Anisa Morridadi

Listen to this episode of Culture Plan B here.

DAVID: Welcome to Culture Plan B. I’m David Jubb. This is the third episode of Culture Plan B in which I will not be interviewing the artistic directors of our national institutions about what the pandemic means for their organisation. Instead, Culture Plan B will be meeting with artists and communities who create culture outside big cultural institutions, like most people do. Today I’m very lucky to be having a conversation with Anisa Morridadi who I will be meeting properly for the very first time. Anisa founded, Birmingham based, Beatfreeks in 2013 and her generous leadership of that company has inspired thousands of people in Birmingham and beyond, including me, and I want to hear more about her work and what she’s thinking about the future of funding and support for arts and creativity.

Especially now the government has set out a rescue package which is intended to protect and I quote, the Secretary of State for Culture, “the crown jewels of the cultural sector”, it feels more important than ever to hear from independent artists and communities about what they think should happen next. I’m especially excited to be championing the work of independent artists and communities, having recently been attacked in the Daily Telegraph for having I quote, “a dangerous disregard for our national institutions”, and of having again I quote, “a nebulous strategy”, apparently, and once more I quote, The Daily Telegraph “by focusing on groups is virtually deemed to be in their marginality. We are in danger of neglecting the root and branch of our broader common culture”. This Telegraph attack is partly in response to my call on Radio Four’s Front Row for a more inclusive future in terms of the way culture is funded. The Telegraph attacked me. I feel like I have truly arrived somewhere in my life; to be attacked by the Daily Telegraph. Now I know I’m really onto something, because let’s remember that it is independent artists and communities who are responsible for the big leaps forward in contemporary culture. From spoken word to co-created performance to grime culture. Yes, it’s true that new artistic movements of our time have not been cooked up in the strategic planning meetings of the cultural institutions who are supposed to represent our common culture. Our common culture is in fact (take note Daily Telegraph) created by and owned by independent artists and communities. It’s just that you wouldn’t think that if you don’t get out much.

If you have an idea for someone to feature in one of these podcasts or you want to create your own episode of Culture Plan B, then just get in touch with us at . I hope you enjoy hearing from the amazing Anisa.

Music introduction – Don’t Tell Me by Conrad Murray and BAC Beatbox Academy “Don’t tell me what to be, Don’t tell me how to speak, Don’t tell me how to love, Don’t tell me how to feel, Don’t tell me how to do, Don’t tell me how to think, Don’t tell me how to be, Don’t tell me how to think, it will be ok if we agree to disagree, it will be ok”

DAVID: So hello, ANISA:. How are you today?

ANISA: Hey, yeah, I’m feeling good, actually. I’m good.

DAVID: Where are you?

ANISA: So, I’m in Birmingham. I am. I’ve actually snuck into our office this morning.

DAVID: Is that your office? It looks really nice. Very cool.

ANISA: Yeah, we went New York loft vibe in the centre of Birmingham

DAVID: That is an extra treat for me for not having seen your work, I feel like I’m in the Beatfreeks HQ, very cool, nice one. Well, look, you set up Beatfreeks I think about seven years ago and in its latest iteration you organise the work in two companies, you’ve got beat freaks arts and beef roots consulting. Overall, I’d describe it as a network of young, creative people who offer support to each other. You may want to describe it differently. But it’s given rise to an incredible array of ventures over the years and as I’ve been finding out more, I think one of the things that seems to come across really strongly is that there’s always a generosity about the way that Beatfreeks supports and nurtures other people’s ideas, which I think is all too rare in the cultural sector. So just to give people a bit of a flavour of your work since 2013. So, there’s Poetry Jam, which has started and opened its doors the first Thursday of every month. There’s BAIT, which stands for Birmingham Artists in Training. There’s Southside Producers, which offers practical experience in producers that don’t settle which supports young people of colour to reimagine the voice of heritage in Birmingham and the Black Country. As well as these, and many other development programmes and many more. Beatfreeks is also involved in debates around national policy, as illustrated by your recent report ‘Taking the Temperature’ report which looked at the impact of Coronavirus for young people.

It feels to me from the research I’ve done that the structure and focus and of the company is restless and ever changing, responding to the current passions of you and the young people that you work with. And yet there’s a sort of ever­ present set of values and principles at the heart of that and it would be great to talk more about that. It feels like you’re always seeking to ensure young people have networks, have agency, are able to write their own stories sort of changing the world conversation by conversation. And I’ve always wanted to meet you ANISA: because I feel like you offer a different kind of leadership. You know, I’ve heard you speak, usually digitally, but on several occasions, and you just give off this palpable sense of generosity, and kindness. And that just is something that doesn’t often come across through cultural leaders. But maybe we should just start by, you could describe a bit more about Beak Freaks work. And I suppose I’d particularly be interested to hear about it from a sort of young person’s perspective, what you, somebody, maybe somebody’s journey through Beatfreeks, it’d be great to hear more about the company’s work.

