Have you heard about the Big Zoom? This is an online space to meet other ethnically diverse people who work in the arts in the UK. Whether you're a writer, performer, graphic designer, outreach officer: whether you work in media, advertising the performance arts or heritage - wherever you are in the sector, at whatever level: now is the time for us to come together. To look at each other, to share our experiences, to celebrate and build our networks and connections. Join us for the UK's biggest gathering of the UK's ethnically diverse arts workers. Get in touch if you'd like to hear more! mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocating for ethnically diverse people and organisations in the arts sector is at the heart of what we do. Below, you can read our submission to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry, Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors.
About Inc Arts
Inc Arts champions the creative, economic and contractual rights of the UK’s Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts workforce. Inc Arts is a collective voice representing organisations, membership groups and individuals working in performance arts, heritage, combined, circus and visual arts. Its recommendations are the result of consultation and peer review with its Black, Asian and ethnically diverse membership.
Under-representation of ethnically diverse people in the arts
· BME applicants for Arts Council England (ACE) funding are three times more likely to have their applications rejected at the first round
· There are no Black, Asian or ethnically diverse leaders in the UK’s top 20 funded arts organisations
· 92% of ACE-funded organisations are white-led
· 15% of the freelance workforce are from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse heritage
· BME staff are frequently found in roles supporting audience diversity and engagement – but are less frequently found in roles that progress to leadership positions.
Despite this under-representation at national level, and the challenges faced in securing funding, diverse representation in the workforce leads to wider social, educational, cultural and economic benefit
Black, Asian and ethnically diverse individuals and organisations play a critical and irreplaceable role in delivering Arts Council England (ACE)’s Creative Case for Diversity. ACE’s 10-year strategy rests on the sector’s ability to engage with local and diverse communities. Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts individuals and organisations have high and sustained existing engagement with local and diverse communities.
· Ethnically diverse organisations build more diverse teams, reporting higher levels of diverse staff where there is diverse leadership.
· The ethnically diverse arts workforce creates valuable diverse capacity in non-diverse organisations, Larger organisations get significant and valuable engagement with diverse audiences when they engage with ethnically diverse arts practitioners – many of whom are freelance (e.g. Barber Shop Chronicles for the National Theatre brought in the highest proportion of ethnically diverse audience since their audience data records began).
· Ethnically diverse organisations build community engagement with culture: 25% of the sector’s Black workforce are found in learning, development and outreach roles.
· Ethnically diverse organisations are responsible for a significant proportion of community engagement, training and development for larger, venues based arts organisations. Example: in addition to their professional performance work, Beyond Face Theatre Company in Plymouth trains young adult performers.
· Ethnically diverse creators contribute to the rich ecology of the UK’s global success in film and drama production – many of whom build their skills in the live performance and visual arts sector.
From the global film success of Royal Academician Steve McQueen to Michaela Cole’s TV productions, Black writers, artists and makers have honed their craft in the cultural and creative performance and visual arts sector prior to their contributions to the UK’s media industry.
· Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts leadership is contributing significantly to the continued growth in original production, that is in turn supporting a growth in the diverse talent pipeline across all art forms.
Diverse arts workers play an invaluable role in delivering the UK’s arts education, community cohesion and redressing social isolation.
· Ethnically diverse practitioners are most frequently found in non-venue based arts, working with local communities – many of whom have remained operational during lockdown, serving their communities through arts strategies supporting those most at risk of social isolation, poor mental health and in vulnerable communities.
· Diverse workforce not engaged in programme production are most commonly found in learning and development roles. They play a vital part in building civic engagement and arts education.
Immediate impact of Covid-19 on the sector for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts workers
Inc Arts research suggests 17% of the creative sector’s freelance workforce are from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, 42% of creative freelancers predicted an annual decrease of more than 75% of their income during 2020, and 63% of creative organisations predicted a decrease in turnover of more than 50%. 28% of arts businesses surveyed in May anticipated having to make redundancies in the coming months.
SEISS has provided much-needed income for freelance workers with demonstrable work histories; it has also provided temporary financial security for those Black, Asian and ethnically diverse staff in lower paid jobs within the sector.
Whilst it’s not clear why Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff are more at risk of death from coronavirus infection, furloughing may have protected the lives of ethnically diverse arts workers by closing their places of work.
Support provided by DCMS and other government and arms-length bodies
Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales’ response has been warmly welcomed by disadvantaged communities, in particular their prioritisation of under-represented applicants for emergency funding. This prioritisation has been much appreciated.
