Arts should not be an 'exclusive club', says ACE chair

Arts should not be an 'exclusive club', says ACE chair

Arts Council England (ACE) is calling for the arts to be "an inclusive world ... not an exclusive club", as it marks the publication of its 2016-17 diversity report, Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case today (15th January). 

Sharing his keynote speech ahead of ACE's annual diversity event "Creative Case: leading diverse futures at Nottingham Playhouse" taking place today (15th January), chair Sir Nicholas Serota admitted the arts "have a problem" and said it is now "doubly vital" that it delivers on diversity.

According to ACE, the report published today shows that in comparison with the wider working age population, disabled people and those from a black and minority ethnic background  are under-represented across arts workforces and in leadership roles. However, Serota also said the UK's diverse population could help "change things".

"Our young, diverse population is a national asset - a multitude of perspectives, ideas, talent and creativity. But we have a problem. We are as a society depriving this young population of opportunity," said Serota.

"I want the arts to be an inclusive world; a building open to all. Not an exclusive club. Our mission to deliver on diversity is doubly vital. This report shows that where the Arts Council has direct influence, we can change things."

At today's event, Serota is due to highlight the progress made following the Arts Council's investment in a number of funding programmes aimed at improving diversity.

According to ACE, The Elevate programme committed £5.3 million to develop the work of 40 organisations that were then outside the National Portfolio, but which had the potential to make "a strong contribution to the Creative Case for Diversity"; 30 of those organisations then bid to be a National Portfolio Organisation and 20 were successful.

Most recently, in December, Nikesh Shukla and Julia Kingsford's new literary agency, The Good Agency, dedicated to championing under-represented voices in publishing, received a grant for over half a million pounds from ACE.

Serota said: "We are still at the beginning of this process, and are only now seeing the results of decisions that were made several years ago. There is more to do. A lot more."

Looking towards the future, Serota anticipates the next few years will see considerable change. "The sector is moving forward. Those organisations that aren’t prepared to change will be left behind," he said.

"The world has moved rapidly in the last decade, and the arts have to be alive to the demands and opportunities of a new political, social, economic and technological era. But I am sure that there will be an ever-greater need for the arts in all our lives - in more participatory ways that encourage the creativity of each individual, and provide a focus for us as communities."

A live stream of the event where Serota is due to speak can be viewed from 11am here.