ANISA: Yeah, so like, Beatfreeks, has been on a big journey since 2013. And, you know, we’re still right in the thick of that story. It’s still developing, and you know, a pandemic will do that to you as well. It will add some new chapters in there. The way that I see Beatfreeks is as an engagement and insight, agency and power by a community of young creatives. I take time to say that because I think the journey that we’ve been on is when I was the young person at 23, setting up Beatfreeks to heal things that I saw in my city and to heal things that I’d experienced in my life and to be a part of bringing together institutions and young people because I could see and feel this divide between them. Like I hung out with, kind of, you know, lawyers and accountants through part through parts of my work. And they were saying, ‘where are young people? We need to speak to these young people because we know that they’re really important’. Like they were a different species, and then I’ve kind of hang out with these poets and these dancers, you know, my background was in dance, and I’d hang out with all these young creative people who would be literally putting the world to write they were saying, We’re not waiting to be asked, we’re just going to do it. And actually, if you do it if people do ask, they don’t care anyway, so I was feeling like okay, hang on. This is here. This could feel this, like institutional divide between, between kind of people that ran this city and the people that have yeah inherited the city, because I think it’s really relevant that we’re talking about kind of institutions. We are already on our own journey with that when I was the young person trying to fix something, I was a part of that young community of creatives. It’s now understanding, you know, I just have my 30th birthday.

DAVID: Happy Birthday

ANISA: Thank you very much! And we’ve just joined as part of Arts Council’s NPO. We’ve got like an office, we’ve got, you know, a team, we employ people that like, you know, people are going off and having kids. I think it’s so important to stop and to say that that, because I think for so often, we forget to position ourselves within power and understand the power that we have. And yeah, and kind of how we play into that institutional kind of landscape. So essentially how we work is as an engagement and insight agency that’s really powered by a community of young creatives. And what we’re really interested in doing is, how do we connect, you know, brands, governments, funders, institutions, with young people so that together, they influence how the world works. And essentially that what underpins that is, I really care about young people getting their share of power. And so, we’re really interested in how we redefine power, how we conceptualise power. We’re not just interested in young people getting a bit of corrupt power, or being part of a system that you know, will never, they’ll only ever be able to just assimilate into. So, we’re really interested in how young people can get the influence that they deserve. And we do that through essentially helping them to tell stories about themselves and the things that they care about. And our kind of theory, if you like is, the more stories we can kind of get out there and tell and empower, then the more we can shift the narrative. And I think if we shift enough narratives, we can change the way that systems are seen and perceived. And that’s kind of our entry into systems change.

DAVID: It’s always struck me that it is really weird that, and I catch myself doing this … and I caught myself doing it when I used to work at Battersea (Arts Centre). There is a moment where institutions start to talk about young people as if they are a different species, as if also that we weren’t all young people.

ANISA: Right?

DAVID: And even you can see it particularly it becomes so clear when actually it’s a young person inside an institution talking about young people in a sort of objective almost objectifying way in terms of what point does that happen in people’s journeys? At what point do we as you know, as adults start to talk differently about young people as if that wasn’t our journey

ANISA: I think that it what it probably starts off I think really well intentioned, you know, this kind of almost like, culturally, we really idolise youth. And so, when we feel that we’re no longer a part of that, we start to distance ourselves. So we say things like, Oh, I’m getting old now or no longer young person, but actually by doing what we think, and that’s what I think is, you know, it’s the right thing by sort of saying: that’s not my lived experience anymore. I understand where I sit within that I understand that my privilege is changing, my experience is changing. But what that happens is, it continues to put that distance in and just sort of means that there isn’t you know, compassion, and there isn’t an understanding that you can still learn and you can still have proximity to youth and you can still, you know, listen to what young people have to say and appreciate their experience. It just becomes ‘Well, I wouldn’t know because I’m old’.

DAVID: So true. So true.

ANISA: Yeah, there’s, for me, there’s two parts of youth. That’s the thing. I think there’s the mind state and that for me is this permanent state of curiosity in evasion, questioning the norm being part, you know, refusing the status quo that, for me is an inherent right of youth. And it’s something that anybody can cultivate at any time. And then there’s the lived experience of youth. And I do see that as part of the protected characteristics, i.e. young people do not get their fair share of power. Young people are disproportionately marginalised. Because of their age, they don’t get access to money, they don’t get access to the same jobs, they don’t get access to the same resources. And I think that, a we need to kind of decouple these two parts of youth.

DAVID: Yeah, I can’t imagine any young people were involved in the development of a six-month apprenticeship for about three or four pounds an hour.

ANISA: Right? Exactly.

DAVID: Could you give me maybe a bit more of a sense of how do young people in Birmingham connect with Beatfreeks’ work? So, where’s the first point of contact and then what’s the, you know, give us maybe a story or a journey about how young people have connected with the company’s work and how that develops and evolves over time.

