Membership Spotlight: Black and Ethnic Minority Arts Network (BEMA)


Every month we feature one of our members and ask them what their organisation is about and what they’ve been up to. This month we caught up with  BEMA and spoke to them about their work.


What are the aims of your organisation?

BEMA is an informal alliance of individual artists, arts organisations, promoters, producers and others with an interest in improving availability of quality art to the public, as well as developing cultural activity as a means of promoting tolerance, equality and education.

What does your organisation do?

BEMA works to support the development of community based organisations that are engaged in arts. We plan, organise and promote art based events, projects, conferences and other activities. We have also established ten forums where organisations focused on particular art forms provide each other with support and develop mutually beneficial partnerships. Each of the forums listed below includes a lead organisation with the capacity to act as a mentor for smaller or less developed members:

•           Carnival & Costume

•           Dance

•           Drama & Theatre

•           Fashion & Design

•           Film & Video

•           Graphics & Visual Arts

•           Individual artists

•           Literature & Spoken Word

•           Music

•           Venue Operators & Promoters

BEMA also seeks to maximise the resources accessible to the arts sector and engages with appropriate local and regional structures and other bodies, whose activities impact on local arts and on the activities of the organisation’s members and target group.

We firmly believe that it is possible for diverse individual artist and groups of artists to work in harmony to mutual benefit, regardless of social status or of racial, ethnic or cultural background; and irrespective of artistic discipline or genre.


What kind of people does your organisation work with?

BEMA essentially focuses on communities that have traditionally benefited least from available resources however; the BEMA family is an inclusive organisation that welcomes membership from all sectors and cultural groups.


How long have you been a Voice4Change member/why did you become a member?

BEMA has only just become a member of Voice4Change. Both organisations recently participated in a voluntary sector empowerment and networking event organized by Hackney Council for Voluntary Service and it was straight away obvious that we were working towards harmonious objectives. BEMA and Voice4Change have already committed to working together on a couple of projects and will hopefully do so many times in the future.


What is the biggest challenge for your organisation in the year ahead?

It will be a challenge to continue to exist and to be able to make a strategic impact in an environment of ever decreasing resources.


What’s the biggest success for your organisation so far?

BEMA may be a small organisation with minimal financial resources but we continue to punch way above our weight. When Hackney council announced that Dalston library was relocating to a new £4.4 million development just metres away they also stated that the name of C.L.R. James would be dropped. BEMA launched a campaign to save the name and were supported by local alliance Hackney Unites. Just over six weeks after launching the campaign – which centred around a petition that gained local and international support – there was enough pressure to convince Hackney Council to retain the name of C.L.R. James. Perhaps this has been our most significant success so far from an impact perspective.