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United Kingdom/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

The most recent official statistics on ethnic minorities within the UK population are from the 2001 Census ( The size of the minority ethnic population was 4.6 million, or 7.9 per cent of the total population of the United Kingdom at that time (54.153.898). Half of the total minority ethnic population were Asians of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or other Asian origin. A quarter of minority ethnic people described themselves as Black - that is Black Caribbean, Black African or "Other Black". Fifteen per cent of the minority ethnic population described their ethnic group as "Mixed". About one-third of this group were from White and Black Caribbean backgrounds. The remaining minority ethnic groups each accounted for less than 0.5 per cent, but together accounted for a further 1.4 per cent of the UK population.

The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 requires public bodies, including the UK's four Arts Councils, to demonstrate that they are promoting racial equality via their policies and practice.The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) created a National Cultural Diversity Network for the sector, delivering support, advice and training through regional Cultural Diversity Co-ordinators and other initiatives, such as the Cultural Diversity Checklist, a toolkit for a basic audit; a literature review of evidence of cultural diversity activities in the sector (New Directions in Social Policy Report), and an email discussion list on the subject. In addition, the MLA Workforce Development Strategy includes a major strand, "Diversify", which funds positive action traineeships and researches the barriers stopping Black Asian and Minority Ethnic young people from entering the sector.

A Museum Association survey revealed that the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people working in museums almost trebled between 1993 (2.5%) and 2008 (7%). However, the numbers of these minorities in the population as a whole increased from 5.5% to 12% during the same period. See

Other positive action employment initiatives include a coalition of television broadcasters and the UK Film Council - the Cultural Diversity Network - with a focus on diversity, inclusion and employment in the sector, and which has led to action plans with targets and measures to integrate ethnic minorities into television at all levels. Membership of the Network also includes PACT (The UK Trade Association that represents and promotes the commercial interests of independent feature film, television, children's and animation media companies) and Skillset (the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media). Similarly, the UK Film Council set up a Leadership on Diversity group for film to improve diversity and inclusion in film in the UK.

Another example is EQ, a national equality and diversity agency working in the creative industries. EQ was established following a GBP 5 million programme called Creative Renewal, funded by the European Social Fund.


Arts Council England has a Race Equality Scheme, which seeks to both embed diversity into the organisation itself, and also to encourage and support all regularly funded organisations to develop good practice in relation to race equality. The scheme has also established targets for Arts Council England's Grants for the Arts programme regarding Black and Minority Ethnic artists and arts organisations.

"Decibel" - raising the voice of culturally diverse arts in Britain was a GBP 5 million Arts Council England initiative aimed at raising the profile of, and developing infrastructure for, culturally diverse arts, defined as African, Asian and Caribbean artists. It sought to place diversity in the forefront of the Council's work, reinforcing professional practice and mainstreaming art works from diverse communities. The work was continued by "decibel legacy" through to 2008, including "decibel showcase" in 2007, a performance platform that helped assist artists and companies to sell their work, expand their touring potential and develop new projects. Further showcases were planned for 2009 and 2011. An evaluation of decibel's initial year found that some gains had been made by the initiative - nearly 60% of all respondents said their knowledge of African, Asian and Caribbean artists had increased and 80% of the 130 organisations that responded said they planned to develop their programming of culturally diverse artists as a result of decibel. However, criticisms included: confusion about the overall ethos and delivery, and performance targets not being in place when the initiative commenced.

During 2005-06, the Arts Council worked with an Advisory Group of Black freelance artists and consulted widely into race equality within the theatre sector to produce Whose Theatre...? Report on the Sustained Theatre Consultation ( The report made recommendations to ensure the further development and long-term success of Black and Minority Ethnic artists, including focusing on the need for a network of buildings, cultural leadership, critical debate and archiving, international work and the role of the Arts Council. The Council welcomed its findings and set up a working group to develop action plans for implementation by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic artists.


The Scottish Arts Council (SAC) prioritised three main areas of activity within its work to promote cultural diversity: visibility, capacity-building and mainstreaming. This included a variety of initiatives, e.g. funding of specific festivals such as the Edinburgh Mela and the North Glasgow Festival at Sighthill, home to many asylum-seekers and refugees. Mainstream organisations have also been encouraged to programme diverse work and take on minority ethnic trainees. Creative Scotland will take on SAC's responsibilities in this area.

Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) has been developing a minority Ethnic Arts strategy in recognition of priorities in its 2006-2011 strategic plan. ACNI seeks to foster a diverse arts programme, strengthen dialogue and promote understanding between local communities with the aim of tackling inequality and social exclusion.

Chapter published: 15-04-2011

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