Change is not a static process. It does not come with a manual. The actions listed below come from years of conversations between ethnically diverse, Asian and Black people working in the arts and creative sector. As our needs change over time, so will those conversations.
Below, you can read what the UK's ethnically diverse arts leaders and workforce agree are the current priorities for the sector. This is far from being an exhaustive list – rather, it is a set of guiding principles by which to effect change.
1. Introduce regular mandatory training in your places of work on racial equality, micro aggressions and cultural differences to ensure a safer environment.
Inc Arts’ charter is one example of this - and we are tailoring it to reflect different organisations. We See You WAT is a comprehensive list of anti-racist actions for theatres, which also has guidance on training.
But before you do anything else...
2. Prioritise rescue package funding to organisations that can demonstrate a minimum of 15% ethnic diversity in their operations and activity.
Prioritise ethnically diverse project-funded organisations: these are the hardest hit, and most at risk.
Project-funded organisations have high numbers of freelancers, who have been disproportionately affected by the impact of COVID-19. The great work produced by these artists make our venues what they are - bringing in audiences, and building arts engagement in local communities. Therefore, we recommend that funding is prioritised for ethnically diverse freelancers and project-funded organisations that are leading the way in community engagement, artist development and audience building.
3. Prioritise the retention of existing diverse staff, and the employment of diverse freelancers in the arts workforce. Advocate for amendment to the Equalities Act.
The diversity gains made in the arts in recent years have been largely down to new entrants to the sector. If we lose diversity in the workforce now, we lose our future talent pipeline. Furthermore, if we lose ethnically diverse staff and freelancers who are not new to the sector, we will create a skills deficit that will take years to rebuild.
The UK’s population is increasingly diverse: lose ethnicity and we consign our industry to history.
Section 159 of the Equality Act allows employers to take active steps to increase the ethnic diversity of their workforce. At the moment this does not explicitly refer to considerations of ethnic diversity in redundancy decisions, or dismissals. If you want to be an active ally for change, consider how you can take steps to ensure your organisation doesn’t lose the gains made in recent years.
4. Ensure the UK's top 50 arts organisations (those with the biggest annual turnover) have 30% ethnically diverse leadership by 2025.
Embed diversity as a condition of funding for all publicly funded arts institution in the next National Portfolio round of funding.
Impose 15% diversity across all arts institutions by the end of 2022.
The UK's largest arts organisations are in the most ethnically diverse regions. There is no excuse for the current lack of representation. Our creative leaders have been working in the UK for many decades. Dismantle the prejudices which have prevented their rise.
The last UK census in 2011 told us 13% of the UK was ethnically diverse. The UK’s ethnically diverse population is growing at a faster rate than those who describe themselves on the Census as ‘white’.
The UK's most heavily populated towns and cities are also the most diverse:
Our arts funding is concentrated in areas of high population density. That’s why we believe 15% diversity across our arts institutions is both feasible and necessary.
This diversity is required across workforce, audience and programming.
5. To build diversity across all areas of arts businesses: for cultural organisations to allocate a percentage of each budget line to an active diversity intervention, including all areas of business practice, management and governance.
Even small organisations can prioritise engagement with ethnically diverse freelancers. From artists to contractors, conscious procurement is within your gift.
6. Impose sanctions on non-diverse organisations which have less than 15% of ethnic diversity in their workforce and programming - with immediate effect.
Our funding bodies have continued to fund organisations which have reported low engagement with ethnic diversity. These organisations are funded by our taxes and national lottery funding. The latter is an income stream based on the contributions of people typically under-represented in the arts workforce – both ethnically diverse, and socio-economically disadvantaged. If they do not represent us, they should not be funded by us.
Work with us to make change happen.
No more 'good intention' without action. No more uncertainty about what to do, or how to do it. We See You WAT.com has created the most comprehensive set of demands to create lasting anti-racist change in our sector. It's been designed for American theatres, and American audiences, but it is a great starting point for everyone in the UK too. Use this guide to reflect on what could work for the UK, to create your own roadmap. ADAPT THIS FOR YOUR WORKPLACE: the demands are applicable to every cultural practice.
Here is a simple, automated way to write to your MP. You can find a sample letter to send to your local MP here; just copy the text, add your own comments if you want to, and add your details, making clear you are in their constituency.