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Where am I? Black, asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) role models in performing arts?

1 Jun 2017
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Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic artists still have low visibility in arts and culture.

For instance, the Creative Skillset 2012 Census notes that the “representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people declined from 7.4% of the total workforce in 2006 to 6.7% in 2009 and is now just 5.4% in 2012” (p.4). What is the impact of such underrepresentation? Does this lack of visible representation for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) members of society signal to individuals from non-white ethnic backgrounds that a career in the arts is not open to them? If what we see in the arts represents overwhelmingly white middle class male aesthetic, history, values and thinking, then how are others to value their own ideas, stories and ambitions if they are different and not represented? What would a world look and feel like if the people that we looked up to came from all kinds of backgrounds? If there were more black theatre designers, and Asian female artistic director of the National Theatre, more BAME drama workshop leaders in schools? Would this encourage a more diverse arts workforce?

This research project has explored the importance of BAME role models for developing a more diverse workforce. In doing so, it blends concerns of key sector bodies and a growing public recognition that workforce diversity in the arts and culture is an issue that needs addressing (e.g. the recent #OscarsSoWhite, #BritsSoWhite, #Yellowface campaigns).

Arts Council England and other key sector bodies such as Creative Skillset, Directors UK, BECTU and the Creative Diversity Network have identified workforce diversity as a priority area. The emerging consensus is exemplified in Arts Council England’s statement that “diversity and equality are crucial to the arts because they sustain, refresh, replenish and release the true potential of England’s artistic talent, regardless of people’s background” (ACE, 2011). Translating this recognition into practice, Arts Council England aims for its investment to “create conditions in which the diversity of audiences, and leaders, producers and creators of art reflect the diversity of contemporary England” (ACE2015, p.6) and has dedicated over £7 million through a number of funds including Changemakers which will address the lack of diversity in arts leadership.

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2017
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