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> > > Arts Council England announces £8.5m for diversity in the arts

On Monday 7th December 2015 Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England delivered a speech that followed up on the one he made a year ago outlining the Arts Council’s commitment to the Creative Case for Diversity at a special event held in Birmingham.

A photograph of Arts Council England Chair, Sir Peter Bazalgette

Sir Peter Bazalgette © Phillipa Gedge

This time, Bazalgette's speech was backed up with the publication of a report detailing the diversity data of the arts workforce and a crucial programme of new strategic funds, which following on from the Chancellor’s favourable Autumn statement for the arts, is very welcome news for the arts sector.

The full report, which is available here on the Arts Council’s website, divides the data analysis into four sections: ‘Workforce’, ‘Programming and Audiences’, ‘Access to Funding’, and ‘Our Workforce’.

Workforce data detailed a small increase in the number of disabled staff working in National Portfolio Organisation from 1.8% in 2012-13 to 1.9% in 2014-15, equating to 86 more disabled employees. Whilst we can hardly count this as a successful legacy from 2012, the Arts Council will surely improve these statistics over the next two years with the announcement of a new £2.6m fund called Change Makers which is aimed at addressing the lack of diversity in arts leadership by “funding long-term relationships between National Portfolio Organisations and aspiring arts leaders from the Black and minority ethnic and D/deaf and disabled communities”.

However, Bazalgette made the important point that “we currently don't know anything about the ethnicity, gender or disabled status of 20% of the workforce. One in five is simply ‘unknown,’” making it difficult for a full analysis in order to make vital decisions about where to allocate funding.

The success rate for disabled applicants to Grants for the Arts for 2014-15 was 50.6%, representing 4% of the total number of successful applicants. These applications were supported by an additional £50,000 supporting access for disabled applicants last year.

For audience data the Arts Council turns to the DCMS Taking Part survey which lacks holding publicly funded arts organisations to account for increasing participation. The only real Arts Council data referred to in the audiences section, isn’t actually about the audiences at all, reporting the number of accessible performances and exhibitions, which in percentage terms are still well below representative of the number of disabled people in England.

As part of the well-attended event, the audience (live and online) heard from representatives of organisations about what they are doing in relation to the Creative Case. The audience responded well to a speech by Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director of Tricycle Theatre who highlighted the importance of dialogue:

“I do not think for a moment there is any cultural leader who is not interested in diversity. There may be unconscious bias, there may be a lack of understanding and even know-how, but I see it as a responsibility to help and allow those discussions to happen without anger or outrage.” 

Perhaps the much needed injection of cash towards developing diversity in the arts will help this dialogue, move it forward and result in the change that people are desperate for. Details of the four funding streams announced are available on the Arts Council’s website.

Of particular note to disabled people working in the arts is a continuation of Unlimited with an increase in funding to £1.8m; a new fund called Elevate to “help strengthen the resilience of arts organisations which are not in receipt of National portfolio funding in the period 2015-18 but which demonstrate that they make a significant contribution to the Creative Case for Diversity”; and Change Makers.

Arts Council England are currently consulting on the definition and monitoring of ‘diverse-led’ organisations, have your say here

Watch Sir Peter Bazalgette's keynote speech in full below:


Penny Ledger

8 December 2015

I have met many creative people with disabilities who have had to give up "mainstream" employment but use their talents performing, exhibiting, running workshops, sound engineering, mentoring and organising at community events and festivals. It is important that events managers realise that accessibility must be for everyone, including backstage, and setting up. Often medical, welfare and access arrangement only open when visitors arrive and finish on the day they leave. This is partly the fault of the licensing system which tens to ignore the needs of crew on site even though they are at the greatest risk.

I have run accessible camping at many "green" festivals and worked at Glastonbury.

These festival jobs are very important to the people I know. Often it is the only way they can have a family holiday, meet like-minded people and be part of a team.