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Arts Council England - Opening up to inclusion

Category: disability, Equality in the workplace, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, equality, performing arts, Arts Council England, Arts, Ethnicity, Disability Awareness, Disability and Neurodiversity, Ethnic Diversity, Ethnic Inclusion, Ethnic Minority, Disabilities, Arts council, Art and Design, Music Artist, disability at work, Arts and culture, Art

Diversity and Inclusion

Today sees the publication of Arts Council England’s Diversity Report 2019/20. A snapshot of how representative our sector was in the twelve months up to April 2020.

 KARST Youth Hip Hop Yoga Cypher looking up at images in a gallery

That month lay between two key moments that led everyone to re-examine what it meant to be inclusive, including the cultural sector.  The murder of George Floyd, in May, started conversations about how those of Black, Asian, and Ethnically Diverse backgrounds are treated, not just in the United States, but here too. In March, millions of people were asked to shield, schools closed and working from home became the norm. The negative impact of the pandemic on disabled people, women, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds quickly became apparent.  So, as our sector starts to reset, we must make inclusivity a priority, making sure no-one is excluded as the doors to our creative and cultural venues reopen. This is a good moment to remind ourselves of the Seven Inclusive Principles for reopening from the UK Disability Arts Alliance and widely endorsed by our sector last year. 

Our Diversity Report shows more needs to be done to create opportunity and fairness for people from all backgrounds across the cultural sector. Not only in leadership and governance but among the wider workforce. That’s true in terms of Ethnicity, Disability, socio economic class, and, in some areas of leadership, for Gender too. The data shows a slight improvement from the previous year. But clearly more change is needed in how we attract, recruit, and develop those from all backgrounds and all parts of England.

This month is one of stark contrasts. It marks the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. A time for reflection and sadness on that terrible crime. There is also a moment for cautious hope as our sector begins to emerge from the latest lockdown, with the possibility of a more inclusive future.

Performer at  Festival of Thrive

© Festival of Thrift Tracy Kidd

The focus of the creative and cultural organisations we support should be on how they can reflect the communities they work in. Particularly those communities in England that are currently underserved by publicly funded activity. It’s about fairness and looking for talent everywhere we can. Inclusion and Relevance is one of the four principles underpinning our investment and development work in our new strategy Let’s Create. I know those principles will help the recovery from the pandemic.  We have already started sharing resources to help organisations change and you can find a link to some of them here. We will continue to publish more over the summer, with plenty of inspiration and ideas of how to tackle systems and policies, and shift culture. 

Our commitment to inclusion and relevance applies to us at the Arts Council too.  This year we’ve increased the diversity of our leadership and workforce. We will continue to push on this until we represent the society we serve. And we are determined to make the Arts Council a great place for everyone to work, focusing on ways to make sure we are an inclusive employer.  We are also working with advisory groups on Race and Disability within our National and Area Councils. Ensuring that equity and diversity can improve our decision making. 

Production of Richard III, By William Shakespeare, close up of actors on stage

Production of Richard III directed by Barrie Rutter at Hull Truck Theatre in 2017 © Nobby Clark

The ambition of the work we enable people to create is important to us. That’s why I’m so proud that among the projects we’ve collaborated on during the pandemic is the Culture in Quarantine strand with the BBC - commissioning new work from D/deaf, neuro-divergent and disabled professional artists. There’ll soon be more news on the exciting pieces which were green lit, and you’ll be able to access them later this year on a range of platforms. We’ve also committed more than £2 million of further support to more than 40 organisations across England which were successful recipients of Elevate – our fund to support diverse led organisations become more resilient. These are two examples of our commitment to put fairness at the heart of what we do. 

As our sector starts to re-open and restart, we must be welcoming to everyone whatever their background and whichever part of England they live in. Making sure we are relevant and inclusive to all. I want Arts Council England to do everything it can to make that happen and - through that - bring ever increasing quality, dynamism and vibrancy to our nation’s creativity and culture. 

Read the report here.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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