“Intercultural” is a term that is often confused with “multicultural”. By multicultural we understand that a society encourages people to practice culture(s) particular to their own heritage. Multiculturalism in itself does not necessarily promote engagement between different cultures, whereas intercultural dialogue seeks to do so. Intercultural dialogue in England and Wales generally falls under the larger umbrella of cultural diversity.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport seeks to ensure that cultural diversity is considered in all its areas of activity, and looks to foster mutual understanding, nurture mutual respect and celebrate the cultural diversity of the UK.
The British Council has been involved in a number of initiatives to promote intercultural dialogue, especially with young people. It is committed to youth exchange on the basis that the experience can help promote intercultural dialogue and understanding. Cultural engagement is integral to the Council’s work in rebuilding trust in societies that have been riven by conflict (see chapter 1.4.1).
Championing cultural diversity, with the intention of promoting cultural dialogue, is integrated into the day to day work of the Arts Councils in England and Wales, with the aim of encouraging an environment where the arts reflect the full range and diversity of contemporary society, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to contribute to and access quality arts activity.
Currently the Arts Council of England’s definition of ‘diversity’, in line with that of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, covers four characteristics: disability, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. Disability is dealt with in chapter 2.5.6, gender and sexual orientation in chapter 2.5.5, and this section will focus on non-white/ethnically diverse citizens. Although different terms are applied to describe people of different ethnicities in contemporary society, the ones in more common usage in the cultural sector are black and minority ethnic (BME) and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) (though these acroynms are sometimes contested and confused, e.g. some omit the reference to ‘Asian’ when using the term BAME, also see: https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2019/07/08/please-don’t-call-me-bame-or-bme/).
According to the most recent census, more than 7.6 million people in the UK come within the category of BME/BAME. The underrepresentation of BME people in the arts workforce has been a contentious issue at least as far back as the ground-breaking Gulbenkian Foundation report The Arts Britain Ignores (Naseem Khan) in 1976. Although various policies and programmes were introduced to address this, arguably it has only been in the past decade that the Arts Councils in England and Wales have begun to advance their work on equality and diversity.
Beyond Cultural Diversity, a report commissioned by Arts Council England, examined what may have gone wrong with state sponsored cultural diversity policy in Britain. Published by Routledge in 2011, it argues that state support of cultural diversity can result in a cultural “ghettoisation”. It proposed a new concept of creative diversity to promote a culturally integrated society and a programme of institutional, educational and policy reforms to facilitate this. In 2011 ACE launched the Creative Case for Diversity to address the persistent and widespread lack of diversity (see chapter 2.5.5).
Three years later, ACE’s then chairman Sir Peter Balgazette announced a fundamental shift in ACE’s approach to diversity in making its National Portfolio Organisations accountable for promoting and developing diversity to ensure their programming, audiences and workforce better reflect the diverse communities they serve. This included the instigation of regular monitoring of progress and, at the end of 2015, Consilium Research and Consulting produced a report for ACE, Equality and diversity within the arts and cultural sector in England, which established a baseline of data and research about equality and diversity across the sectors. It provided a snapshot of trends up to 2013 in relation to audiences, participation, the workforce and access to finance. A second data report by Consilium providing an updated picture was published at the end of 2016. The latest report, Equality, Diversity and the Creative Case: A Data Report 2017-2018, was published in 2019. This revealed the percentage of BME people in the subsidised arts/cultural workforce had increased from 11% to 14% (c/w 16% of the working age population) and representation on arts boards had risen from 12% to 15%. Although there was evidence that the percentage of organisations demonstrating a commitment to diversity had increased, ACE accepted that aspirations were not always being met.
The issues were not confined to England as Arts Council Wales’ Strategic Equality Action Plan 2017-2021 has sought to address a fall in diverse arts attendees, including those from BME backgrounds, and the low number of BME representation on boards in the country.
Several dedicated funding programmes have been introduced by ACE since 2013, including the Elevate Fund to support organisations not in receipt of multi-annual funds, but who were significant contributors to diversity, and Sustained Theatre Fund to help develop BME theatre makers. Change Makers was a targeted training initiative to increase the diversity of senior leadership in arts and culture from BME or disability backgrounds. Re:Present was a partnership programme between ACE, Birmingham City Council and three universities (Birmingham, Birmingham City and Aston) to support the next generation of cultural leaders in the city, especially those from diverse backgrounds.
In 2015, 19,000 BME workers were employed in music, the performing and visual arts in England according to DCMS, representing 6.6% of those working in the sector. Percentages are even smaller in literature and publishing. Certainly, people from BME backgrounds are poorly represented in the children’s literature sector according to research by the Centre for Economic and Social Research at Sheffield University. Its study, Time for Change – Black and minority ethnic representation in the children’s literature sector was published by ACE in 2019. It reinforced other studies, such as that commissioned by the Book Trust that found only 2% of children’s book authors and illustrators published between 2007 and 2017 were from a BME backgroundand that ofEqual Approach in 2018, with The Publishing Industry Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Survey 2018, that revealed people with BME backgrounds were underrepresented in the sector.
The issue of underrepresentation has been recognised by trade unions in the cultural sectors. BECTU, the media and entertainment union, for example, has launched a Diversity Action Plan to improve diversity in the theatre workforce. Pressure to address diversity issues in the cultural sector has been stepped up at a political level with the setting up of an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Creative Diversity in 2019. This seeks to engage with government and the creative industries to identify and tackle obstacles to diversity in the creative sector.