Equity & Diversity – Winnipeg 2019

On March 2, 2019, CNMN partnered with Cluster Festival to offer a knowledge-sharing event around questions of Equity & Diversity in the new music community. We were hosted by the wonderful and welcoming spaces of Creative Manitoba, right in the heart of the Cluster Festival activity.

We began the day with a presentation by Erin Gee, whose proposal was to speak of the encouragement/discouragement of interdisciplinary creative practices in institutional environments. Erin described her education and the challenges and opportunities that she encountered all through the lens of voices and bodies, both human and machine. Her practice creating AI has given her a unique perspective on human interactions, on the work of collectives and on how machines are speaking to us.

During our coffee break, Jeff Morton introduced us to a listening game/piece that we could all participate in and that would help him present later in the day. It involved recording sounds of relative silence and our presence in them and thus meditating on our agency in spaces.  

Melody McKiver sensitized the group towards some of the Indigenous realities in Winnipeg and in their home area of Sioux Lookout before discussing their recent meetings at the Banff Centre of a collective of Indigenous classical musicians to prepare document on best practices for collaborations with the wider classical music community. They shared this document with us and underlined its main message: Nothing about us without us. They also shared recent experiences of working with youth in Sioux Lookout and surrounding reserves, which generated a lot of feedback and discussion.

After lunch, Jeff Morton facilitated a discussion of equity and diversity with Erin Gee, Melody McKiver, Remy Siu and Vicki Young. Vicki presented the work that Manitoba Chamber Orchestra has been doing and the IDEA manifesto that Orchestras Canada has presented, which aims to define Equity, Diversity and Access and to exhort orchestras to take a lead in promoting these. The conversation often touched upon the ways in which many of these structures are in themselves inherently Euro-centric and how that plays out in current movement towards cultural inclusion. The question of aesthetic diversity also came up, as well as issues of tokenism, the timeline for real rather than superficial changes, and the future audiences for our practice.

To lighten the atmosphere, Jeff Morton offered a window onto his practice and work with the arts collective Holophon by having us listen to the results of the morning’s recording. He encouraged us to find or give up agency in our listening and engaging.

Remy Siu continued the critique of euro-centric music infrastructure and from his bi-continental multi-disciplinary perspective. He challenged us with the question of what we are willing to “give up” in new music in order to achieve diversity or equity, and suggested a few ways to add pluralism to the processes and gatekeepers. He used his personal experiences as a background for these calls to action.

The conversations continued beyond the closing of the day in small groups and then into the bar and the subsequent fantastic Cluster Festival concert.

Many people joined us also through the livestream on Facebook, which stayed active for a week after the event. An edited version will soon be available on CNMN’s YouTube channel.

This event was made possible thanks to the support of FACTOR.