Installation view of Trade Secrets, 2013, at Nottingham Contemporary, which is used as a case study by ACE for its work with LGBT communities. Photo David Severn

Be more diverse or risk losing funding, ACE announces

Rebecca Atkinson, 09.12.2014
Chairman Peter Bazalgette says it is a "fundamental shift" in its approach to diversity
Arts Council England (ACE) wants the organisations it funds to better reflect the diverse communities they serve, its chairman Peter Bazalgette announced this week.

In a speech to launch the arts council’s Creative Case for Diversity at Sadler's Wells in London, Bazalgette said this was a “fundamental shift” in ACE’s approach to diversity. He said that the arts council will start holding Major Partner Museums and National Portfolio Organisations to account if they don’t fully embrace diversity.

“The plain fact is that despite many valuable, well-intentioned policies over the past decade, when it comes to diversity, we have not achieved what we intended,” Bazalgette said. “We are not doing well enough. We need to think about programming, the workforce, leadership and audiences, and how all these are interrelated.”

From April, organisations will be asked to make their work relevant to a wider range of audiences and build a workforce that reflects contemporary society. From 2018, this will be used to influence future funding settlements.
Bazalgette’s speech, billed as the “most important” one he would make as chairman of the arts council, outlined how the organisation’s new Creative Case for Diversity policy would support organisations in ensuring their programmes respond to diversity in local communities and talent from abroad.

The arts council said it had set aside funding to promote talent and diversity outside the national portfolio, the details of which are being worked on now. And it will commission research into the diversity challenges faced by museums.

From April 2015, funded organisations’ workforce diversity will be published, along with the progress they have made to reflect the communities they serve.

In 2012-13, 13% of staff working at the national portfolio organisations were from black and minority ethnic groups – below the national average of 15%. Government figures also show that the creative and cultural workforce more widely is less diverse now than in 2008-09, with workers defining themselves as white up from 92% to 93%.

“Some National Portfolio Organisations and Major Partner Museums are making good progress, but diverse focused organisations have been shouldering this responsibility alone for too long,” Bazalgette said.

Sharon Heal, the director of the Museums Association, welcomed the announcement.
“This signals that the arts council is taking diversity seriously and I hope that museums will respond by talking to and working with diverse communities on their collections, exhibitions and displays,” she said.

“This is a great opportunity for museums to engage with communities in a meaningful way to ensure that their rich heritage is represented and that their many different stories are told.
“The museum workforce does not reflect the diversity of the population and I am glad that ACE is actively taking steps to monitor progress in this area and to inform funding. In addition, I’d like to see money targeted to those museums that are diversifying audiences to help them share their good practice with others.”