We welcome the Chancellor’s measures introduced to facilitate a return to work, including the extension to the Job Retention Scheme through to October, and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. We also welcome the Discretionary Fund to ensure funding reaches those most in need. We recognise that trade and sub-sector bodies are devising tailored guidelines for employers and workers to facilitate return to work.
Likely long-term impacts of Covid-19 on the sector? What is needed to deal with this?
Surveys conducted by black arts organisations with strong and diverse audience engagement suggest that diverse communities have high levels of anxiety around returning to venues-based arts activities.
Government can build public and workforce confidence amongst ethnically diverse communities, by extending the proposed impact assessments for disabled people, to include those from vulnerable communities most at risk of death from coronavirus.
Diverse arts organisations from under-represented communities face additional challenges in securing both financial and workforce resource, and they face additional risk to health if a return to work is not fully supported through impact assessment and equipment provision; this is particularly acute for those which work with disadvantaged communities.
Lessons to be learned from how DCMS, arms-length bodies and the sector have dealt with Covid-19
We welcome Arts Council England’s prioritisation of emergency funding for under-represented and disadvantaged groups and individuals.
Diverse-led organisations are typically the least likely of all applicants to be awarded Arts Council England (ACE) project grants funding at first application. However they have a vital role to play in building confidence in arts engagement amongst disadvantaged and under-represented communities.
These organisations would benefit from funding that recognises and mitigates for the additional challenges they face, and which is granted as an uplift on secured Arts Council funding.
Government could assist further by identifying funding that is specifically committed to ensuring the sector retains and builds its diverse representation, through building the resilience of diverse-led organisations.
How might the sector evolve after Covid-19?
Redundancy creates the risk of creating further inequality in the arts sector workforce.
The cutting of casual jobs risks losing the diversity within the arts sector, but also threatens to reinforce an already inequitable likelihood of long-term unemployment amongst the UK’s diverse workforce. Surveys of Inc Arts membership suggests that those most likely to be affected by redundancy are younger workforce members, and those in public-facing roles (e.g Front of House staff).
There is the potential for significant long-term impact, and could lead to a loss in the talent and diverse workforce pipeline.
Anecdotal evidence from arts leaders when questioned about redundancy in June include,
“At this stage Front of house/hospitality are likely to be most affected,” and “External freelancer positions - PR / Fundraising consultancy. Within the organisation we are at the minimum size.”
Long term impact of redundancy: loss of education, community engagement and health arts activity
The sector is already under-representative of the UK’s diversity. If the sector loses diverse staff from public-facing and public engagement roles, it will have a long-term impact on the audiences engaging with arts output. This will include community arts, educational arts engagement, and health and wellbeing arts activity – all of which have higher representation of diverse workforce.
Redundancy threatens investment in training, and creative innovation
Larger organisations who would normally engage in new programming provision with diverse freelancers may choose to save costs by reviving non-diverse work. This threatens the creative ecology of diverse arts organisations.
The work of non-theatre artists span a wide body of work, from touring, professional development, outdoor arts engagement as well as venues based arts delivery, education and community arts.
As a result their community and audience engagement is mediated by larger, venues-based partners, despite being responsible for the significant and demonstrable impact on engaging diverse audiences in each space, including the transformation of the workforce through providing training and development, and providing long-term support and investment in upcoming artists.
We urge government to recognise that, as larger organisations shift their business focus on demonstrating the social benefit value to the UK’s civic and economic cohesion, the work of Asian, Black and ethnically diverse organisations is already experienced and practiced in this delivery. There are significant efficiencies to be had, should government prioritise smaller organisations already practiced at delivering social benefit through their work with diverse communities.
Ethnically diverse workers are less likely to be found in leadership positions, and freelance diverse workers are most highly represented in entry-level roles(industry apprenticeships to diversify the sector), public-facing, casual staff roles (e.g. Front of House staff) and freelance project delivery roles (e.g. community engagement projects).
Redundancies typically threaten those roles which are not ‘core’ to creative production. There is a real and apparent risk of losing the gains made in diversifying the sector, if redundancy decisions do not have embedded in business policy and government guidance a need to build a workforce that is equitable and representative of the UK’s demographic makeup.
Arts venues based in large and diverse communities (e.g. all of those operating in London and the South East) must make as a condition of their continuation the need to reflect the diverse makeup of the region and capital.
Risk of premature return to work
Public Health England has confirmed that whilst the cause of increased risk is unknown, factors influencing the higher likelihood of death may be a result of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse workforce living in multi-generational households, and in overcrowded conditions.
The premature return to work by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse staff may lead to increased fatalities amongst ethnically diverse communities.
Because the diverse workforce is found in lower-paid, casual roles, financial need may force ethnically diverse staff to prematurely risk return to work.
