Creative Approaches to EDI, in partnership with UU Business School

30 Mar 2022

Creative Approaches to EDI, in partnership with UU Business School

Arts & Business NI (A&BNI) is aware from discussions with their business members that Equality Diversity and Inclusion is a top priority for many. Read more in Sean Fitzsimon's blog on our website here Moving beyond CSR: We're people, not plastic bags | ... (

According to the Boston Consulting Group, organisations equipped with a range of voices and perspectives throughout the ranks are better able to innovate, take risks, solve problems creatively, bounce back from failures and to turn challenges into opportunities.

Some A&BNI businesses are already embracing EDI initiatives within their workplaces- however some organisations may be feeling a little nervous about addressing this important topic, afraid that they are not using the correct language or worried about causing offence.

A&BNI gathered a brilliant array of speakers in The Black Box to help to start the conversation and to gain confidence around addressing EDI.

Seán Fitzsimons, Disability Policy Professional & Activist, member of the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 and Project Lead on the Harkin Global Disability Employment Summit  co-hosted the event. As a disabled professional working in Northern Ireland, Seán is intimately aware of the barriers, challenges and social injustices that disabled people face and issued a stern challenge for the need for societal change in attitude.

"The importance of this event in bringing industry & the arts together cannot be overstated. Art as a truly accessible vehicle for messaging & championing change is really unparalleled." Seán Fitzsimons, Disability Policy Professional & Activist

Speakers from Ulster University Business School, who partnered with A&BNI on the EDI event, included Professor Gillian Armstrong and Dr Kristel Miller, who set the scene for the critical role of EDI within education, business and the modern workplace.

“It is well recognised that diverse and inclusive workforces can address skills shortages, unlock innovation and drive business growth. As we move forward, embracing diversity and prioritising under-represented groups across all levels of an organisation will be crucial in developing more inclusive work environments - achieved through enhanced collaboration and proactive engagement with key stakeholders. Events such as this with the Arts, Business, Education and Government sectors offer a platform to progress important conversations, promote best practice and shine a light on individuals and businesses championing EDI.” Professor Gillian Armstrong, Director Business Engagement, Ulster University Business School

A&BNI business member Citi have already embraced very successful EDI initiatives. Employing more than 3,500 employees representing 40 different nationalities and 47% of leadership roles being held by women, Citi Belfast was recently named Northern Ireland Employer of the Year by Stonewall.

Citi Belfast partnered with Tinderbox Theatre Company to deliver EDI workshops, providing the opportunity for Citi staff to explore and celebrate their unique identity and place in the world. Sara Allen, Citi and Patrick O’Reilly, Tinderbox walked us through the content and stages of the Perceptions workshops.

The event featured several A&BNI arts members who are already doing brilliant work in the EDI space:

Darren Ferguson founded Beyond Skin with the objective of using the Arts as a vehicle to assist the development of a more peaceful, equal and intercultural society free from racism and sectarianism.

In 2021 Darren set up Musicians Artists at Risk Resettlement Scheme; the artist known as Sara- a professional musician and guitar teacher from Iran, currently in asylum seeking status, joined us to speak poignantly about her lived experience and gave a moving performance.

Ruth McCarthy, Artistic Director / CEO of Outburst Arts and the award-winning Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast, was unable to join us in person, as she was in Brazil working on an Outburst Americas project. In a pre-record, Ruth outlined how Outburst, with its cutting-edge approach, engagement of younger people and international outlook, can help businesses to engage in the LGBTQ+ space.

“Regard EDI as an opportunity, not as an obligation.” Ruth McCarthy, CEO Outburst Arts

Rachael Campbell-Palmer, Director at The Black Box shared their ethos of being a welcoming and inclusive venue which is becoming a vital alternative shared space and hotbed of innovative arts and cultural practice, much of this coming from those who are underrepresented and under-resourced in wider arts provision and cultural development. DJ Twister Mark Patty, graduate of the Black Moon DJ Programme for adults with learning disabilities, performed at our event.

“A&BNI is a membership organisation encompassing 73 businesses and 122 arts members- we connect our members to come up with creative solutions to business challenges. Many of our arts members are already doing brilliant work in the EDI space and can help businesses to gain confidence around addressing EDI. We will happily connect businesses with them to spark some new ideas about how they could take a creative approach to EDI.” Maeve McKervey, Head of Business, Arts & Business NI

Alongside 60 business leaders, A&BNI were delighted to welcome representatives from their funders to this important event: Moira Doherty, Acting Permanent Secretary, Department for Communities and Siobhan Molloy, Arts Council of NI.

If you would like to find out about adopting creative solutions to your business challenges, please email

Pictured left to right: Rachael Campbell-Palmer The Black Box; Sara Allen Citi; Marc Gregg Outburst Arts; Maeve McKervey Arts & Business NI; Darren Ferguson Beyond Skin; Sean Fitzsimons Harkin Summit; Patrick O’Reilly Tinderbox Theatre Co.; Professor Gillian Armstrong Ulster University Business School; Dr Kristel Miller UUBS; Mary Nagele, Arts & Business NI and artist Sara.

Our Funders & Partners

Arts & Business NI is generously supported by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland.