ICO Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan

ICO Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan


  • By 2030, increase the diversity of people employed by the ICO and appointed to our Board of Trustees through future recruitment so that they more accurately reflect the ethnic diversity of the UK population, based on 2021 UK census information (see most recent update on new board recruitment, May 2022)

Current staff and Board

  • Publish on our website a full anonymous audit of our current staff and Board (first audit Jul 2020. Most recent audit May 2023)
  • Recruit an independent HR advisor for staff support (HR advisor recruited in Nov 2020)
  • Provide unconscious bias training and follow-up support to staff and Board (see Nov 2021 update)
  • Supported by an independent HR advisor, undertake a comprehensive review of ICO staff support structures, including our annual and quarterly staff appraisals (support structures reviewed March 2021)
  • Be transparent about ICO staff pay scale and options for regrading jobs (see July 2021 update)
  • Commit to carrying out exit interviews with best practice advice from an independent HR advisor (begun Feb 2021)
  • Highlight our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion plan in new staff inductions and to freelancers we work with
  • Establish a staff mentoring scheme to support professional development
  • Undertake an honest and thorough assessment of ICO staff feedback processes and how we can make space for new ideas to be heard and carefully considered
  • Explore a partnership with Inc Arts UK to offer mental health support to employees who experience racism
  • Explore ways to make ICO organisational culture more welcoming and supportive for all; including considering models such as reverse mentoring and bystander training and committing resources for an annual away day to discuss ICO organisational culture and strategy to aid the inclusion of all staff

ICO recruitment, working with freelancers

  • Supported by an independent HR advisor, re-assess all aspects of ICO recruitment including our job descriptions and recruitment packs; the workload required of applicants and awareness of available ICO support; where we advertise; and how to offer greater clarity on ICO recruitment processes (see May 2021 update)
  • Include information on ICO staff payscale and options for regrading jobs in recruitment packs (see May 2021 update)
  • Independent HR advisor to advise on shortlisting of applications (see May 2021 update)
  • Commit to recruiting more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse freelancers to work on ICO projects, offering them free desk space for the duration of the project(s)
  • Complete evaluations or formal debriefs with all freelancers we work with (see Nov 2023 update)
  • Continue to pay all freelancers promptly (ongoing)


  • Seek funding to research and commission resources for the ICO website advising cinemas on how to approach anti-racism from relevant individuals or organisations
  • Audit our website language to ensure it is welcoming and accessible to all (see Nov 2023 update)
  • Develop our overall website, social media and blog strategy to better highlight the anti-racism work of others
  • Research and commit to a regular social media take–over to amplify the viewpoints of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people on all topics
  • Encourage the submission of new blog proposals and continue to directly commission ICO blogs from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people on all topics (ongoing)
  • Commit more staff resources to direct outreach for event recruitment and film marketing to broaden the people and groups we reach


  • Hold ICO-wide conversation about our organisational ‘voice’, whose voices we currently centre in our ideas, work and events, and how this should evolve. Secure funding to work with an external consultant to gather opinions from external partners and wider industry colleagues
  • Lobby for exhibition employment data to be collected and made public (see Nov 2023 update)



  • Commit to including at least 30% work from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse filmmakers (especially films with Black writers, directors or producers in their creative team) in all our tour packages
  • Commit to partnering with more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse freelance curators on touring projects (seek funding to provide access to key older films made by Black creative teams to facilitate bookings in UK cinemas)
  • Investigate the possibility of funding and partners for new Britain on Film heritage programmes focusing on the history of anti-racist activism in the UK


  • Draw up a charter for our programming clients outlining our ambitions for programming with relation to race, discussed with distributors (most recent update Nov 2023)
  • Agree a bespoke, measured commitment from each ICO programming client to show more films made by and about Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people
  • Use the above as leverage to persuade distributors to acquire more films made by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people for theatrical release and work with distributors to provide our venues with better marketing resources when they do
  • Commit staff time to creating a resource sharing information about UK rights and materials availability for films made by Black creatives
  • Commit staff time to researching our programming selections and how they currently relate to race


  • Invite FEDS alumni group to help co-create the next edition of the training scheme (see May 2021 update)
  • Commit funds to an independent evaluation of the ICO’s FEDS scheme to date to ensure an improved experience for future trainees (undertaken by an external consultant or ex-FEDS themselves)
  • Commit funds to developing and formalising the aspects of the FEDS scheme that provide ad hoc advice/coaching to employees of the organisations who take on trainees, about how to offer a more inclusive and welcoming workplace for all
  • Invite more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse speakers onto our courses and champion their work, as well as actively seeking to widen this pool of experts, including from outside film (ongoing)
  • Raise funds to employ an external evaluator/collaborator to identify and address aspects of institutional whiteness present across our training portfolio, in our application processes, courses and evaluation methods
  • Seek funding to further expand our audience development training, looking at how we can move these conversations outside the training environment into people’s working practices across the sector