The diverse workforce is commonly providing community-based arts. A premature return to work may risk infection within other vulnerable groups (marginalised communities that community arts workers engage with).
A loss of diverse workforce due to coronavirus could lead to long-term absence of diversity in the UK arts workforce, and in public engagement with the arts.
The diverse arts workforce faces the combined disadvantage of
· Low income
· Vulnerability of job role
· Increased health risk – and risk of spreading infection
The diverse workforce does the vital job of supporting
· Positive health outcomes through arts activity
· Learning engagement through arts
· Diverse communities’ participation in cultural output, through community engagement.
Our recommendations are on the following page.
Recent events in the Black Lives Matters campaign has reinforced the disparities experienced by Black communities. Asian, Black, and ethnically diverse staff require additional support and consideration to ensure a safe return to work, and to avoid falling out of the employment market.
It is vital that government play a sustained and active role in dismantling the systemic racism that has adversely affected ethnically diverse people in the arts sector and elsewhere.
To ensure the continued diverse growth of the UK’s creative industries, Inc Arts recommends:
1. Mandatory Impact Assessment for employers to be extended: to include vulnerable groups (Black and Asian workforce) as well as disabled people.
2. A ‘local first’ approach to funding, to activate local economies, public confidence and support national health and wellbeing. Ring-fenced priority should be given to organisations already experienced in delivering arts engagement to marginalised and vulnerable local communities, who can already demonstrate their social benefit value.
3. An extended furlough ‘grace period’ for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse arts to ensure a return to work that supports their mental and physical health.
4. Ensure diversity is considered ‘business critical’. Prioritise financial support to arts organisations that can demonstrate their continued engagement with diverse audiences, through sustaining a diverse workforce from board membership, senior management and throughout all levels of the skill and role.
We recommend government make it a condition of funding that the permanent workforce of arts venues based in large and diverse communities (e.g. all of those operating in London and the South East) adequately reflect the diverse makeup of the region and capital by 2023.
5. Government make available targeted grants ring-fenced for organisations, to support a safe return to work for diverse SMEs and Individuals.
Diverse-led organisations, and those with a demonstrable track record in strong engagement with diverse communities to receive additional funding to support their business infrastructure, in recognition of the additional challenges they face, and which is granted as an uplift on any secured Arts Council funding.
6. Ensure UK Research and Investment supporting digital engagement with customers and visitors to target those without the means to invest in equipment.
 Inc Arts is using the term ‘BME’ in recognition of government’s use of existing terminology to refer to people of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse heritage. We are campaigning to abolish the use of the acronyms ‘BME’ and ‘BAME’.
 Inc Arts research, Career Progression in the Arts, May 2020
 Inc Arts survey, Career Progression in the Arts Sector Workforce, May 2020
 Creative Industries Federation survey May 2020
Plus appearances on Radio 1Xtra, Times Radio and BBC Radio Merseyside.
Imagine a scheme where we can give freelancers paid work, get furloughed staff working again, and build diversity and resilience for both large and small NPOs. Too good to be true? The goodwill and support is already there. All it needs is a little help…
The last few weeks has led to an incredible level of retrenching, with leaders understandably turning to friends and allies as conversations moved from the shock zone, into full on crisis management, and further. Now we’re into the tentative world of reimagining.
But something else has happened too. While we still have unacceptable levels of digital inequality, those thousands of virtual meetings have demonstrated two things. The first is that if we invest in those who are disadvantaged, we can work much more inclusively across regions, and across ability. The second is that conversations are stronger when it’s not the same people repeating themselves.
Only been black for a week?
There’s a wry pandemic related joke that’s doing the rounds which goes like this:
‘All of you worried about paying bills, police controlling you, buying food, losing your job – relax, you’ve only been black for about a week now’
Our sector is no different from anywhere else in the world: where we failed at first to protect the most vulnerable, we’re now playing catch up with our conscience – and it could help ensure our survival.
It’s estimated that 70% of the arts workforce is freelance.
And it’s in freelance roles that you’ll find most diversity in the sector. Many of those with protected characteristics or who are working class are working at the margins: on temporary contracts, often working in areas pertinent to their lived experience, whether it’s disability, sexuality, gender or ethnicity.
Imagine the impossible? ask a freelancer
Diverse freelancers are already agile, responsive, resourceful. Their skills are at a premium now. They routinely break with conventions and deliver with imagination, because scarcity of resource is their norm – whether it’s a lack of venue, budget or staffing resource, if you want to know how to do different, ask a freelancer!
The power of interdependency
While our larger venues have furloughed employees who would love to be working and using their skills, those organisations also have a need to rethink what they do, and how they do it. They need fresh thinking on how to serve arts audiences in an age of social distancing, and significantly reduced budgets. And the most progressive leaders are casting their nets wide to hear ideas from the margins.
