BEATS is an advocacy group for British East Asians and South East Asians working in theatre and in the screen industry. British East and South East Asians in arts and culture are underrepresented, marginalised and maligned. It is our mission to hold the entertainment industries to account when they perpetuate racism towards British East Asians and South East Asians by refusing us platforms and representation.
The documentary Du Fu: China’s Greatest Poet, which was screened by BBC Four on 6 March erased British Chinese from their own culture and denied them an opportunity to be platformed.
The programme was presented by Michael Wood and Du Fu’s poems were read by Sir Ian McKellen. We recognise Michael Wood’s passion for and knowledge of Chinese culture but surely it’s time for people of East Asian heritage to be central in their own culture. The choice of Sir Ian McKellen to read Du Fu’s poems was particularly at odds with the subject matter. We have the utmost respect for Sir Ian, but we have to ask why wasn’t an actor (or actors) of East Asian descent chosen to do this?
The programme makers will no doubt argue that there is no British East Asian actor with the profile of Sir Ian. As Dr. Jami Rogers’ recent research, commissioned by the Equity Race Equality Committee, has revealed, British East and South East Asians are severely underrepresented on UK television. Dr Rogers’ analysis, alongside copious research by Dr. Diana Yeh and other academics such as Dr. Simone Knox and Dr. Ross Forman, proves what British East and Southeast Asian actors already knew: that opportunities are virtually non-existent, and consist of thinly drawn, tokenistic, lazy stereotypes and little else.
Nevertheless, there ARE British East and South East Asian actors with a substantive body of work, including in classical theatre. Why an actor (or multiple actors) from that heritage couldn’t be given this platform instead of being effectively erased from their own culture is difficult to fathom in a progressive publicly subsidised broadcast serving a diverse equal opportunities multicultural Britain.
We would also question the programme’s title. Whether Du Fu was “China’s Greatest Poet” is of course a matter of opinion but in this context this title tokenises a rich history and culture even more. The diverse and complex place we now know as “China” has produced a myriad of great poets and writers (including a great many female ones) and no doubt will continue to do so. To present one as the uncontested “greatest” is, in our opinion, reductive Orientalism.
British East Asians and South East Asians pay licence fees like everyone else and the BBC has a duty to represent us but instead continues to marginalise our community. With the recent surge in coronavirus-fuelled racism toward East Asian and South East Asians, public backed arts and culture institutions need to meaningfully consider how their actions allow structural racism to persist and fail to address societal prejudice and discrimination.
BEATS is an organisation that is dedicated to fighting for equality, better representation of British East and South East Asians, and halting the racism and prejudice that many British East Asians are subjected to in the UK.
On the 13, March 2020 Equity, the actors’ union released an a statement of apology to Laurence Fox.
BEATS is appalled that a trade union that is supposed to support its members instead appeared to have aligned itself with an individual (not actually an Equity member) who displayed deplorable behaviour (gaslighting) towards a woman of colour on BBC Question Time, 16 January 2020.
More worrying still, after the release of the statement by Equity, a torrent of racist, xenophobic abuse was unleashed on social media, specifically targeting Daniel York Loh, the former chair of the Equity Minority Ethnics Committee (now the Equity Race Equality Committee).
Surely, if the statement of apology released by Equity and Laurence Fox is to be believed – that “Equity and Laurence Fox condemn prejudice unequivocally in all its forms” – then we would expect both parties to condemn the perpetrators.
BEATS support and stand by Daniel York Loh and all the members of Equity Race Equality Committee who stood up and spoke out in these uncertain and very troubling times. Particularly with the rise of COVID19 racism directed towards East Asians, we are extremely troubled that Equity did not support and stand by one of their democratically elected committees, a committee set up precisely to advise Equity on matters of race, diversity and inclusion.
The question now stands on how Equity members with an ethnic minority background will be supported within the union, now that they no longer have an official representation board. It is a concern we share with them and other members who have been affected.
In January 2020, following concerns raised 9 months earlier by a British East Asian working in opera, the English National Opera [ENO] reached out to a range of East Asian artists and academics working and living in the UK to attend a meeting to discuss issues raised by the then forthcoming opera Madam Butterfly, which opened on 26 February 2020.
As a result of the workshop, BEATS were in discussion with ENO about preparing a statement for possible inclusion in the programme for Madam Butterfly.
In the end, ENO decided not to publish our statement. We have decided to reproduce it in full here.
[Photo above taken from the Print Room Protest in 2017].
Stand in solidarity against #CoronaRacism and join our #IWillEatWithYou campaign this Leap Day Weekend.
