This past year has seen the issue of diversity of content and of participation in the arts and culture in its broadest sense not only remain in the spotlight but, with the publication of the UK government's Culture White Paper, raise its profile. As part of this agenda, Nordicity attended Act for Change in the autumn, which focused the debate on diversity in drama schools across the country.
The British charity, which campaigns for better representation across the live and recorded arts, brought together a panel of theatre artists and an audience of cultural professionals. There was an animated conversation both on stage and on social media that raised important points about the participation of minority groups in the arts, as well as how educational institutions shape opportunities for actors more specifically.
It was good to see that the panelists didn’t define diversity as just ethnicity, gender or disability but also considered socio-economic background and financial access. Indeed, speakers made the point that diversity should not be a synonym for marginalized because we are all diverse!
Although the event focused on actors, it also highlighted the financial challenge of getting works by diverse creators in front of diverse audiences. In response to this issue, there was consensus that diversifying the talent pool and the works presented is essential for audience development and expansion. However, there was some dissension on how this could be achieved. The panel emphasized outreach in the early years to encourage creative development and increasing access as a means of letting talent rise to the surface, whilst many audience members advocated for stronger affirmative action by professional artists and decision makers.
These tensions are increasingly familiar to Nordicity as we study the economic and social impact of the creative industries and the career trajectories of individual artists. Our current work in the theatre backstage and offstage workforce is revealing similar notions of a talent pool limited by access and concerns that the lack of breadth in lived experience will diminish the work being created. This month's report by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has also highlighted the narrowness of the talent funnel in UK theatre with some passion.
Bal is a glutton for arts and culture having started young with daily trips to the library with his grandfather during school holidays and annual trips to the ‘panto’ with school. Today his early interest in the panto has been replaced by a strong affection for stage drama and modern dance. He was even a wardrobe consultant for Bend it like Beckham – The Musical on the West End stage!