Intersectional arts workers who are not freelance are most often found in smaller organisations, working with already stretched budgets, and managing multiple responsibilities. I’ve lost track of the number of diverse arts leaders who have said to me, ‘furlough? We have far too much work to furlough anyone, we need help’. What diverse-led organisations need are extra hands to make their organisations to survive – they’re already resourceful, what they need is additional capacity.
A furloughed skills exchange programme
Imagine the power of a skills exchange programme, where government provides funding to pay freelance staff to work during lockdown in organisations, backfilling vital furloughed roles. Those freelancers could bring to the roles new thinking and creativity, creating innovative ways to work with audiences. In return they’d enjoy an unprecedented investment in their skills development in a way that’s safe, supported and which could help them to secure future roles.
In such a skills exchange programme, staff who are currently furloughed (and who have their roles back filled by freelance staff) could then volunteer to work in smaller diverse-led organisations which are currently not furloughed, and are overwhelmed by workload. This would build organisational resilience and create exciting new connections, across artform, across expertise, and across lived experience, sowing the seeds for future collaborations and possibly helping those organisations survive. Arts Development Agency in Devon is already trialling a local version of this idea, and have helped Inc Arts to shape a proposal that’s also attracting interest from larger arts organisations. .
Credit where it’s due
Just before the pandemic took hold, Inc Arts brought together the most diverse gathering of arts workers that many of us had ever seen in the same room: 50 people from all artistic disciplines, at all levels of seniority, and across a broad range of arts roles. The energy in the room was off the scale: non-binary, neurodivergent visual artists swapped ideas and notes with older BAME disabled theatre producers. Together, we represented every protected characteristic and class; we marvelled at, and celebrated our collective breadth of perspective and experience.
We came together in a workshop to ask, ‘how can we help to make our workplaces as collaborative and as inclusive as this gathering?’.
We’ve lots of outcomes we’ll share in the coming weeks, but what's relevant right now is this:
those under-represented across much of the arts have the greatest ideas that will serve us in the months and years to come. They are perfectly placed to support our immediate futures.
What the workshop also made clear was the need for those under-represented voices to have ownership, acknowledgement and agency. One attendant summed it up for everyone when they said, ‘when we have a great idea, let us develop it, and lead it’. Already disadvantaged, it’s even more important for intersectional staff to be given the space to own, develop and deliver creative solutions.
There’s never been a clearer articulation of our interdependency – and it’s being played out at international, national, local, and sector levels.
It’s a great time to try something different. The furlough exchange proposal is an interim measure that could have lasting legacy, building greater inclusion in the sector. If you like it, let others know:
if your organisation is interested in taking part contact email@example.com. We’d be delighted to hear from you to help make it happen.
Important conversations are happening that will shape the future of the arts after the coronavirus pandemic. Now's the time to add your experience to ensure that future includes you.
Now more than ever we need to make sure diverse voices are heard in rebuilding the arts sector.
63% of creative organisations predict a decrease in annual turnover of more than 50% by the end of 2020.
When budgets are depressed and rebuilding is hard, it’s even more important to stand fast to our collective commitment to creating a more inclusive sector.
This pandemic has shown that in all aspects of life, casualties often fall heaviest on those at disadvantage.
The sector is taking its first steps in trying to work out what the future holds. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to rethink and transform.
The best way to build a diverse sector is by working from the perspective of those inclusive workers – who are at the margins, who want to commit and progress in a transformed future.
Share your experiences of your career in the arts. Tell us about the things that have helped, the moments that haven’t. The blocks you keep coming up against, the assumptions, the solutions you have to offer, ideas that you’d love to share.
Here’s your chance to influence what we do together to make a new future that looks like the nation.
Enough of the Talk: Let’s Take Action
Come and help shape the Manifesto for Inclusion in the Arts Sector
February 20, 2020 Somerset House, London 12:00 – 16:00 Free to attend
· Inclusion, diversity and equality touches your life
· You love the arts and cultural sector, but hate the inequalities you see and experience
· You’re ready for change – and want to help articulate it
Come to the arts sector’s first inclusive, all-art form workshop for workers with lived experience - to shape and lead the change we want to see.. Everyone welcome, especially those working in the creative and cultural sector, and at all levels of working experience. Our focus is on the workforce teams, not on audience engagement or creative production.
This workshop will be collaborative. Non-confrontational. Inclusive
This free event is for us to come together – across art forms, heritage and culture, from diverse intersectional experience, to workshop ideas that will become our manifesto for change: the changes we want to see from the sector. Join us on February 20.