Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ board says sorry for not calling out racist rhetoric

By Deborah LaHatte

Today, the board of the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand apologised for “failing to respond immediately and robustly” to condemn the “racist vitriol related to [its] recent funding issue”.

“By our delay, we contributed to and exacerbated a feeling that SGCNZ supported views which were critical of Kahikatea grant recipients on the grounds of race,” its chair, ex-National MP Paul Foster-Bell says.

“As a board, we have been alerted to the need to be more responsive thanks to articles by commentators, as well as direct feedback from our own supporters and the broader arts community.”

The statement comes after an international outcry that followed the centre being turned down by Creative NZ for a $31,000 administration grant although it has received such grants before.

Some commentators were critical of four grants made in the same round of funding to Māori and Pacific organisations.

In addition, they criticised a funding reviewer’s comments suggesting that Shakespeare was colonialist, questioned his place in Aotearoa and suggested arts funding should be devoted to art that reflected the modern country.

Prime Minister intervened

In particular, an open letter discussing both matters went viral on social media, although the Shakespeare centre “expressed regret” on its Facebook page about any hurt caused by it.

When the issue was made public, trenchant criticism came from around the world at what was said to be de-funding.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern intervened and ruled that the funding would instead come from the Ministry of Education rather than Creative NZ.

But last week an article in the latest issue of E-Tangata pointed out the harm caused to the four Maōri organisations that had been named and the lack of a real apology.

Now the board says it has been alerted to the need to be more responsive thanks to articles by commentators, as well as direct feedback from our own supporters and the broader arts community.                                                                           

“Through listening to the painful experiences of others, and drawing on our own experiences, we understand that many feel SGCNZ focused excessively on getting funding for our organisation, irrespective of the cost to others.

‘We should have voiced our tautoko and care towards them earlier’

“We have reflected extensively on our part in contributing to this conflict. In particular, we regret that the ensuing SGCNZ media interactions left very little space for four successful organisations to celebrate their well-deserved achievement of obtaining funding to continue the brilliant and important creative mahi that they do.

“We apologise here, publicly, that our drama eclipsed their success.  We firmly believe that our sector is all the richer for their ongoing contribution and mana.  

“We should have voiced our tautoko and care towards them earlier. That was our mistake and flawed process, and for all the continued mamae this has caused, we are truly sorry." 

"We are striving to continue to learn, to listen, and to grow.”