ANISA: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, I think there’s kind of a few different entry points. And I mean, we started on Poetry Jam, which you mentioned, which is, you know, was very much an experiment to begin with. Which is if we, if we kind of kick out the suits and boots out of the business district that kind of occupy these beautiful independent coffee shops during the day, and we give them back, give that space back over for free to young people in the evening, to come and kind of occupy that space, to take it to about the things that they care about. And kind of like reinvigorate that, like 19th century kind of coffee shop debate kind of space. If we bring that back. Will people use it? Will people come? Will people care? And we started that was the very first thing that we did, it was how Beatfreeks was born back in 2013. And we’ve done it every month since we since.

DAVID: Amazing, it’s like de-gentrification.

ANISA: Exactly! Right! That’s it. That’s it. It’s literally saying we’re actually going to reclaim this space, and we’re going to do it in our way. And actually, you started. And it was amazing, actually, because now some of those young people will go back and work in that coffee shop during the day, you know, they’re freelancers. They’re working on their own businesses, they’re hustling. And it’s just amazing to see how actually, you make that space relevant for them. But that’s kind of a whole other podcast, right? But this is, like, I think what’s amazing is by having a regular, consistent, reliable, open, free, democratic space, where you turn up, you put your name down, I don’t care who you are with, you’ve been to the last 100 Poetry Jams whether it’s your first one. If you’ve got something to say, we’ve got this amount of spots, we will make it happen. A lot of people kind of come in through that as a platform. And mostly they come first and listen, they come and listen to stories. And then they might go home that night and write something and then the next time they have a go and so I find that kind of Poetry Jam has been like the epicentre of the movement of Beatfreeks, which essentially is young people having space to express themselves and be listened to and be heard. And it actually really is that exchange of speaking out and being heard. That’s so important it needs you need both.

From there there’s so many things that we kind of plug young people into; we run programmes that develop them as producers, we run programmes that develop them as entrepreneurs, we open our office space to give open up our own capital, giving people a chance to work in warm, free, safe spaces. We work with massive brands like G oogle, Lush to run projects and campaigns that get these young people to use their talents in a way that helps to create culture and create new ideas and new communities and that also improves that business and changes that business as a result so that that business sees the power of young people in innovation and starts to think about how they can be future facing businesses by embracing the talent of young people.

A really good example of this is someone who I’ll call Z and she…. This was a couple of years ago now, but turned up to a Poetry Jam, didn’t really know many people in Birmingham had kind of recently moved to the city. She was about 19, in Uni and turned to Poetry Jam and just I met her actually on the stairs as I was kind of like running somewhere to kind of deal with something and she was just sort of like, ‘I’ve got something to say’. And I was like, ‘oh, welcome home. You’re in the right place’. And this really, really, really simple exchange, you know, led to her… she shared on the mic that night, she met some people. Turns out that Z is a musician. She met some people, she started jamming with them. And she started to get involved in projects. She became a producer with us. She then worked with a group of people and they put on a festival. Through that festival she met, like, some of her, like, now best friends. And throughout all of this, she kind of said look, ‘actually I’m … I really want to kind of work with you guys’. And so, she came and did some work experience with us. Turns out, she’s got these massive opinions for, kind of, you know how to change the world and how to change the system. And so, we just started to give her more and more agency, more and more support, underwriting her. And then she came up with a bit of a research project, and to ask our community what they think about the city, that research project turned into From Youth Trends, which has turned into National Youth Trends. And so, now our last piece of research, we asked 2000 people across the UK: ‘what do you think about how it is to live and work as a young person? ’, and we’ve got that out to politicians to major brands to institutions. That really came from, and this is why I say it’s important to acknowledge you in your power, what we have built together, Z has built up her agency, her voice, her confidence, her networks, and has now … she’s worked with us for a few years and has just moved into a big job and is on boards. She’s just doing incredible work. So, she’s built up her capital and her agency. And we have done the same. And the point is that not enough institutions acknowledge that they talk about helping young people as just this purely altruistic thing. And it’s not. You gain from that experience. And I think what’s really important is that you talk about how those things interweave.

DAVID: It’s a really great example. It might be interesting if you could talk a bit more about some of the kind of values, that from your perspective, sit at the heart of that, because I think they are, as you’re saying, I think they are very different to organisational values, which I think can tend to be… Again, I always find it very interesting talking about the kind of personal and the organisational and that transition that people go through. You know you go as an individual with your own set of values, your own set of ideas, your own set of how the world works. Then you go and sort of work inside an organisation, doesn’t matter what age you are, whenever you do that, you sort of start to kind of recognise that there are there are organisational codes of behaviour and then people start to behave in quite different ways. And it seems to me that one of the things that you do within your work is actually augment the individual and actually encourage people to, as you did with Z, explain and explore themselves and what they think and grow their ideas, rather than what organisations tend to do. This is to have this, sort of, more corporate sense of what you know what it what does the organisation think? Yeah, but I would love to hear more about what some of the kind of, I guess, values and principles that you feel infuse Beatfreeks work that enables that kind of generosity to come out.

