Bossin’ It Through Bandwidth Tax

Leader of Tomorrow Bhavini Goyate reflects on being part of the Artistic Director Leadership Programme and the recent session on ‘The Role of the Leader as Employer’.

It’s been 11 months on the Artistic Director Leadership Programme and I feel as though I’ve been doing long workouts and I’m finally starting to see the effects. I thought I’d open with a special shout out to my fellow course mates, whom I’m getting to know so well. Most courses and workshops are no longer than two-weeks long. I get to do workshops with this group of extremely talented arts professionals of colour for TWO YEARS. We get to build sustainable relationships, learn from each other and collaborate over two years and beyond – what a true gift.

Being in rooms full of white people (especially rich white people), I feel hyper-visible, invisible, exhausted and anxious. My productivity and energy levels are constantly compromised when there are difficult conversations around whiteness and privilege – you are either asked to speak or no one wants to even look you in the face because it’s just. Too. Real. In my world beyond secondary school (because I come from Wembley where there were little to no white people pre-gentrification) I feel like this everywhere. My throat closes up when so much as an opinion begins to form in my head because I want to speak, to cry, to shout and to yell at how shit things are. Hell, it happened very recently and I couldn’t concentrate for about half an hour – that’s a lot of time when you’ve got shit to do. You can’t explain this stuff to your white co-workers despite it being very real:

I have the utmost privilege of working next to the Young Vic’s Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. When I (very nervously) told him about my experiences of being in white spaces, he introduced me to the Bandwidth Tax theory, a theory from Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan and Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir explaining that poverty, lack of resource and scarcity has a direct impact on the psyche, decision-making and productivity.

This all made SO MUCH SENSE, I felt as though my experiences were validated. I thought of intersectional oppression and how that is taxing on your energy and mental health in an infinite number of ways. I thought of what other wonderful and powerful thoughts I could’ve been having instead of being worried about how brown and working-class I am compared to everyone else and what I need to do to fit in or stand out even more.

So, fast forward to 27 June when I came out of our ITC session ‘The Role of the Leader as the Employer’ exhausted in the best way possible. Because I spent the day in a room full of people of colour, I felt the full force of solidarity, of common experiences, of not being hyper-visible/invisible. I was afforded all the glorious bandwidth to engage with meaningful constructive discussions about employment law, policy-making, recruitment processes, discrimination – everything that directly affects my job managing recruitment at the Young Vic and is crucial to me becoming a BOSS arts leader. I could consume information, gain knowledge and create solid action points, and not get sweaty palms. I was excited, I got pumped up for all of the exciting times ahead – when my energy will be used for more effective change.

So, here’s to saving head space for the more important shit and safe spaces for learning for the next year and a half. Because we got enough taxes to pay, init.

Bhavini is an arts administrator who has worked in the subsidised theatre sector since 2014 and has worked in organisations such as the Almeida, Paines Plough and tiata fahodzi. Bhavini currently works at the Young Vic as their Administration Assistant. Bhavini has been a member of the UK Samba community for 14 years, drumming Rio samba nationally and internationally.

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