February 19, 2020

England's Arts Organizations Face Funding Cuts Following "Disappointing" Diversity Report

Cover of Arts Council England’s 2018–19 diversity report.

LONDON, ENGLAND—Following the release of a 2018–19 report by Arts Council England (ACE) on the diversity of the country’s arts workforce and audience, cultural organizations are being threatened with budget cuts unless they start meeting diversity targets. The data represented in the report was mined from the 828 galleries, museums, theaters, orchestras, dance companies, and other institutions that make up the council’s 2018–22 National Portfolio Organizations (NPO) and will be used by ACE to roll out its cultural strategy, “Let’s Create,” over the next decade.

“The pace of change has been too slow,” ACE chair Nicholas Serota, the former director of the Tate, told The Guardian. “We need to be very clear: If organizations are not delivering, they could lose their funding.”

The report found that 11 percent of NPO workers are from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds, compared to 16 percent of the overall working-age population in England. BME representation on NPO boards is slightly higher at 15 percent. Museums were found to have the lowest BME workforce at 6 percent, while dance had the highest proportion at 18 percent. Six percent of the arts workforce identifies as disabled, compared to 21 percent of the working population.

The total percentage of female employees at NPOs is 47 percent, with 52 percent serving as chief executives, and the percentage of LGBTQ employees in the cultural workforce is 6 percent with a board level of 7 percent. The percentages of women and LGBTQ workers in the larger population are 50 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The report noted that the number of workers who selected “not known” for their sexual orientation and disability data is high.

Serota called the results of the annual report “disappointing,” while Abid Hussain, ACE’s director of diversity, said the areas of BME and disability diversity require “significant improvement.”

Diversity targets approved by the council are slated to be released in April. While ACE—which has been publishing the annual report for five years—has been criticized for lack of policy enforcements in the past, The Guardian reports its language this year is “significantly more robust,” with the council publishing the ratings of individual organizations (measured on a four-point scale from “not met” to “outstanding”) for the first time.

Among those that did not meet the requirements to integrate diversity into their programs are the British Youth Opera, the London International Mime Festival, and the National Horseracing Museum. The Royal Opera House, which receives more than $30 million from ACE; the Serpentine Galleries; and Whitechapel Gallery met their requirements. South London Gallery, Studio Voltaire, and Turner Contemporary were among the organizations to receive a strong designation, and the Graeae Theatre Company and Midlands Arts Centre were among the 5 percent of organizations that achieved an outstanding rating.

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