ANISA: We talk a lot at Beatfreeks about building the thing that builds more things. Being really super interested in the concept of platform working and how you can … and this comes back to our thing about young people getting power and reconceptualizing power. How could you create something that allows other things to grow from its back, from its sides, from its roots, from its ceiling? You know, how do you create something that is generative? How will we do this in a way that allows other people to build from it, or to open something so that other people can think about their own practice or their own work or their own selves from it?

We also think a lot about non-Western philosophies for business like Seventh G eneration Stewardship; how are you making decisions now that will impact seven generations into the future. What I really want to know is that seven generations into the future, they’ve rebuilt, or they’ve built this incredible arts, ecology, cultural ecology, and that Beatfreeks was one of the things that helped them to do that. There was something that we did that opened up more space for the next thing and then that thing opened up more space for the next thing. We’re really interested in this kind of like generative model of working and how you can create more from less. I think that for me this ties in so well to the conversation that’s happening right now in terms of, you know, the arts bailout and what the future is. How are we getting more to more people and distributing in a more decentralised way?

You asked about values and kind of how we work. One of the main things we talk a lot about is institutions of the future. We talk about that as an almost oxymoron, right? I don’t think institutions will work and operate in the same way in the future. I don’t think that they should, I think that we’re in a bit of an institutional crisis at the moment with how things are run, how things are sustained, how people trust them. So, I’m just interested in how we’re making sure that we’re not just going to recover back to the same place. But we are actually moving to a reset, we’re thinking about how do we deliberately and purposefully shrink parts so that other parts can grow? How do we deliberately and purposefully move resources around so that more people can extract more value out of that?

DAVID: What you’ve been talking about makes so much sense to me because the idea of ‘building the thing that builds things’ is, to me, a profoundly inclusive idea. Because it’s generous, and it’s inclusive, because it’s about, here’s a platform, or here’s a framework, or here’s a network, or here’s some money, or, you know, and what is the thing that you want to make, and create and build, and maybe we could work together on that and we’ll learn from each other, we’ll support you to make what you want to create and we will learn and benefit from that too. That seems to me an incredibly, profoundly generous partnership, whereas actually, the whole structure within most cultural organisations is to build the thing that we want to build. So that usually means build the thing that the artistic director wants to build, or indeed, one of the artistic creative team has decided they want to build. It’s still an invitation; people are invited to come in and join and build and create and make that thing. But ultimately for me, that’s one of the things that makes the sector and its track record on inclusion, so piss poor, because actually, inevitably, if you’ve got a group of artistic directors and cultural leaders that are, come from pretty narrow demographic and the structure of the invitation is to build what we are building. Then inevitably what comes with that is a whole set of codes and languages and ways of behaviour in building that thing, which are exclusive, which you know, which will, which will favour people who are more like that individual who’s made that invitation.

I suppose I’m also asking, do you feel like as well as institutional change, which I feel Beatfreeks is a brilliant example of, do you think there will also be change coming from individuals and from young people themselves who will just start to ignore those invitations from bigger institutions.

ANISA: 100% I really feel strongly that the power balance is shifting. I think that actually what you just said is bang on and I’d take it even one step further, which is institutions say: we want to build a thing and if you want to build something, you need to come to us. Because it’s enshrined in the business model that then that company, that institution is needed and is relevant and will get more money and more support, because then they’re the gatekeeper. They’re the ones that are going to keep going out and reaching implicating all of these people that want to build these other little things. And so, it just keeps cycling back and strengthening the institutions position and keeping the smaller organisation or the individual in this kind of ‘hands out, please, could you give me something? I’ve got this thing’.

I think what is changing is, you know, this almost arrogance of institutions that ‘you will want to work with us’. I think that that is changing now, and young people are asking … you see it. Twitter is a perfect melting pot for this. You know, people being called out all the time. But it’s almost like ‘you tell me why I should work with you’. People are going to say, ‘how did you how did you treat your artists and staff during the pandemic? what did you do for black lives matter after the murder of George Floyd? ’ People are going to ask these questions and want institutions to pitch to them, why they should work with them, not the other way around. And I know that sounds, it maybe feels nuance, like it feels like a small shift. But I think it’s a mighty one because I think when the desire and the need changes, and that power dynamic changes, I think that’s where we just need to make sure that resources and decisions kind of flow behind that. But I think it’s a big shift. I think that the desire and the almost the fetishization of these big names, these big institutions. It’s no longer there, or at least I think it’s just dissolving within some groups of young people.

DAVID: I’m so excited to hear that. And I’ve heard that from other people. And I’m, I just, it makes me really optimistic because I don’t see the structural shift happening. But if we flip it and talk about the structural shift, and, you know, maybe it’s, you know, we talked about this £1.57 billion that Oliver Dowden has said is for preserving cultural institutions If we already, we just look at kind of Arts Council funding or indeed other sort of, sort of structural issues, which sort of set the tone, frame and power dynamics of the sector. Are there things that you would want to change? And you would want to see change over the coming well, months/10 years? How could those structures change in order that there are more companies that build the thing that builds things your future?

