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ACE: ‘Theatre companies must diversify or risk losing funding’

Arts Council England chair Peter Bazalgette
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Theatre companies risk losing Arts Council England funding if they do not demonstrate diversity in their work, under a new strategy unveiled today.

As part of new regulations, ACE’s national portfolio organisations will be monitored on how well they reflect diversity in the communities they serve, which will be “a way of holding them to account”.

From 2018, ACE is to take diversity data into account when making decisions on whether to continue an organisation’s portfolio funding.

ACE chair Peter Bazalgette will introduce the Creative Case for Diversity plan at Sadler’s Wells theatre in London today, and is expected to say: “We have to open up access to power and to resources. Looking up, too many see the white cliff-face of the arts establishment and feel they just cannot climb it.”

He will go on: “We can’t give people creative talent. But we can and must give those with talent creative opportunities. The arts are a mirror for society, and if we sort this, the arts won’t have to make the case for diversity. The arts will simply be the case.”

ACE will also publish and comment on diversity data for individual organisations, as figures from the council show that black and minority ethnic employment at NPOs is only 13%, compared with the national average of 15%.

In his speech, Bazalgette will praise some NPOs for making “good progress”, but will add that diverse-focused organisations have “been shouldering this responsibility alone for too long”.

He will also say: “From now on the responsibility for promoting diversity within the leadership, workforce, programming and audiences, must belong to all our funded arts organisations.”

The council has also pledged that diversity will be considered in all of its strategic funding programmes.

Other prominent arts figures will speak at the Creative Case for Diversity panel, including National Theatre director Rufus Norris, English National Ballet artistic director Tamara Rojo, and Eclipse Theatre Company artistic director Dawn Walton.

Full coverage of the event will be in this week’s edition of The Stage.


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