The Supporting Act Foundation

The ‘gentle radicalism’ of York Anti Racist Collective

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With the backing of The Supporting Act, York Anti Racist Collective are building a slow revolution.

–– The organisers and workshop facilitators of YARCs Art Liberation Week hosted in York, UK. 

Inspired by Global Majority-led projects seen around the world, York Anti Racist Collective (YARC) is experimenting with slow organizing while fostering a long-term vision based on imagination practice. Its work supports healing through the power of creative practice and community.

By rejecting capitalist pressures to prioritize growth at all costs, enabled by the trust-based philanthropy of The Supporting Act Foundation, YARC is setting out a radical blueprint for what community building can look like. 

We sat down with Kate McLaven from YARC to talk about long-term funding, community building and what comes next for their ambitious ‘gentle revolution’.

Beginning their journey with community

“Receiving funding from The Supporting Act has been a momentous journey for us,” Kate McLaven said when we sat down with her to ask about YARC’s experience. “Prior to this lump sum, we were surviving off small payments. But being recognized by a foundation with a vast reach across Europe is really validating.”

The organization has grown and changed over time, being shaped by the needs of their community and responding to wider shifts around them. “As a collective set up during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, our group came about out of desperate need for protected space. Living in a place like North Yorkshire, sometimes it can feel like Global Majority people are few and far between.”

Initially, the group connected in online spaces, facilitated over Zoom. “Two years later,” Kate explained, “we applied for funding and received a modest amount through a local participatory grantmaking process, which we stretched over a year.”

But that small pot of money helped them launch their first Art Liberation event, a week-long series of creative workshops around decolonialism. The dedicated space empowered Global Majority people to tell their stories, connect and heal. “Our group has been growing slowly but steadily,” she added.

A typical week as a ‘slow organizer’

“Our movement has been intentionally slow-paced,” Kate said. “We push back against hustle culture and the idea that growing fast and bigger is better. Instead, we wanted to shift our measure of impact away from the metric set out by colonial capitalism.”

There’s hardly a typical week for the people behind YARC. “There have been months when nothing was going on other than check-ins because our capacity was low due to burn out and other circumstances. Now, with ongoing funds, we have a solid rhythm going, but are still rooted in anti-perfectionism. We encourage people to take rest if they're not in the right headspace.”

Kate credits YARC’s nurturing approach as the reason it has held a number of events over the last 4 years.

A typical week for the collective might start with MamaKula (Kula being Sanskrit for extended family), a YARC subgroup for Global Majority mums and white mums with mixed kids, which hosts “approximately 80 parents and their kids, who come together to share recipes, hair supplies, second hand clothes. Together they take up a lovely corner of the city and hold each other through racialized traumas, and also create joy in community. It's wonderful seeing Global Majority kids in York playing with others who look like them.”

Some of the mums also meet weekly for a reading group. And YARC recently hosted an Art Liberation workshop, ‘Poetry: Love and Art’, which was themed around ideas of rest. One of their regular events is Saturday Lime, a monthly social gathering that takes inspiration from the Trinidadian word 'liming,' which means the art of doing nothing. “This is a space of rest and relaxation for us; we encourage Global Majority folks to come, bring uni work, art projects or just themselves, and then enjoy tea and conversation in community.”

Beyond running community-focused arts programming, the group is looking at establishing solid foundations for YARC as an organization. Kate explained how the team at YARC are “working on governance, figuring out how to decolonise our policy and procedure. Colonialism is seeped into everyday life, so we're unpicking our ways of working that may uphold systems of oppression.” This impacts big and small decisions, such as democratic decision making and creating an intergenerational advisory board. 

“We work as a team through WhatsApp groups and Zoom, or organizing in each other's living rooms. It’s really important to us that we are incorporating embodied practices in our work,” Kate said. “Our founder and co-ordinator, Amy, who is a decolonised yoga teacher, starts some sessions by channelling yogic wisdoms, through breathwork and holding mudras. This creates spaciousness and encourages slowness, whether we are holding space online or in person.” She adds: “We welcome crying and all the ways humans express emotion.”

–– Dr. Morwan Osman hosting a photography workshop

How the status quo of funding fails grassroots groups

One of the biggest challenges facing groups such as YARC is the lack of long-term funding that allows them to grow. Kate emphasized the importance of longer-term support: “For small groups like ours, longer-term funding is crucial. It’s rare to have an opportunity like this. This gives us the context to step back, breathe, and develop a strategy for change-making—to ask how we can truly embody our values.”

The problem with bigger funding bodies is too much emphasis on regulations and bureaucratic procedures, which “makes it harder for those who need it the most to benefit. Applying for grants often involves long processes, multiple interviews, references, and legal charity statuses. This cuts out harder-to-reach groups from applying.”

“We're a niche group of many intersections,” Kate continued. “Most of our members are queer, and many are disabled or neurodiverse. We benefit from not being institutional. That goes against what we're about—we are grassroots and radical.”

Part of what Kate appreciated most about The Supporting Act was the sense that YARC were encouraged to dream big, saying “We poured our heart into the application, which was more about an abstract process of imagination. We envisioned a world outside the realm of current reality—we want a bricks-and-mortar building, to grow food, and to establish a self-sustaining Global Majority economy in York. The jury saw this vision as resilience, a mark of hope and optimism. Our fever dream of an application was all we needed.”

Kate added: “So, to get an email saying, 'We trust you and your group,' was great. We need funding routes to be more simplified and accessible to reach grassroots groups.”

–– Kate McLaven

Turning radical thinking into action

More than a pipe dream, YARC’s mission reflects a shared vision of alternative economics being pursued by grassroots organizations across the world. 

During the conversation, Kate pointed to Yard Art House, a creative-led project and community asset that responds to the needs of the community, creating designated space for local artists, helping them to dream of radical futures.

She argued: “The way the world is going with climate and societal crises, we need to look through a lens of optimism in the face of despair. We’re picturing a community in York with a building that serves as a community hub and cultural space. We aim to sustain our own economy by selling food and art and hair supplies. Although we're far from that, we're having conversations about that space.”

“Prior to receiving the grant, we were struggling to make ends meet. But now we’ve been able to focus on paying people of colour fairly for their work. We had been volunteering a lot on top of our busy day jobs, which wasn’t sustainable. The grant is enabling paid work—to pay people of colour to do good work.”

Reflecting on the impact of the funding, Kate mentioned, “It has given us clarity on what is possible. We have become recognisable and visible, we have more hope in ourselves, and our vision. I really feel like this grant will help put us on the map.”

Kate concluded with a vision for sustainability: “In the long term, we need to consider what is sustainable. At YARC, we have immense respect for people who pull together movements, organize, and fight for policy change. But we are the activists who charge batteries. We are the kind of activists who are gentle but radical.”

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