Nottingham Castle Trust’s board has issued a further response to a formal complaint made by seven former and current staff of colour last week.
In the complaint, the Staff of Colour Collective criticised the board’s “poor handling” of an alleged racist hate crime at the heritage site in August and said its failings had led to an “atmosphere of fear” among employees of colour.
In a response published today, the board of trustees said: “The board continues to be upset and concerned about the recent allegations made public on social media and in the press. We have chosen to act responsibly and to not enter a public discussion. We have tried to observe the proper protocol for matters under investigation and to allow legal processes to take their course, but we feel that these processes are potentially being undermined. We have therefore decided that it [is] best that we provide some response to demonstrate that we take these allegations seriously and are taking action.
“First, we would like to respond to the reported hate crime on 17 August 2021. It is reported that an event took place, on our grounds, between two families. It did not involve any castle staff and was not witnessed by them. It was reported to the police by the castle team that day and we are awaiting the conclusion of the police investigation.
“We then received a complaint alleging that our staff had not sufficiently supported one of the families. We take such complaints seriously as we have a duty of care to both our customers and staff. An independent investigator has been appointed to investigate the complaint. The independent investigator is a diversity, equality and inclusion specialist.
“The trustees want to make it absolutely clear that they abhor any form of discrimination, hate crime and abuse – and racism will not be tolerated on our premises.
“We recognise that this reported hate crime caused considerable upset for staff. The castle is not a place where staff or visitors should feel unsafe. Our objective in appointing an independent investigator is that they will be able to establish the facts and make any recommendations. The trust’s interim chief executive and human resources consultant are eager to speak with staff. This has been challenging due to emails being sent anonymously. The trustees have also offered to meet staff – and have repeated this offer in a formal letter to them. We are disappointed that this offer has not been accepted but we are hopeful that staff will come forward so we can hear what they have to say.
“The trust is also concerned about the allegations surrounding the dismissal of its former CEO. Various allegations, including bullying and harassment, were claims made in an application dismissed by the employment tribunals in a judgment, issued on 26 September 2021, following an interim hearing brought by the former CEO against the trust.
“The trust has now agreed to appoint an external senior counsel to investigate the various claims made by our former CEO. We are fully confident that this investigation will exonerate the trust, but we are nevertheless expecting and welcome any recommendations or lessons to be learned.
“Despite Covid restrictions, the number of visitors over the summer months after the castle reopened on 21 June 2021 speak for themselves. The trustees recognise the hard work our passionate staff have put into creating an enjoyable visitor experience. We strongly believe that individually and as teams, that they should be incredibly proud of their contribution. A great deal rides on the success of the castle as a visitor attraction but also how it contributes to the resuscitation of the local economy. Our staff are ambassadors not only of the castle but of this wonderful city.
“The trustees have been subject to a regrettable trial by social and other media, despite the huge achievement in bringing the scheme to fruition during a period of financial stringency and the Covid restrictions.
“An important point to note is that the board of the trust will naturally change over the next few years as the terms of office of existing trustees come to an end. We will also be shortly advertising for additional trustees to help us lead the next phase in the castle’s 1,000-year history – a history that brings world class culture, art, exhibitions, entertainment and leisure to the people of Nottingham and visitors to the city.
“This has been a long journey taking more than 10 years, delivered with support from Nottingham City Council, National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Arts Council [England] and our generous funders without whom this transformation would not have been possible. We are extremely grateful for their investment together with the contribution of so many people from all walks of life, backgrounds and perspectives.
“We will not be entering into any further discourse about any of these matters while they are subject to a police investigation, the independent investigations we have commissioned and the ongoing employment tribunal proceedings. We ask the public to allow these investigations and legal process to proceed without further comment or speculation to ensure fairness is afforded to all those concerned.”
The Staff of Colour Collective has been contacted for comment.