ANISA: Absolutely, I really want to see 30-year plans of decentralisation from these institutions. I think, you know, the more radical end of me is like, let’s just like completely restart. Let’s just, you know, get new people in let’s just… But also, you know, the pragmatic side of me says, and this is the thing I think our politics and our systems are so set up to be so short term-ist that we’re constantly just thinking in this like three to four year run our business plans running that way. And, you know, political system runs in that way. I want to see a longer term, decentralisation and, you know, distribution plan from these organisations that shows how they will reduce their asset, they will share their capital, they will distribute their knowledge and their intelligence and they will actually make sure that the stuff that they hoard and whether that’s knowledge and information, whether that’s big buildings in prime spots. I would want to see how this is going to be distributed back into the hands of people and this is the thing, as much as we were just saying there and getting really excited about, you know, the breakdown in trust with institutions.

I also, as I say it, I feel the leaders dig their feet in, dig their claws in and feel afraid of what we’re talking about. And that change that is coming. And I think, you know, these leaders, these organisations knowing that they can bring this roadmap, put this roadmap into place that does that in a way that holds space for everything and everyone. I think that that is such a radical model, but that is also practical and pragmatic, right? Like, it gives people time and space to think about how this stuff happens and how this how we get there, like sort of longer term. I think I would want to see that I want to see policy kind of yet enshrining within this money that if x percentage goes to the organisation, what percentage of that needs to be distributed in funds directly to smaller organisations or, or individuals? I think that’s a really simple thing that we can do. I feel that there’s a divorce between all the conversations we’re having around equity, diversity, inclusion, all the things at the pandemic has brought forward, all the things that Black Lives Matter are pushing forward, there’s a divorce from that, and then how we’re going to recover and reset the arts. They are not weaved and knitted together, and they’re part of the same problem. Are we just going to go back to the same thing? Or are we actually looking at how we move forward? Um, you know, I’m not an economist, so I can’t, I can’t like balance the sheet. But I can. I think that there are a lot of people that have ideas and have provocations that I don’t think have been spoken to during this period while all these plans are being put together and that’s something that annoys me.

DAVID: Just listening to you talk then, one of my big frustrations about the whole process with the £1.57 billion is that for me, whilst is something to celebrate, and whilst you can completely see that a lot of people have worked very long days and long nights to lobby and to make that happen. I would love there to be a Freedom of Information request to DCMS to find out the list of people that Oliver Dowden met in the last six weeks, eight weeks, I would bet on the fact that he only met basically people who run very large institutions. Yes, he probably also only met largely white people, I wouldn’t be surprised if he only met largely men. I might be wrong that might be completed… and if he’s listened to this episode, he could tell us that I’m wrong. But the fact is, is that I don’t doubt that some of those cultural leaders who run those cultural positions probably set in good faith to Oliver Dowden. Look, there’s a wider ecology here, look, we know we need to think about inclusion, we need to think about x y z, but everything they said doesn’t really matter, because actually he has given £1.57 billion to quote him to ‘preserve cultural institutions’. And so that money is going to go to those cultural institutions, the Arts Council is hurriedly running around saying, Well, how do we support individuals, oh well let’s, sort of, prioritise lottery cash for them coming from the lottery which is going to be an absolutely miniscule proportion compared to the money that will go to those larger organisations and they do have those old fashioned business models exactly like you described, which tend to, which are sort of selfish business models, they focus on the organisation and the company and the generation of development of its own brand. They’re not the build the thing that builds things that you’re talking about, and that Beatfreeks so brilliantly exemplifies and a part of me thinks, fuck it, let’s just get on with our work and let’s keep progressing positively with this co creative practice, which I feel is growing, but part of me also thinks we’ve got to do something about that £1.57 billion we’ve got, there’s got to be, exactly like you’re saying, you know, there’s got to be some kind of some holding people to account. Well if you if you’re going to receive X amount, then what’s the percentage, just like you just said, that goes to other companies or, or actually what it, how are you going to restructure and reorganise your company. This, I guess leads to a question I would love to ask you about. I’m a bit of a structured junkie in a way just because structures mean nothing unless the values are right. But at the same time, I feel like if the structure is wrong, exactly like you described, then everything just snaps back to how it was before. But yeah, in terms of the structure within Beatfreeks, are there particular things that you’re proud of within the company looking back over the last seven years that you feel, you know, if you’re a director of a large cultural institution, right now, you could look at that structural shift and go, that’s what we need to do.

