Written By: David Hutchison 7/12/15
Nearly half of large-scale theatre companies employed fewer than 5% black, Asian or minority ethnic workers in 2013/14, according to a new Arts Council England report.
This includes Sheffield Theatres and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, which are among 12 theatre companies – from a total of 25 – revealed to have low BAME representation in the first publication of ACE’s diversity monitoring.
Detailed figures for ACE’s major funded organisations – those with more than 50 employees – also shows that Hull Truck Theatre and Theatre by the Lake both had an entirely white workforce at the time.
ACE’s report reveals that the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic workers employed by publicly funded arts organisations has increased by less than 1% over the past three years.
Four new programmes worth £8.5 million have now been announced by ACE that aim to systemically improve the representation of ethnic minorities and deaf and disabled people working in the arts.
Speaking at a conference at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on December 7, ACE chair Peter Bazalgette said that while there had been “some progress” with diversity among its funded organisations, there were still “many areas in which we have to do better”.
Between 2012 and 2015, the proportion of BAME workers within ACE’s national portfolio organisations has increased from 12.8% to 13.7%.
While Bazalgette described this as an “encouraging increase”, it is still below the workforce average for the UK.
Over the same period there has been very little change in the amount of deaf and disabled people employed within NPOs – only increasing from 1.8% to 1.9%.
While BAME board members have slightly increased (13.8% to 14.4%) over the past three years, those that are deaf and disabled have markedly dropped (from 4.1% to 3.2%).
During his speech, Bazalgette announced four new programmes of ACE funding to ensure that more minority voices are heard within the arts.
A £2.6 million programme aims to counter the lack of diversity in the leadership of arts organisations. In addition, diverse-led organisations will be bolstered with a £2.1 million fund to improve their management.
A new £2 million fund will also be made available to support BAME theatremakers, while £1.8 million has been set aside for deaf and disabled artists to help develop new work.
Announcing the diversity figures and new funding streams, Bazalgette called on organisations to continue to challenge themselves to improve their representation of minorities.
He said: “I’m not here today to say ‘mission accomplished’. We’re just getting started. We all know it’s about changing minds, not a quick fix. We are not looking for dramatic change. In fact – apologies to the theatre people present – we don’t want drama; we want sustainable progress.”
However he was challenged on this by New Wolsey Theatre artistic director Sarah Holmes, who fired back that changes made to improve diversity had to be “dramatic” in order to take effect.
She said: “I think we’ve got to make one amazing, awesome dramatic fuss to create change that is everlasting, completely embedded and normal.
“I think if you do a creeping change, you’re not actually doing it. I think you need to say ‘This is a real mission, and we’re off on it’.”
This is first time ACE has released figures data on the diversity of its national portfolio organisations,in a move that was first announced last year by Bazalgette.
Theatre companies with 5% or fewer BAME workers
Almeida Theatre – 5%
Royal and Derngate, Northampton – 5%
West Yorkshire Playhouse – 4%
Colchester Mercury Theatre – 3%
New Vic Theatre – 3%
Sheffield Theatres – 3%
York Theatre Royal – 3%
Harrogate Theatre – 2%
Theatre Royal Plymouth – 2%
Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch – 1%
Hull Truck Theatre – 0%
Theatre by the Lake – 0%
Source: The Stage