Statement – Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report

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The Report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities is a most two-faced of reports in that, on the one hand, it aims to explain away the existence of entrenched, widespread and institutionally structured racial disparity. Yet, on the other hand, by their own admission, the Report says their work was triggered by and is a response to the energy and ‘spirit of the Black Lives Matter Movement’ that swept across the world last summer.

Culture& published a Black Lives Matter Charter for the UK heritage sector last summer as a guideline and framework to encourage change within the arts as there is undeniably further work to do to achieve a more equitable and diverse arts and heritage industry.

Recent reports and data show that only 3% of the arts and heritage workforce is from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities[1] and there is a significant gap in arts participation[2]. Whilst focusing on other sectors such as health and employment, the Report fails to acknowledge the disparities in arts and heritage.

The Report’s 24 recommendations are grouped into four themes to ‘build trust, promote fairness, create agency and achieve inclusivity’ and are in themselves an acknowledgement that in the UK there are wide-ranging and intractable problems in relation to racism and social justice.

Yet these recommendations are accompanied by an offensive historical revisionism around slavery. For Culture&, which works to open up the arts and heritage workforce and expand audiences in the sector, there is no new story to tell about slavery. We continue to live with its tragic aftermath in the looted cultural heritage that populate our national museum collections, as well as the alienation of large parts of our community from both the arts and heritage workforce and its audience.

Therefore, our work at Culture& will continue to champion diversity and work with our partners to achieve equality and inclusion in the arts and heritage sector. We will continue to advocate for the decolonisation of museum collections, their workforce and to open up the sector to people who continue to be underrepresented.

Image: Hyde Park, London, May 25. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP) (Stf/AP)

[1]   Brook, Orian, O’Brien, David, and Taylor, Mark (2018) Panic! Social class, taste and inequalities in the creative industries. London: Create London and Arts Emergency.

[2]  Warwick Commission (2015) Enriching Britain: culture, creativity and growth. The 2015 report by the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value. Coventry: University of Warwick.