ANISA: Yeah, yeah. I really feel like it could, it could be summarised as ‘building in the open’. And I think there’s something to be said in vulnerable leadership. And something to be said in building in the … creating a culture where you build in the open. Which is to say, not just okay, we’re doing this, and this is the impact he’s had which is kind of that kind of more you know, failing forward. And like, you know, showing your failures and things like that, but actually showing the thinking behind making the decisions to build and making those, you know, those kind of fork moments in an organisation like that we could go this way we could go this way, I don’t actually think either of them are right or wrong. They’re just what we have what we are going to do right now with the information that we have available to us. And it’s okay, that we change our minds. And it’s okay, that we got that thing wrong, because you can see a journey and a process and that’s what you’ve just described about our blog. I mean, as I’ve been thinking about growth from the start of Beatfreeks, and, and bearing in mind, you know, we’re kind of a different beast to the types of organisations that we’re talking about. But as Beatfreeks has grown, and as it has, I’ve grown as an entrepreneur and social entrepreneur and thinking about what I want to do. You know, we’ve tried to conceptualise growth in different ways. So, at one point, we split out into a collective because we wanted different companies that could grow at their own rates and sizes and not feel like they had to kind of be taken in the direction of the other part. And then actually, we realised there was an overarching mission to all of that. And so, it just became very heavy administratively, people didn’t really understand what we were doing. And actually, we built out in the open a bit too much. And so, people just didn’t really care about whether that thing was called that thing they just cared about that they turned up to Poetry Jam, and it felt good. So, we’ve kind of also had to go, okay, we can put that in the open for the people that want to find it. But actually, we don’t always have to be driving a comms and a narrative on the decision that we’re making. So, I know that sounds almost counter to what I’m saying. But I think putting stuff out there, sharing it in a way that’s vulnerable that says, actually, if we want honest conversations, they won’t always be neat conversations. They won’t all be polished. You know. So, the this is kind of how we’re doing things and that we open constant invites back into that conversation as opposed to here’s one closed part of our strategy having consultation on. Like, as much as Beatfreeks is a company that I run, I own it’s open always for it to be morphed and shaped by the people it’s trying to serve. Right?

DAVID: And doesn’t building in the open as well, even if you go this way, we you’re saying that ‘Okay, let’s go this way. Oh, you’re saying that’, you know even if it leads to constant change, because one of the criticisms of Battersea was always that, you know, ‘everything’s changing all the time, everything’s changing too much’ And it was right, it was. It was over complicated. It was always changing, but the profound thing that, perhaps, people didn’t talk about which, when you are talking about that shifting practice at Beatfreeks, is that change. Because that change is open and caused by the people you are working with.

It means those people feel involved. Those people feel agency, they feel they’re writing the story of that company. They are involved in that process. Whereas, if you a release strategy to consultation and then you withdraw that consultation and then rewrite the strategy. It’s a much, more closed Corporate process. The power and the control and the agency, if you like, remains very much with the, you know, the hierarchy of the organisation. Whereas actually, if you do that process in the open however messy, however, many changes in terms you get however much, you know, maybe too much change that creates it. The thing that we don’t talk about is the fact that that very thing means that people are feeling like they are authoring that change and that means that people feel connected and yeah, I don’t know, does that make any sense?

ANISA: It makes so much sense and I think the thing with that is what we’re talking about is often changing ‘the how’. Right? The programmes or the way that that thing is done or who leads it or whatever, but what it’s strengthening consistently is the why and actually you need to shift and play with the how to get really clear on the why. I feel like, seven years in, we’re clearer on what we were trying to do in the first place. Obviously, we’ve changed, times have changed you know people have changed, markets changed, blah, blah, blah. But actually, it’s constantly almost going back to, as well; ‘What are the founding principles? What’s the new information that we have now? What have we learned along the way? And all the way through? What is the why? What is the why? What is the why? And so, yeah, I think it’s, I think, I think change is… That the problem that we have in our, in the arts and culture sector is that, is where that comes from. It’s where you’re changing that to jump through the hoop for funders, or you’re changing that because you feel that you need to perform. Then that’s, then that’s a different story, right? But where it comes from people and from learning, it can only ever be a good thing.

DAVID: You recently hit the headlines when you handed back your British Empire medal which you received for work. I read that you said that ‘if this is power, this is validation then I don’t want it’ And I just wonder whether you’ve had any reflections on… I know that the entire Beatfreeks mission is around thinking about inclusion. But again, when we look at the rest of the cultural sector and the sector really, really struggles with inclusion. And I just wonder whether it, yeah, if you have any thoughts about how you think that the sector needs to change?

ANISA: Yeah, I think that, I think that I want to look back on this time without feeling that it was wasted. And I don’t say that flippantly because it’s been an awful time for a lot of people. What I mean is this thing around ‘New Normal’, this thing around the ‘great reset’ this thing around, you know, actually having the time and space to, to do things differently. I don’t want to feel that we just, and you used the words that earlier around kind of, just that we preserved, that we enshrined. That actually we dug deeper in to where we are. I don’t want to feel that we’ve moved backwards in the work around inclusion. And so, I think that it also means that we need to have much more explicit and bold conversations about what that means about our makeup of our boards and executive positions. And it’s going to need some courageous leadership from people. And this is why I was saying earlier about having that kind of longer plan, that kind of taking a bit more of a wider view on these things. Essentially, if we want more people of colour in our exec rooms, we’re going to have to get more white people to budge up. Like, we just don’t see why we’re not having the conversation at that level.

