Arts Council England reveal diversity figures in their report: ‘Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case’


On Tuesday 18 February, Arts Council England published its fifth annual diversity report Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case featuring data from 2018-19. It is the first to cover the 2018-22 National Portfolio, which now includes Libraries, Museums and Sector Support Organisations. Trish Wheatley responds to the report outlining the efforts that funded organisations are making in implementing diversity.

Arts Council England banner imageDespite the inclusion of many new diverse-led organisations into Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, the rate of change for workforce, leadership and governance is slow, with Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, commenting that “This year’s annual diversity report reveals a disappointing picture.”

The representation of disabled people and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds across National Portfolio Organisations (NPO) remains too low. Only 11% of the NPO workforce are non-white, compared with 16% of the working-age population; the percentage of Artistic Directors and Chairs are both also 11% – although overall board representation is slightly higher at 15% – and Chief Executives is slightly lower at 10%.

Disabled representation is concerning, with only 6% of people across the NPO workforce identifying as disabled, compared with 21% of the working-age population. There is slightly better representation at leadership level, with 9% Chief Executives and 8% Artistic Directors, although board representation is 7% and only 5% of Chairs are disabled.

The picture for gender shows that 52% of NPOs are run by female Chief Executives (41% male) and 45% of Artistic Directors identifying as female (41% male) – although there is more to be done at board level, as only 40% of Chairs are female (55% male).

This year’s report includes several changes, allowing readers to analyse the data by geography, discipline/artform and level of Arts Council investment for the first time, revealing some interesting data. For instance, Dance has the highest percentage of Black and minority ethnic workforce, at 18%, but the lowest of disabled workers at 3%. Museums had the highest female workforce, at 57%, with Music the lowest at only 37%.

A useful addition to this year’s report is that the Arts Council has included the four-point scale for Creative Case ratings. Each NPO received a rating when it applied for funding, and again following reports submitted at the end of the last financial year. In a welcome move, the Arts Council appears to be finally attaching conditions to organisations’ delivery on the Creative Case by requiring that Band 2 and Band 3 NPOs (those that receive in excess of £250,000 per year) must achieve a rating of at least ‘strong’ by 2021. If they don’t, this will be ‘taken into consideration at decision making for awarding status for the next National Portfolio’. Considering that there are thirty Band 3 organisations and sixty-five Band 2 organisations only scoring ‘met’, a significant proportion of the sector has serious work to do over the coming months.

Those organisation scoring ‘not met’ are receiving a combined £6.2M investment over the four years. They are all band one organisations, fairly evenly spread across the regions, with visual arts and museums dominating the field (6 out of 10). 60% of them were new to the Portfolio in 2018 and all the others maintained the same level of investment from previous years. It’s interesting to note that there are no literature organisations scoring ‘not met’.

Nicholas Serota said that “A key tenet of Arts Council England’s new strategy for 2020-30, Let’s Create, is that funded organisations and the Arts Council itself, should be representative of society.” The implication is that organisations that receive regular investment from ACE will need to set themselves stretching targets for representation in governance, leadership, workforce, participants and audiences. And that failure to meet those targets will have an impact on future funding.

During a recent Arts Council England webinar to mark the release of this latest report, ACE Director of Diversity Abid Hussain acknowledged that a large amount of work needs to be done regarding diverse representation in organisations. When pressed on what actions ACE is taking, he announced plans to address the pace of change in workforce, leadership and governance diversity in larger organisations through the development of an ‘inclusion and relevance framework’ which will be detailed in a delivery plan to be published later this year, accompanying the Arts Council’s new 10-year Strategy.

As one might expect, there was a whole swathe of organisations with a disability focus that scored the highest grade of ‘outstanding’ including Diverse City, Drake Music, Graeae Theatre Company, Heart n Soul, Intoart, Mind the Gap, Outside In, Paraorchestra and Friends, Project Art Works, Shape London, Stopgap Dance Company, Lawnmowers Theatre Company and not forgetting ourselves, Disability Arts Online. These sector-influencing organisations exemplify the Creative Case and are working not just in their own specialism, but also supporting creative activity across a range of intersecting marginalised communities. Now is the time for NPOs organisations looking to strengthen their work on the Creative Case to seek out collaborations with us.

The data spreadsheet provided alongside the report can be interpreted in such a vast quantity of ways, the whole story cannot be told in one article. At Disability Arts Online we’ve been supporting conversations about lack of access to the visual arts for disabled artists over the last two years. Looking only at the employment of artists, 3% of permanent artists and 8% of contracted artists identified as disabled. The perhaps more worrying fact is that we simply can’t rely on this data to tell us anything useful about how much the visual arts sector is employing disabled artists because 54% of permanent and 47% of contracted artists are either not known or prefer not to say. It is encouraging, at least, to see that there has been a year-on-year upwards trend in the percentage of permanent disabled staff in visual arts organisations from 4% in 2015-16 to 9% in 2018-19.

There is a huge amount of progress to be made in comparison with the theatre sector, where we know that lots of work has been done to increase the representation of disabled artists. 14% of permanent artists within the sector identify as disabled people with only 12% not known or prefer not to say and 6% of contracted artists identify as disabled people with 37% not known or prefer not to say.

screenshot from arts council website

Screenshot from Arts Council England website

Government Disability Champion and National Council member of ACE, Andrew Miller said in the Stage this week: “We must improve training routes for young disabled talent to enter the creative industries and fund adapting inaccessible backstage and administration premises.” Career progression routes for disabled people, particularly on the administrative, business and producing need to be created. Through Disability Arts Online’s jobs listings, we’ve seen attractive top positions at disabled-led companies being re-advertised, sometimes on several occasions, largely because disabled people don’t feel adequately skilled to apply.

If we struggle to recruit skilled disabled producers, managers and executives who can help support the next generation of disabled creatives to break down barriers, then what chance does the rest of the sector have of becoming more diverse and accessible? Something needs to change within our approach to leadership and career development, requiring multi-year investment and a joined-up national approach from our disabled-led organisations if we are to see significant change in the future.

For fuller details and comment by Arts Council England go to their Diversity homepage.