Who, and why, is the man sitting in front of this painting (‘Seaport with the Embarkation of Saint Ursula’, by Claude Lorrain, 1641)? Does he love art? What do you imagine are his qualifications and ambitions? This ironic self-portrait (‘England’s Heritage’, 2004) was made by Culture&’s Director Errol Francis to draw attention to assumptions that underly the exclusion of black people from the arts workforce.
On Tuesday 18th February 2020, it was reported that Arts Council England is threatening arts organisations with funding cuts over their lack of diversity. In London BAME arts workers are 15%; and some organisations, e.g. Royal Opera House, say 11% of their workforce is Black or minority ethnic – near the national average but well short of the capital’s workforce of more than 40%. ACE Chairman, Sir Nicholas Serota, warned arts organisations that they face funding cuts if they fail to increase their workforce diversity.
But this threat was made before, by previous Chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette, in December 2014, but poorly performing arts bodies have not faced cuts. We hope such organisations will now be sanctioned as the numbers they report are worse than they at first appear. According to ‘Social Class, Taste & Inequalities in the Creative Industries. Panic!’ (2018) the real figure of BAME workers, excluding ancillary staff, is more like 2.7%. So arts organisations should be reporting on the proportion of workers employed at different grades to show how many BAME workers are in senior roles. Arts Council England should follow through with its threat to make funding dependant on diversity performance. The structural exclusion of BAME people from arts and heritage sectors must stop and Culture& is working to tackle this with our upcoming New Museum School Advance Programme.