The focus always seems to be on we want to get more people in. But to do that, unless we’re going to create two CEOs and two ADs. Unless, we’re going to double these things up and make more space at the table, then someone is going to have to move and I don’t say that with any disrespect to anybody. Because this is the thing I hold, you know, great compassion that we’re all just trying to do our bit in the world. But we have to understand that we’re going to have to de-platform ourselves. And that was the work that I was doing around the BM and arguably there is way more powerful and influential people that should have done that work before I did it. If that makes sense. But I feel that that was my bit in that, my bit in modelling that and I want to see more people de-platform themselves. And so that would be the first thing I think, yeah, that thing around more explicit conversations. And what I mean by that is more complete conversation. So, if we want this, well, then what does that mean? And who is actually going to, you know, volunteer to have those kinds of conversations? You know, things around with the Creative Case. You know, I want to see there being repercussions then, if people aren’t achieving the goals that they’ve laid out. So, I think more policy that doesn’t just protect the way that things are, but that encourages and moves us to the way that we want, where we want things to be

DAVID: That’s brilliant, that’s really brilliant. I wanted to ask you about one particular question about just one thing that you have within your company’s work, which is a co-creator’s agreement. This is a bit geeky, this is really geeky, But I would just love to know a bit more about that co-creators agreement, and how deploy it, how it gets used, what is it, what does it mean? Because I think, again, for companies and artists and producers and makers that are thinking about co-creation, it’s a you know, it’s a mystery to some people, some people have been doing it for four years. But it would just be lovely to hear about a little bit more about your Beatfreeks co-creators agreement and how it works.

ANISA: It was a way of capturing conversations that happened as part of projects quite organically by the nature of the type of work we were trying to do, which is to make people feel that they had agency to shape the way the projects moved, that they were valued and recognised for the things that they put in. And that they had a chance to change, not just its outcome, but the but the process to get there. So, I think, basically, we didn’t have to write the agreement, the agreement came out of a set of behaviours and ways of working. And I think we’ve kind of moved even further beyond that now because, even as you said that I was like, I don’t think that that’s one thing that we now employ in our projects as a template. I think it’s much more of a, you know, a model of practice.

That for me, is, I think that co-creation is now an amazing big banner of stuff. And I think there’s so many different ways of co-creating underneath that banner. And I think we try to be a lot more explicit about what that means for things like IP. What does that mean for ideas? What does that mean for your own recognition as an individual as part of a collective? So, for me, the co-creators agreement is about making the implicit explicit as much as you can, so that everybody can participate and be a part of shaping the way that that goes. But I think too often, this is a big pet peeve of mine around the concept of like a flat structure. And I’m slightly veering off here, but to make the point.

DAVID: No, no. this is great.

ANISA: I think when people talk about a flat structure, what they mean is, there’s some, there’s some hidden hierarchies. There are some hidden ways of working, that we’re just actually not going to acknowledge because we all so like forward thinking and inclusive. And it bothers me because I think people would, and all the research I’ve seen, and I’m very ready to be told otherwise. But everything that I’ve seen says people respond much better to hierarchy and network. And it’s the combination of the two, that’s really powerful. And so, we’ve … I don’t see why we don’t extend that to our ways of working with communities and people, kind of our organisation way of working: we try and treat young people as almost as an extension of our company.

DAVID: Yeah, I love that idea. Just making the implicit explicit and I think, again, within the cultural sector, a sector of festering hierarchies, we’re so bad at talking about them. I always, I was always amazed how much easier it made things in meetings when I would say to people because, we developed the idea of project working which was trying to shake up the kind of departmental, siloed way of working in an organisation. So that basically you would organise your work by what you were trying to do, rather than organise your work via the functions of an organisation. And it was a kind of more open, flatter structure.

I always, when I said that, I very quickly learned I also had to say, but I’m the boss, there is a strict, there is a clear and strict hierarchy here. But these are the terms of rules of project working, which try to mess with that hierarchy and play around with it in different ways. And I love that idea you’re describing about making the implicit explicit, I feel like there are so many hidden things. This goes back to inclusion too, around the kind of coded language and behaviours of organisations and it’s not that as a sector, we should be always afraid of those hierarchies or those codes of behaviour. The key thing is, the first thing is to just open them out and admit and talk about them. And then that’s the very first step towards then things changing and shifting. So yeah, what you’re saying makes great sense.

In terms of IP, what does that mean? How do you do, I mean, I’m sure you deal with it probably in lots of different ways in different projects, but you again, that’s something that I feel as a sector, we’re, again, not very good at supporting and enabling the individual to retain IP. I just wonder how you deal with that, because you’ve got an amazing complexity of that, in terms of the number of projects that young people are developing. And I’d be really interested to hear how you deal with that.