Screening Days

  • Commit to showing at Screening Days events at least 30% (previously around 20%) films from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse creative teams which may include showing more feature films that are not within the current new release schedule or shorts packages (formally begun in November 2020. Most recent update May 2022)
  • Undertake a comprehensive review of current Screening Days format and marketing and adaptations we can make to encourage more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse attendees and new discussions (see Nov 2021 update)
  • Commit staff time needed for promotion and marketing work to attract a higher number of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse attendees
  • Research and evaluate how I.D. (Inclusion & Diversity) Screening Days could work in the future, maintaining it as a valuable space for community, discussion and debate but inviting more fundamental collaboration with Black, Asian and ethnically diverse partners earlier in planning (see Nov 2021 update)
  • Consider the potential for further Screening Days collaborations, guest curators and/or ‘takeovers’ more broadly (see Nov 2021 update)
  • Seek expert advice on removing bias from/challenging assumptions in our Screening Days evaluation methods
  • Create a new safety policy/enhanced ‘Code of Conduct’ for all ICO event attendees (see Nov 2021 update)

Film Hub South East

  • Commit staff time to outreach and research to find new partners in the region we might not yet be engaging with
  • Commit staff time to holding more one–to–one meetings with community groups and other grassroots organisations led by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the region
  • Carefully consider our strategy for collaboration and seeking partners in the region for mutually beneficial partnership opportunities
  • Research a pilot project and potential funding to support organisations led by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the region to move to the next level of resourcing and sustainability
  • Research new opportunities for collaboration between cinemas and organisations led by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people in the region

How we developed the plan

We began developing our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion action plan following the events of summer 2020, specifically the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests worldwide.

We started by having important and difficult conversations among staff and board members about how we can be more proactive and integrated in our approach to anti-racism. The core work of the ICO has always been to champion voices that have traditionally been undervalued in the film and film exhibition sectors. We recognise the responsibility that we have as arts workers to fight systemic racism in British society.

However, as an organisation with a predominantly white staff and Board of Trustees we also recognise our own position of privilege, our shortcomings and that we don’t have all the answers. On an ongoing basis, we are now routinely asking ourselves urgent questions about our working culture, our assumptions, and how structural racism operates.

Drafting our plan

We began by:

Creating an internal document for all staff to anonymously share thoughts, feelings and concerns in response to the Black Lives Matter movement.  

We then: 

Formed a staff Anti-Racism working group which held 12 two-hour discussions in August and September 2020All staff and the Board of Trustees were given the opportunity to participateStaff at every level in the ICO were encouraged to take part in order to create a more open and honest dialogue, not limited to the senior management team. The group was made up of the following volunteers: 

  • Sudha Bhuchar, Board of Directors 
  • Thea Burrows, Board of Directors 
  • James Calver, Projects and Events Officer 
  • Duncan Carson, Business and Projects Manager 
  • Barbara Chapman, Training and Professional Development Manager 
  • Lillie Harman, Administration and Finance Assistant 
  • Heather McIntosh, Film Programmer 
  • Isabel Moir, Film Programmer 
  • Kate Ottway, Marketing and Communications Manager 
  • Hatice Özdemirciler, Head of Partnerships and Development 

The group discussed all the ideas in the internal document and began to develop a plan specific to the work of the ICO, made up of actions we can take, research we need to do, conversations we need to have, collaborations we will seek, and other ways for us to share the power and resources we have

This draft action plan was discussed in teams and at an all staff meeting, and then written up with actions, targets and timelines before being circulated to a number of individuals, partners and critical friends outside the organisation for their comment and input.

Initial actions were taken straight away, including a staff and Board audit and the recruitment of an external HR consultant to give ICO staff an independent voice to listen to their concerns, support them in their career progression and ensure the inclusivity of ICO policies.

We published the action plan in March 2021, inviting feedback from our networks. We will publish updates on our progress twice a year in May and October (see updates to date) to assess the impact of our work against our targets.

The ICO’s Anti-Racism group continues to meet regularly and equality, diversity and inclusion discussions are continuing in ICO team meetings (all staff and senior management). 

Defining our terms

We recognise that communities and individuals have specific experiences, including specific experiences of racism. Because of this, we aim to use specific terms in appropriate contexts and not to conflate people or groups who may experience discrimination differently.

