into this element of experience, which the organisation will be building on. 

Facilitating Difficult Conversations - On Race

A major theme we have seen across a range of industries, especially after the social injustices outlined earlier, is that many organisations are asking, to what extent are they an anti-racist organisation? To what extent are they equipped as an organisation on an institutional and individual level, to challenge discriminatory behaviours against race, but also any of the other protected characteristics? To what extent are frontline staff, in particular black colleagues and those from minority ethnic groups protected and supported from racial abuse, specifically made by clients and what policies are in place? These were by no means easy questions to answer at CSTM, especially when trying to get the right balance between the needs of employees and those whom they serve. CSTM, as with other organisations seeking to be an anti-discriminatory, anti-racist organisation, will have to recect on past wounds, in order to achieve a better future. As Randall Robinson, the African American lawyer, author and activist urges us to do, we must “know and embrace our past in all its fullness, for therein lies our only hope for a healthy, self- agrming present – and future.” (1)

Diversifying Recruitment

Good work was already happening in this area, especially at Board level of the organisation, where a recent recruitment of Trustees at the end of 2021, had brought more diversity into the group. How to diversify teams and truly understanding what diversity means beyond difference, was a challenge that multiple departments were conscious of tackling. There were simple effective measures that could be taken, such as re-working governance pages and making them more “user-friendly”, in the sense of adding personality to trustee bios, in order to appeal to a wider and future set of applicants. Longer measures, related to unpacking the root issues that could cause an ongoing perpetuation in a lack of diversity. To this end, a recent study by Rathbones, stated that up to “90% of charities recruit most of their trustees through word-of- mouth and existing networks.” (2) If trustee members are therefore recruiting who they know, unless their pool is mixed on multiple levels, then who they recruit, will continue to be predominantly, white, male, from a higher economic background and from similar work industries, as seemed to be the general case across the landscape of governance. Therefore, challenging old ways of doing things in order to eradicate room for unconscious biases to manifest, is critical in changing the narrative and the landscape of diversity within the context of recruitment.

To find out more information on The Connection at St Martin’s and their work on EDI, and to read about the review in the coming months, please visit here.



(1) DeGruy, J (2017) Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, Joy Degruy Publications Inc; Illustrated edition

(2) practical-guide

Spotlight – DOJ Gaminz

This month we spotlight one of our international clients, DOJ Gaminz, a start-up in Nigeria within the video gaming industry. We first spoke to them around International Women’s Day, as they hosted their campaign to #BreakTheBias around female gamers, as they invited the Amazons, a Nigerian female basketball team to their flagship game lounge in Surulere, Lagos.

As they told us “girls also play FIFA”, despite the perception that female gamers did not play sports games and that not all of the women who came into the games lounge were partners to the men who visited, as we were told by Uki Oriakhi, the Gaming Service Officer.

In this relatively new industry, with the video games market in Nigeria being valued at 150 million U.S. dollars in 2022, and with it expecting to rise to 176 million U.S. dollars by 2023 (1), DOJ Gaminz have implemented an EDI strategy which utilises their motto “Amplify your experience”, to tap into the market and cater to the different online and offline users and visitors.

The Amazons female basketball team with DOJ Gaminz team member. International Women’s Day, 8th March 2022.

“Girls also play FIFA”

In what appears to be a predominantly male industry, they have seen similarities and differences between male and female gamers, in line with global studies that perhaps surprisingly indicate that women make up 46% of all gamers. (2)

Currently, they have seen more women using more of the VR games on Oculus than consoles, which include PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Whilst men tend to play more FIFA, in what is viewed as a traditional male game arena, during tournaments, women are often enquiring about taking part. This important observation reflects that sometimes what might be perceived as a gender difference in game play, could also be down to other factors, such as addressing marketing campaigns and who they are geared towards.

Amazon players playing FIFA 22 and NBA 2K22

For example, in the 2017 study conducted by Newzoo on ‘Male and Female Gamers: How Their Similarities and Differences Shape the Games Market’, when looking at the discovery methods core gamers had with finding new games, men were “more likely to be influenced to play a game by a TV or online advert”, compared to women, who tend to discover a game predominantly through friends or family. This finding could suggest that men engage with marketing campaigns more or that marketing campaigns are in fact geared towards men, thereby missing an opportunity to reach women.

DOJ Gaminz International Women’s Day Flyer

DOJ Gaminz adapted their marketing strategy and campaigns, from flyers and social media posts to speak to female gamers and have continued to engage with various communities, to become more inclusive. Through campaigns which include Easter, Father’s Day and Mental Health Awareness, they have thought globally, yet acted locally, where they follow EDI calendars as they relate to Nigeria, and to World International special dates.

Amazon team player on Oculus (VR)

“Not all female gamers are gfs”

DOJ Gaminz staff also enrolled on our CPD course, “The Grassroots of Diversity”, which helped them to continuously offer an inclusive welcome to all of their visitors, further adding to amplifying the gamers experience in the games lounge, whilst pre-empting those yet to come in.

Their next offline, FIFA 22’ competition is set to take place on the 11th and 12th of June, where you can follow them on Instagram at doj_gaminz or connect with them at