DIVERSITY (AGAIN)

According to Arts Professional, London’s creative sector “has failed to diversify its workforce”, with a report (Culture Club by think tank Centre for London) claiming 16% of employees in music, performing and visual arts come from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background compared to 36% of the general London workforce (according to the ONS Annual Population Survey 2018). This was the worst proportion of BAME employees of any sector in the creative industries, with the other areas surveyed including design; film, TV, video, radio and photography; and museums, galleries and libraries. The report also says that working class employees make up 18% of the music, performing and visual arts sector, compared to 35% of the general UK population.

There are a few things one can say about the above statistics. The obvious one of course is that old adage: “Lies, more lies and statistics” i.e. you can make statistics say anything at all. Which of course is true. If 36% of all the people working in London (apparently) are “BAME” (not my choice of word) should the workforce in music and theatre be the same? Why? Most music is undertaken at home. And how do you define “working in the performing arts”? A huge percentage of people in the performing arts are not actually working in the performing arts as a profession, it is often a secondary past-time / occupation. And again done from home. Or somebody else’s home.

The other issue of course is age. Apparently, in the report, Centre for London has made three recommendations for employers to level the playing field for “young” people entering the industry. Why only “young” people? A workforce consists of people of all ages. The recommendations (below) are fine but they should apply to all ages, genres, ethnicities etc:

  1. Pay interns at least the national minimum wage, or the London Living Wage for larger organisations
  2. Work with educational institutions to develop a formal city-wide mentoring programme
  3. Amend recruitment practices to prioritise creative talent and potential rather than focusing on academic achievement.

As regards number 1, if interns are paid the minimum wage they are employees. Why call them interns? Not that anyone living in London can live on the minimum / living wage. Opportunities will still only be open to those with the means (and parents / partners) to support them.

Number 2 is fine as it is; learning from those in the profession is good..

And number 3 has recently been mentioned in another report and is of course basic common sense and so obvious should it really be a recommendation at all? Achieving academic qualifications mean you can work academically. Does this mean you have “creative talent and potential”? Case proven.

Reports with stats are all very well but I can’t help but feel the cause of a given problem is too often foregone in favour of mentioning and/or highlighting symptoms. Perhaps if we are spending that much money on creating reports we should really be treating the cause of a problem and most of that is because we have a political system that allows these symptoms to propagate and flourish. Now if there was an answer to that…….

Photo – Camden Roundhouse was cited in the report as a positive example of an organisation that broadens young people’s access to culture. Photo: Will Pearson

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