However, where solidarity and shared solutions exist, it makes sense to organise collectively; whilst also acknowledging that within all defined groups, individuals have different experiences as a result of other factors such as gender, class and ethnicity. 

Subsequently, the term ‘Black, Asian and ethnically diverse’ is used in our plan to describe people who are racial and ethnic minorities in the UK (though part of a global majority) and underrepresented in the UK film industry.  

If you’d like to comment on the action plan or speak to us about anything detailed above, please email us at: info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk

Our Critical Friends

A triptych of headshot photographs. On the left, a person wearing a white scarf with a pattern of musical notes stands in a theatre auditorium; in the middle, a person with pink hair and lipstip; on the right, a person wearing a light blue shirt buttoned up to the top and a small dark beard.
Our critical friends. From left to right: Anita Bhalla OBE, Lara Ratnaraja and Matthew Xia

Our critical friends are experienced in organisational change and anti-racism work in the arts and helped translate our discussions into meaningful actions to ensure the ICO and its work are collaborative, informed and effective in elevating the needs of people who experience racism.

Anita Bhalla OBE

Anita is currently Chair of Performances at Birmingham PLC (Town Hall and Symphony Hall), Independent Member of Birmingham & Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, Independent Member and Vice-Chair of Council at the University of Warwick, Chair of Iniva, Director of Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), Governor of the RSC, and Chair of WMCA Leadership Commission.

Anita’s media career has been extensive, spending over 25 years of which working with the BBC; from setting up the BBC Asian Network to being a news correspondent, a documentary maker, the Head of Political and Community Affairs in England, then Head and Editor of the BBC’s Public Space Broadcasting and President of Circom (a European wide group of public service broadcasters).

Anita has a strong commitment to public services and her portfolio in this area ranges from being a Trustee of the Children’s University, Commissioner on the Chancellor’s Commission (Warwick University), member of Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Commission, past Chair of MAC (Midlands Arts Centre), non-Executive Director of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospitals NHS Trust, Director of the High Speed Rail College, a previous Chair of a Junior and Infant School and member of the governing body of Birmingham City University.

In 2009 Anita was awarded an OBE for services to Broadcasting and Communities. In 2012 Anita was the High Sheriff for the West Midlands. Anita has been awarded Honorary Degrees from Wolverhampton University, Birmingham City University and Warwick University. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Lara Ratnaraja

Lara specialises in diversity, innovation, leadership, collaboration, stakeholder management, advocacy, thought leadership and cultural policy development and implementation within the HE, cultural and digital sector. She develops and delivers projects and policy on how cultural and digital technology intersect for a number of national partners as well as programmes around leadership, resilience and business development for the arts and creative industries. She works or has worked with the University of Birmingham, Coventry University, Birmingham City University STEAMhouse and University of Salford, delivering and developing projects on diversity, digital engagement and research collaborations between arts, HEIs and SMEs. Other consultancy clients include Jerwood Arts, Imagineer, The Big Draw, Film Hub Midlands and West Midlands Screen Bureau.

Lara is well respected as a key influencer in the development of sector policy, a sought after speaker and strategic thinker on policy especially in diversity. She is on the Board of Derby Theatres and Vivid Projects, and the Advisory Groups for Coventry Biennial and SHOUT Festival. She is on the Midlands Area Council for Arts Council England, the Equality Monitoring Group for Arts Council Wales, and is a Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre Industry Champion.

Matthew Xia

Matthew is a self-taught theatre director, DJ, composer, broadcaster and journalist with a focus on using theatre as a platform to promote inclusion, activism and social change.

One of his earliest jobs was being commissioned to create a musical at Theatre Royal, Stratford East at the age of 18. A year later, he was appointed as the first DJ on black music radio station BBC 1Xtra. Since then, he has directed plays for The Royal Court, the Barbican, the Young Vic and many more.

Matthew has served as Associate Director at Stratford East, Director in Residence at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Associate Artist at the Nottingham Playhouse and as Associate Artistic Director at the Manchester Royal Exchange, where he established the OPEN EXCHANGE, an artist development scheme with over 400 next generation theatre-makers. His DJ career highlights include playing at Glastonbury Festival, Ministry of Sound and the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony.

Matthew is a founding member of Act for Change, which is a registered charity with a mission of strengthening diversity in the arts. He is also a trustee of Cardboard Citizens, the UK’s only homeless people’s professional theatre company, as well as a trustee of Artistic Directors of the Future. 2020 has seen him join the Everyman and Playhouse Diversity Action Group as well as the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Equity Committee. Last year, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Arts London for his efforts to make theatre universally accessible by working to promote minority groups as theatre leaders, makers and consumers. He is the current Artistic Director for the Actor’s Touring Company.

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