Diversity & Inclusion with Sam Oldham @Roundhouse
We recently sat down with Sam Olham, Venue director @Roundhouse and Diversity Champion and Chair of the CTU board to discuss Diversity and Inclusion within the workplace as well as initiatives Roundhouse are introducing to tackle the issues surrounding it…
What does the role of Diversity and Inclusion Champion look like to you?
I think it’s about exposure. We don’t want D&I or diversity and inclusion just to be buzz words, it’s about actually exposing people to what that really means and how that’s viewed by the people that we work with within the CTU Board.
So for example, I think sometimes people may think “well I’m not prejudiced against anyone. I wouldn’t not recruit somebody because of their religion or the colour of their skin” but actually, that’s a defensive approach. Whereas what I think it would mean to me is to be much more positive about recruitment practices, hiring or even the way we advertise. It’s not enough to just say “anybody’s welcome in my shop or my establishment”, simply because they’re buying, it’s about actually making a welcoming environment.
So to me, it’s about awareness. I think it’s one of the key parts of my role, awareness is standing back and being able to say, this is why it’s important and asking people what they’re doing to be more inclusive.
Camden is an exceptionally diverse borough; how do you ensure this attitude is reflected accurately at the Roundhouse?
We have a diverse programme of gigs and events for different audiences to make sure that we attract people from all over the borough and from all over the country. We also have the Roundhouse Studios where we work with thousands of young people each year who come from all over the borough and from across London.
But we also have to ensure our workforce is diverse and when we set out our anti-racism commitments in 2021, one of them was to ensure that our workforce better reflects the diversity of London. We can increase the diversity of our staff team through different recruitment practices and by making sure our website reflects who we are and our values, alongside visible, diverse role models who already work at the Roundhouse.
How can we help to introduce diversity and inclusion in more organizations?
I think it would be good to come up with a guide for businesses, not where we’re just shouting about diversity and inclusion, but where organisations can get ideas and advice from other people about what changes they’ve implemented and how. We have learnt so much from other organisations along the way. We recently created an inclusive language guide for staff, where we got advice from leading charities and organisations. It’s important for us to educate our staff team and get them talking, making sure all staff are involved in this work and listened to, rather than just a few people.
We can also think a little more about who comes into our establishments and why, and how people feel when they’re in our venues, as well as who we’re in business with. For instance, we recently added diversity and inclusion questions to our procurement process so that we can make sure that the companies we work with are taking diversity and inclusion seriously.
Diversity and Inclusion is much bigger than race and gender, what’s one thing you think is often dismissed in the workforce?
I think for me, there needs to be a much bigger focus on people with disabilities. Here at the Roundhouse we’ve become more accessible over the years but it’s about more than the physical changes to a building and organisations need to be much more aware of hidden disabilities. Particularly after Covid, I think there needs to be a bigger focus on mental health and wellbeing. Attitude is Everything do great work with music venues to make them more accessible and they’re also doing great work to ensure more deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people are working in the industry too.
How important is it for the younger generation to have practices put in place by Diversity and Inclusion Champions to support them in the work environment?
I don’t think that young people want it, I believe it’s expected — and rightfully so. Young people will not apply for roles where they don’t believe in the culture and ethos of an organisation and there are organisations that you can work with to put better practices in place. For instance, we have recently carried out a review of our recruitment practices through the government’s Disability Confident Scheme. We currently employ staff who have a range of disabilities and health conditions but the review allows us to look at what we’re doing well and where we can do more to develop a culture that supports disabled staff.
How important is it that we actively play a role in breaking the stigma surrounding casual impairment slurs.
I think it’s so important and it’s about education when it comes to language, which is also ever-evolving. Self-awareness and understanding is imperative which is why we created our inclusive language guide and it’s something we will revisit and update regularly.
How can we better adapt workplaces and their staff to more efficiently recognise invisible disabilities.
I think what we have to realise is that for a lot of people, they don’t share their disability because possibly they feel embarrassed. Someone with bowel problems, as a brief example, may need to leave meetings frequently. We need to create a culture where people feel able to talk to their line managers so that adjustments can be made. Again, organisations such as Attitude is Everything have some great advice in their Accessible Employment Guide
How does an organisation, particularly one like Roundhouse ensure that their diversity is a visible variable throughout everything they do?
Exposure. We have a Director who leads on our diversity and inclusion working group (DIWG). Having a senior member of the team leading on this work is very important so that everyone can see how important it is and that someone has oversight of all the work we’re doing. We have a number of working groups that the team can join including an access working group and a safe spaces group. Whether someone has a passion for a certain area of diversity and inclusion, lived experience or it’s an important part of their job, it means that people across the whole organisation have the opportunity to feed into our diversity and inclusion work.
All photo credits to John Williams// https://johnwilliamsphotography.co.uk/