“You posted a Black square, now what?” stated Nadu Placca, Founder of The Zoo XYZ and now author of a new report that highlights the lack of diversity within UK event trade bodies and associations. She spoke to TPi over Zoom on the eve of the release of a new report that aims to bring the conversation of diversity within the live events industry to the forefront and begin a dialogue that will lead to change that goes further than a post on social media.
Among The Zoo XYZ’s findings, which looked into 16 UK event trade associations, the research found that 0% of board members that sit on UK event trade bodies and associations are Black. The report included associations such as the PSA, Music Venues Trust, Association of Independent Promoters and The Concert Promoters Association.
All data was taken from websites and verified, where available, on Companies House. In the report, The Zoo XYZ classified Black as those of Black African and Caribbean ancestry living and working in the UK.
“The last thing we wanted this report to do is to make the industry feel like a deer in the headlights,” explained Placca, who drew parallels with this report and Women In CTRL Founder, Nadia Khan’s report titled: Seat At The Table, which highlighted the lack of female representation in leadership positions within the music industry.
“Within the entertainment market, you often find a huge number of Black artists and athletes are at the forefront, but this is simply not reflected backstage.” According to Placca, a key step in this mission is greater diversity and representation in the trade bodies that represent the industry. “Trade bodies and associations are voluntary industry watchdogs, set up to regulate and monitor industry standards,” the report states. “They create industry opportunities, unite for causes and lobby the government. The importance of trade bodies and associations can be seen across various industries, and they are an integral part of business. It is essential that trade bodies and associations are inclusive as they are influential to the longevity of the industries they serve.”
Placca has worked within the live industry for over 14 years officially, although she jokes how she was born wanting to organise events. “I’ve only ever had one real job working at NatWest, which did not last long,” she chuckled, explaining how the traditional nine-to-five just didn’t cut it when there was a world of live events calling. After getting a degree in Events Management and Music & Media Management, Placca freelanced for a company within the sector before breaking out on her own.
Having established a number of businesses over the years, in 2019, she formed The Zoo XYZ. This Black-owned, female-led experiential event management agency puts training at the forefront of its business model. “I have 12 amazing women working with me at The Zoo XYZ, all of whom have been on one of our courses such as 10 Steps To A Successful Event,” commented Placca.
Like the rest of the industry, The Zoo XYZ had to put the brakes on much of its activity in March 2020. “It was a big shock to the system, but in some ways it was a necessary pause to reflect,” she explained. “Then came George Floyd’s murder, and we found people wanted to do something, from posting a Black square to giving money to some sort of organisation.”
This wish to do something, Placca reflected, left many people feeling frustrated, as they did not know how to act or respond to the current climate. “In many ways, this report was all about holding people to account and starting a conversation to force some progression and offer some solutions,” she stated, boldly.
Despite the report’s results, Placca is more than aware of the hard situation in which those heading up many of these trade bodies find themselves in. “We put a call out for Black events professionals, and we were pleased that 165 individuals got in touch. As a result, we’ve built a great community,” she reported. “That said, I’ve been in the industry for 14 years and I didn’t know many of these people. So, I can only imagine what it’s like for a white person trying to go through the same process. However, I and the wider team at The Zoo XYZ want to make it easier for more Black people to get recognised in this industry and for more trade bodies and associations to find these Black people to support them.”
In fact, the report and the overall campaign has yielded another success, namely deciding to take the steps to create their own association, Nadu Placca alongside Aaron Raybe, Eunice Obianagha and Nicole Wallace-White; the Association of Black Event Professionals (ABEP). “When we started on this journey, we were asking these organisations for a seat at the table. But due to the sheer numbers we attracted and the interest we’ve garnered, we realised we can create our own table,” stated Placca, proudly. She is currently in the long process of getting the organisation officially recognised and will head this up as a completely separate venture to The Zoo XYZ.
With the report now being made public, Placca explained her hopes for the industry moving forward. “We don’t want people to have their backs up with the results of the report. As long as people are willing to lean into this conversation, there is only room for growth. We are not asking for anything crazy or unattainable. It’s just about having an open conversation.”
The entire report, as well as further information about the organisation, can be read on The Zoo XYZ website.
This article originally appeared in issue #263 of TPi, which you can read here.
Photos: The Zoo XYZ