Time for change… In response to the latest ACE Diversity Report

Discussion

Reading the latest Diversity Report from Arts Council England I had mixed feelings; pride on one hand and disappointment on the other.

Drake Music is one of a small percentage of organisations rated as ‘Outstanding’ in respect of the Creative Case for Diversity. I am enormously pleased and proud to see that as it reflects an active choice on our part to direct time, effort and resources towards making our organisation representative of the communities we serve. I want to thank our team, associates and the wider Drake Music community for that.

Diversity as an Active Choice

This choice has played out across every aspect of our work; from developing an ongoing programme to train Disabled musicians to be music leaders, to rethinking the layout of our office to ensure it is fully accessible, to recruiting three Disabled artists-in-residence to join the staff team.

One of the biggest challenges and changes has been in diversifying our board of trustees. The outgoing board, the DM team and I worked to develop the ways we recruited and the language we used to describe our organisation and the roles. We reached out, sought advice, welcomed different perspectives and built relationships. We put information out in new ways and in new places. We changed things and we saw a change as a result.

We are now proud to say we are (at last…) a Disabled-led organisation, for the first time in our history.

Our road ahead

But when I look at our organisation and read that ACE report I don’t feel like we can rest easy, or that we’ve come to the end of that journey.

While we have a good record on gender, LGBTQ+ and disability, we still have work to do to make sure our board, team and programmes are much more representative of the different ethnic backgrounds of our communities, and of society as a whole. This is something I feel keenly and which we are starting to actively address – we know we have a long road ahead of examining what we do and how we do it in order to make deep and lasting change and we are taking our first steps.

Disabled people uder-represented across the arts

Reading through the detailed data released by ACE also leaves me with a sense of frustration and disappointment at the continuing under-representation of Disabled people in the arts.

The figures for the protected characteristics show that there is work to be done, but disability lags most significantly.

From p11 in the ACE Diversity Report:

The total percentage figures for the National Portfolio workforce show BME at 11%, Female at 47%, Disabled people at 6% and LGBT at 6%.

These compare to the Office of National Statistics for the percentage of the working age population in England: BME 16%, Female 50%, Disabled people 21% and LGBT 2%.

The figures above show a 15% disability employment gap between the National Portfolio workforce and the working age population.

Disabled people continue to be hugely under-represented in the arts – their voices, expertise and experiences are not at the heart of the arts ecology and our culture is the poorer for it. I am sure we can do better – representation matters! I invite you to read Nicola Miles-Wildin’s recent article in the Stage which discusses this further.

It’s time for change. Time for active work towards better representation. Not just for the next few years, but for a better, just, open and equal society.

Further Reading

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