Chinese people in the UK are facing increasing levels of racist abuse – many have had ‘coronavirus’ shouted at them in the street, on public transport, in the workplace. But it is not only Chinese people. It is ALL East and South East Asians who are under attack, and even those who seek to protect them. A British Thai city worker has been violently assaulted and left bleeding with a broken nose, and a South Asian woman was punched unconscious when defending her Chinese friend from a racist attack. East and South East Asian businesses have been decimated.
Yet the virus was in fact brought to Britain by a white businessman. This fact has been ignored.
There is no more likelihood of contracting the virus from an East or South East Asian than anyone else.
From Friday 28 February to Sunday 1st March, we are supporting the #IWillEatWithYou campaign to help East and South East Asian communities and their local businesses.
Don’t be dictated to by fears which are based on racism.
SkyNews, the BBC, Channel 5 and other media outlets have reported on this unacceptable escalation in racist attacks. Other media sources have created scaremongering headlines based on racialised conjecture, which fuel further fear and assaults.
You can help. So fight racism – join this simple campaign.
Get a takeaway or sit in at your favourite local eateries and share your photos on social media with the hashtags #IWillEatWithYou #LoveChinaTown #HateRacism
It has been brought to our attention that BBC4 has commissioned two documentaries about the Chinese in Britain and Vietnamese in Britain as part of A Very British History. We are disappointed to learn of more BBC projects that pivot entirely on a British East Asian experience while excluding British East Asians in key editorial, creative lead, and decision-making roles on the programmes. It is difficult to escape the notion that these documentaries are being conceived to perform diversity but with no real intention for meaningful inclusion.
BEATS reached out to the BBC Commissioner but so far they have declined to meet.
You can read our full statement here.
We are kicking off 2020 with a very special screening of Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece PARASITE; screening at Picturehouse Central on 8 February at 2PM followed by a Q&A exploring capitalism and class. This is an unmissable event – join us!
BAFTA Nominations 2020
BEATS is disappointed at the lack of diversity in this year’s BAFTA nominations, especially in the acting categories.
We believe that the nominations reflect the lack of diversity in the industry as a whole. However, last year saw a wealth of incredible films from diverse filmmakers, so where are the people of colour in the prestigious categories? In a year when both Parasite and The Farewell received nominations in other BAFTA categories, there is surely no justification for the blanket whiteness of all four actor categories.
Awkwafina’s nomination in the only public choice category (Rising Star) for her performance in The Farewell, for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical, proves that the problem is not a lack of talent from actors of colour.
We understand that BAFTA has committed to a review of its voting system, and as such, we expect them to be actively seeking to engage with representatives of those minority communities they are currently failing. As the only British East Asian advocacy group working across theatre and screen, we ask that we are consulted as part of the process.
Our statement was featured in the Variety report.
BEATS Mentoring Program
The B E A T S Mentoring program is an exciting new mentoring programme for emerging and experienced British East Asian writers and directors, funded by ScreenSkills. Our 9 month program will support professional development that responds to a very specific and real industry need: to develop and provide support for British East Asians working in the screen industry. Alongside the mentoring, participants will benefit from a number of complementary industry training and networking events.
Who is it for?
*British East Asian Writers and directors who come from various backgrounds [film, television, advertising, theatre, literature and games] and want to advance their skills or transition into a screen based medium. E.g. playwright who needs help entering the television industry, or a screenwriter who wants to transition into writing for games, or a mid-level television writer who needs support transitioning to prime time television, a director looking to build on their first shorts or make their their first feature film. We are interested to hear from writers and directors from different skills levels – each participant will be bespoke matched to the most suitable mentor given their skills and needs.
How to Apply?
We are accepting applications until 18:00PM on 17th February 2020.
UPDATE: THIS PROGRAM IS CLOSED FOR APPLICATIONS.
The BEATS Mentoring program is supported by ScreenSkills using National Lottery funds awarded by the British Film Institute (BFI) as part of the Future Film Skills programme.
*We use the term British East Asian to mean people of the following descent: Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and their diasporas. These people remain severely underrepresented in the arts in the UK.
BEATS Halloween Screening
Mr Vampire is coming to town! In association with Fighting Spirit Fighting Festival, Chinese Visual Festival and Eastern Kicks, BEATS will be hosting a rare screening of Hong Kong classic Mr Vampire. All are welcome to get their cosplay on and join us for drinks pre and post screening!
Date: 2 November
Film starts: 20:00
Where: Stratford Picturehouse