By Alison Bellamy

The 2013/14 Annual Population Survey tells us that of the overall working age population in England that 14% are Black and minority ethnic.

A NEW report has revealed a startling lack of staff from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds working in large scale theatre companies.

Nearly half of the theatres were found to employ fewer than 5 per cent BAME workers during 2013/14, according to the new Arts Council England (ACE) report.

This includes the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, Sheffield Theatres and the Liverpool Everyman, which are among 12 theatre companies – from a total of 25 – revealed to have low BAME representation in the first publication of ACE’s diversity monitoring.

theatreDetailed figures for ACE’s major funded organisations – those with more than 50 employees – also showed that Hull Truck Theatre and Theatre by the Lake in Cumbria, both had an entirely white workforce at the time.

ACE’s report titled Equality, Diversity & the Creative Case A DATA REPORT, 2012-2015 reveals that the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic workers employed by publicly funded arts organisations has increased by less than 1 per cent over the past three years.

Four new programmes worth £8.5 million have now been announced by ACE that aim to systemically improve the representation of ethnic minorities and deaf and disabled people working in the arts.

Speaking at a conference in Birmingham on December 7, ACE chair Peter Bazalgette said that while there had been ‘some progress’ with diversity among its funded organisations, there were still ‘many areas in which we have to do better’.

Between 2012 and 2015, the proportion of BAME workers within ACE’s national portfolio organisations has increased from 12.8 per cent to 13.7 per cent. While Bazalgette described this as ‘encouraging’, it is still below the workforce average for the UK.

It was found that BAME board members have slightly increased (13.8 per cent to 14.4 per cent) over the past three years.

theatre figures

Bazalgette announced four new programmes of ACE funding to ensure that more minority voices are heard within the arts. A £2.6 million programme aims to counter the lack of diversity in the leadership of arts organisations. In addition, diverse-led organisations will be bolstered with a £2.1 million fund to improve their management.

A new £2 million fund will also be made available to support BAME theatremakers. Bazalgette called on organisations to continue to challenge themselves to improve their representation of minorities.

He said: “I’m not here to say ‘mission accomplished’. We’re just getting started. We all know it’s about changing minds, not a quick fix. We are not looking for dramatic change – we don’t want drama; we want sustainable progress.”

However, he was challenged by New Wolsey Theatre artistic director Sarah Holmes, who said that changes made to improve diversity had to be dramatic: “I think we’ve got to make one amazing, awesome dramatic fuss to create change that is everlasting, completely embedded and normal.

“If you do a creeping change, you’re not actually doing it. I think you need to say ‘This is a real mission, and we’re off on it’.