Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

ACE Equality Diversity & Creative Case

Cover of the Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case report.

Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case: A Data Report, 2017-2018, Arts Council England, 12 February 2019


In January 2018, we launched our 2016-17 diversity report at the Playhouse in Nottingham, a fast-growing city with a young and diverse population of which nearly 30% are aged 18-29, while nearly a third of this group are Black and minority ethnic.

It gave us the chance to highlight the creative, social and economic potential of diversity. It also gave us an opportunity to demonstrate how diversity represents a resource of talent, ideas and energy that can sustain society through its current challenges and point the way to a future that includes the whole national community.

But how willing are we to apply the principle in our actions? And to ensure that previously silent voices can be heard in relation to the arts? The arts can both stimulate and respond to change, but only if they better represent the contemporary world.

The diversity data gathered in our annual survey is not an exercise in box ticking. It discloses the success or failure of the arts and culture sector to take seriously the challenge we all face as a society. In some respects, there are improvements; in others we are still treading water. In all areas, we intend to do more. From next year we will be reporting in even greater detail on bands, artform and on individual Creative Case ratings1. This depth of reporting will help to focus our policies and be clearer about the challenges we face.

We recognise the scale of change we want to achieve will take time, but we would like to see the pace of change accelerate so that both the sector and the Arts Council better reflect the diversity of the local communities we serve up and down the country. Success will come when change in the composition of the workforce feeds through to the leadership. We need to see talent moving up.

Looking back on progress over the life-time of this Portfolio from 2015-18, we know that changes to the way we collect data have complicated like-for-like comparisons. We can safely say that there have been improvements, but with little discernible change in some areas, notably disability.

As we’ve consistently argued, the arts and culture sector have roles both in providing opportunities for people from all sections of society, and as a medium in which the whole of society can come together, share stories, and find the space to develop personally and collectively.

The last year has seen a round of public consultation about our next 10-year strategy. While that strategy is still being developed, it’s clear that there is an appetite within the arts and culture world, and amongst the general public, for us to listen more closely to what people tell us about their idea of culture, and to find different ways to work with them.

Our interest in this is reflected in the ambition and importance of community-led programmes like Creative People and Places, and the increasing number of our partnerships with agencies across the health, education and charity sectors. We will seek to engage with the public where they work and play, where they celebrate, and where they face challenges. This in turn will help diversify the arts and culture sector.

This is a time of great change, when ideas about the future identity of this country are evolving rapidly. We can be fairly sure, firstly, that a young and increasingly diverse population will aim to be at the leading edge of new forms of economic activity; and secondly that the ways in which we live, and work will rely ever more on creative thinking and solutions. If we are bold in the choices we make and bring these elements together, matching diversity with creative thought and enterprise, the arts and culture can flourish as never before.

Sir Nicholas Serota CH
Chair, Arts Council England

Download the full report here

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