There still exists a clear issue with the lack of representation within the creative industries. Many institutions refer to the percentage X model as a justification for the present levels of representation; if community X constitutes a certain percentage of the (local/national) population, and we strive for, or achieve, this number within our organisation, then we will have answered the creative case for diversity. This is not true representation. Representation isn’t merely an issue of numbers, it’s about the power of voice, and giving legitimacy to those voices, and the faces that they are spoken from, to have the freedom and space to self-narrate, ideally without them needing external validation.
The creative industries directly impact the prisms through which we all see the world and refract those images in a way that influences not only our perception, but also our behaviour, and the power of this is not to be underestimated. Not only do the creative industries show us what we see in the world, but also how we see ourselves, how we see others, and the stories that we attach to that imagery. From entertainment, to advertising, to art and tech, we hold the power to challenge the perceptions and stereotypes that currently exist and create and elevate cultural edifices that reflect the best in all of us, and thus promote greater equity for our communities and societies.
The transforming world of equality policy and legislation has led to more stringent demands on organisations across all sectors to deliver programmes that are aligned to fast moving developments in good ‘diversity practice’. Organisations that present art, culture, and entertainment to the public are today expected by funders, reviewers and audiences to have better representation at levels of workforce, direction and audience participation.
We exist within a working culture that looks at issues of equity and representation as an addendum to the ‘core business’, and so facilitates the handling of these issues as an addition to their main focus. Such measures can also be perceived by overworked producers and staff as a restriction, or simply a statutory requirement; as boxes to tick to ensure funding and legal compliance. In this context, it can seem a challenge to design really creative and exciting answers to the question of inclusion. These might involve, for example, giving space to new voices in direction, production, curation, and scripting.
Whilst this is a challenge for many entities, working through these issues, and implementing change can bring in new audiences and greater levels of recognition, unexpected leaps in creativity and co-creation, and affinity across peoples.
In order to maximise this potential, we would argue that you first need to imagine a cultural landscape where creative interaction between all UK’s communities offers an advantage to your company – and to society at large, and that this is a central tenet of all entities that are privileged to operate within said landscape. This may involve a re-alignment of paradigms to aim for, and almost certainly a learning-curve. It may seem like an especially daunting challenge if your company doesn’t have team members already immersed in this kind of thinking. This is where we can step in and help your organisation to fulfil its potential in this area. The real challenge is to understand the difference between performative support and substantive activism, how organisational culture and policy adherence influences these, and what is needed to enact lasting change for a more representative cultural landscape that, in turn, promotes a more equitable society.