Number of BAME arts workers must improve, says Arts Council report

Black and minority ethnic people make up 17% of English arts workforce and disabled people account for 4%, report finds

The proportion of black and minority ethnic people working in England’s subsidised arts and museums sector is increasing but more needs to be done to improve representation and employment of the disabled, a new report says.

The conclusions are made in the second annual diversity report released on Monday by Arts Council England (ACE), and it presents a decidedly mixed picture. The proportion of black and minority ethnic (BME) people in the arts and museum workforce is going up, but the disabled workforce remains strikingly low. In terms of people enjoying the arts and museums, low income, BME and disabled audiences “continue to be underrepresented.”

An advance copy of a speech to be given in Manchester by ACE’s chief executive Darren Henley says: “For many children who have disabilities, who come from minority ethnic communities or from the least prosperous parts of our society, the arts still aren’t a part of life. I want us to do more to make sure that all children, no matter what their background, get involved in the arts.”

The report shows that 17% of the workforce in England’s 663 national portfolio organisations is BME. That is an increase on a figure last year of 13.9% and higher than the wider working population average of 15%. For major partner museums, the BME workforce is 7%, up from 2.3% in the last data.

Disabled people make up 4% of the workforce in NPOs – a long way off the figure of 19% in the working population who have a disability. In museums, the figure has gone down from 7.5% to 4%.

ACE’s diversity director, Abid Hussain, said more work needed to be done on the disabled issue and a report was due in the new year on the subject.

The diversity report comes following a week in which it emerged that the former deputy chief executive of ACE, Althea Efunshile, a black woman, was blocked from becoming a non-executive director of Channel 4 by the culture secretary Karen Bradley. It means Channel 4’s board is all-white.

Althea Efunshile
Althea Efunshile Photograph: Phillipa Gedge / Arts Council

The Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case 2015/16 report also follows a theatre diversity report commissioned by Andrew Lloyd Webber which warned that theatre risked being sidelined unless it better tackled the diversity issue. That report was welcomed by Hussain and by the actors’ union Equity.

The unionhad one quibble with the suggestion that commercial producers could not find enough black talent. “It is well documented that BAME performers from the UK are seeking work in the US due to the lack of opportunities at home.”

Hussain said the report was a blizzard of figures and, from them, change may comeadding: “It is about accountability and transparency. We need to be very open with the data we have. It is then, what does the data tell you? How do you use it to transform your policymaking?”

Some of the most pored over statistics will be those relating to every ACE-funded NPO and major museum with more than 50 staff.

Data published for the first time last year really “captured people’s imagination,” said Hussain and led to direct action. For example Hull Truck Theatre, which was listed as a 100% white workforce, and Sheffield Theatres, listed as 97%, entered the ACE’s new Change Makers programme supporting BME and disabled leaders.

The organisations listed this year as having 100% white permanent staff are Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Cheltenham Festivals, whle a 99% figure is recorded by York Museums Trust, Ironbridge Gorge Museum, the De La Warr Pavilion and Colchester Mercury Theatre.

The statistics are deliberately presented without commentary, leaving it up to readers of the report to interpret them.

The Southbank Centre in London has figures showing a workforce which is 56% women , 44% men, 75% white, 16% BME and 1% disabled.

National Theatre London
Arts Council England found the National Theatre workforce to be 10% BME and 3% disabled. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

It is one of the four arts organisations in the portfolio which get the most public money. The others are the Royal Opera House, which has a 50-50 gender split with 83% white, 7% BME and 1% disabled; the National Theatre, which has 51-49 women to men, 78% white, 10% BME and 3% disabled; and the Royal Shakespeare Company, which has 57-43 women to men, 72% white, 8% BME and 2% disabled.

Hussain said the figures needed to be looked at through a number of lenses, including geography, but that the most important lesson was that organisations should take some action: “The key thing with the data is once you have it, you can do something in response to it.”

Publicly subsidised arts organisations were told two years ago that diversity had to be a central part of their operations, in terms of audience and workforce, or they would face having their funding axed.

The report also includes new diversity data on leadership which reveals that women, and people who identified as BME or disabled, are underrepresented in boards and senior roles in arts and culture. It shows that 8% of chief executives, 10% of artistic directors and 9% of chairs are black, while 5% of chief executives, artistic directors and chairs have a disability.

Although well over half of the sector workforce is female, percentages are lower in the most senior positions: 43% of chief executives, 28% of artistic directors and 32% of chairs are women.


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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