ANISA: I think it’s, yeah, I think it’s very much and actually, us kind of, you know, sitting between working kind of commercially and also kind of working in that, kind of, third sector space has been really helpful, because I think we just borrow things from each side and, kind of, help to, kind of, cross fertilise that. So weirdly, I think, yeah, IP isn’t talked about enough in, kind of, the art space. Where it’s, kind of, it’s a more accepted and natural question when you’re working in, kind of, a commercial setting. I mean, often because it’s expected the bigger company will keep the IP, but at least it’s, kind of, but it’s spoken about and if there’s no shame around that. And I think that for me is always the first thing is: Let’s talk about, if you’re coming into this room, what are you coming into this room like? E specially for like co­ creation sessions, where it’s around co-designing ideas. What’s going to happen? What… let’s work backwards from what’s going to happen at the end of this? It’s this idea that you’re being paid to come and support and therefore everything you’re doing, you’re giving in a generous spirit. Will you get recognition for that? Will you be been named as a co-creator? Or actually working as an extension of our company? Is our company working as an extension and being white labelled for another company. And so, this is where I go back. I don’t think, for me, there’s no pure ideological stance on IP at all, actually, at all. Because I also think that ideas are constantly made better by other people. But knowing that often it’s the most vulnerable, the most marginalised, the quietest voice and mean, that kind of in the broadest sense, it’s those people who are often the most exploited by people taking their ideas, then I think that, you know, you have, especially for us as the intermediary, we just have to make sure we’re being explicit and giving people to tools to understand the different ways that that could work for them. We think about it and we interrogate ourselves, not perfectly, but we do. It’s part of our practice to ask those questions. And then, you know, we make sure that that becomes a norm within young people so that then when they go and work with other people, they’re asking those kinds of questions. And I think that’s, that’s a really great way of at least beginning to think about IP and, and ownership

DAVID: That’s so brilliant, thank you. Yeah, I always used to say and still do that my favourite line from a pop song is from Bananarama and Fun Boy Three, “it’s not what you do. It’s the way that you do it”.

ANISA: Exactly.

DAVID: Because of the fact that, exactly what you’re saying, there is no right answer on IP, but the way that you go about having that conversation, the way that you uncover all elements of that conversation, the way that you uncover people’s roles within the work that you’re going to do and that you might do and that you have to keep revisiting process. You know, potentially in an hourly or daily or weekly or monthly or whatever it is way in order that nothing ever becomes cloudy or misunderstood. And I feel like, yeah, as organisations, if we spent so much more time thinking about the way we did stuff rather than what it was we’re trying to do, we would be so much better at including people and supporting people, empowering people, and not falling into the, kind of, trips and hazards of, of kind of hierarchical corporate thinking, which does tend to kind of cover those things up often. When you talked about z earlier and you said there was that moment that says, I’ve got to say something, the fact that people can feel in any moment that they have something to say and that they can say it and that actually is a kind of moral imperative, and for the health of the company and for the health of their collaborators that they do say it. That feels like an incredibly important thing within cultural organisations going forward, rather than I’m feeling like, I’ve got something to say but I’m not going to say it because I understand that within this meeting within this context, it’s better not to say it because of x, y, x, y and z.

I could just go on asking you questions for about three days. It is so great to hear from you. It’s so great to hear more about hear yeah kind of thinking behind the work that you’re doing with Beatfreeks. And I, you know, I’m a passionate supporter and advocate, having found out particularly more about the way that you work now, how every village town and city needs a, you know, a cultural organisation that is, is building the thing that builds things. You know, I think that’s a great note for the Arts Council, for the cultural renewal Task Force and indeed as a criteria for the £1.57 billion quid that is going to be distributed. That that should be a criteria is such a powerful thought. So, thank you for that.

ANISA: Thank you. No, thank you so much. It’s been it’s been amazing to just have a platform. It’s been very cathartic I’d say actually to just get to kind of process all of this and yeah just I can’t wait to, kind of, listen to what everyone else has got to say on these Culture Plan B podcasts as well. So, thank you so much.

DAVID: We hope you enjoyed this third episode and Culture Plan B. My thanks to Anisa Morridadi. If you want to find out more about the work of Beatfreeks, then visit . I highly recommend the blog pages on their website including the excellent blogs by ANISA: which gives a snapshot of her brilliant thinking over the past seven years. You can contact us at Culture Plan B with ideas for the podcast by emailing and do follow us on Instagram or Twitter for info on future episodes. This episode was researched and presented by David Jubb, the editors and sound mixers were Ian Dickinson and George Dennis. The music is from “Don’t tell me” by Conrad Murray with Kate and Nate from BAC’s Beatbox Academy. Communication support from Antonio Goddard. Original artwork by John Bausor and the producer and creator is Matthew Dunster.