Our Chief Executive, Sarah Derbyshire, reflects on recent reports into diversity and inclusion in the Classical Music sector, and the need for the sector to take the data seriously and for us all to play a part in making positive change happen.
This month has seen the publication of two important reports, both shining a spotlight on diversity and inclusion in the classical music industry.
Arts Council England has published a report on the survey they commissioned into a Fair and Inclusive Classical Music sector and Black Lives in Music have produced a report on Being Black in the UK Music Industry.
Whilst many working in classical music may feel that these reports largely tell us what we already knew, we should all stop to take stock and review, not only what is revealed in their findings, but what we are going to do about it.
The reports are sobering to read. They paint a picture of a divided sector in which there are clear inequalities and discriminatory practices at every level, within governance, leadership, management, within the performing/creative workforce and within music education. These impact negatively on Black and other ethnically diverse people, on people with disabilities, on women. And it’s clear that the complexity of the barriers at every stage, and how they intersect, mean that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are significantly disadvantaged in accessing, progressing through and experiencing the joy of classical music.
These facts alone are distressing enough. But beyond that, it is shocking to realise that we have not gathered or had access to such data until now. Other sectors have been monitoring similar data for several years. The Social Mobility Foundation has just produced an index of the top 75 employers who are taking effective action, from a range of sectors. Number two on the list, KPMG, has been tracking their data for the past 5 years in order to inform their employment strategy. And that’s because they know that they must draw people from all backgrounds and with diverse voices for their business to thrive.
Arts organisations aren’t great at gathering data unless it’s for box office analysis. Perhaps we have felt that it’s reductive, that it distracts us from the creative process or the purity of the artform. We operate in a more informal environment than many other sectors and pride ourselves on being friendly, tolerant and welcoming.
However the data doesn’t lie andnew research by PEC shows class-based exclusion is more pronounced in the Creative Industries (including the performing arts) than in any other industrial sector in the UK, including financial services and management consulting.
But as the Social Mobility Foundation’s index shows, it’s impossible to make change until you understand the current status, can begin to question that and formulate possible solutions. And in that respect, the cultural sector is no different to any other.
That’s why, at our last Board meeting, Orchestras Live trustees and staff reviewed the data that we currently collect and monitor in order to embed inclusive practice across our operations and our artistic programme. This is not just about numbers, it includes how people experience the work that we co-produce with partners, the extent to which our staff experience an inclusive culture at work, and the effectiveness of our recruitment processes in attracting diverse candidates.
We fully expect the data to throw up some uncomfortable truths and we’re committed to making positive changes to address those issues.
We also know that the inequalities exposed in the Arts Council’s and Black Lives in Music’s reports are too deep-seated to be resolved quickly. BLIM are convening a series of roundtables to look at how to collaborate for change through initiatives such as an Anti-Racism Code of Conduct, and I’m pleased to be participating in those discussions.
And we’re particularly pleased to be a founder partner in one of the first actions that the Arts Council will undertake in starting to create a fairer and more inclusive classical music sector. This will be a long-term action research project, starting in the Midlands, testing initiatives aimed at supporting young people from all backgrounds looking to make a career in classical music and the wider music industry. This longitudinal, collaborative approach is essential if we are to fully understand young people’s wants and needs, how best to address those, and what a sustainable, scalable plan will look like.
We can’t wait to start work on this and will be keeping you up to date as plans develop.