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Creative industry jobs in London still depend on a ‘who you know’ culture – report

The Roundhouse in Camden. Photo: Will Pearson Camden Roundhouse was cited in the report as a positive example of an organisation that broadens young people's access to culture. Photo: Will Pearson
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London’s creative sector has “has failed to diversify its workforce”, with a report claiming 16% of employees in music, performing and visual arts come from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

Culture Club report by think tank Centre for London has has revealed data about the make up of the workforce within the creative industries in the capital and produced a series of recommendations for employers to “give young Londoners a fair shot at working in the industry”.

Despite “significant job growth” since 2012, the creative sector has “failed to diversify its work force” and it is still “who you know, not what you know, that counts”, the report states.

According to the data, music, the visual and performing arts sector is made up of only 16% BAME workers, compared to 36% of the general London workforce (according to the ONS Annual Population Survey 2018).

This was the worst proportion of BAME employees of any sector in the creative industries, with the other areas surveyed including design; film, TV, video, radio and photography; and museums, galleries and libraries.

The data also reveals that working class employees make up 18% of the music, performing and visual arts sector, compared to 35% of the general UK population.

However the music, performing and visual arts industries performed best in terms of gender compared to the other creative sectors, with a make up of 52% male and 48% female employees.

Across all sectors in the creative industries, people from BAME backgrounds make up only 14% of senior positions, while women account for only 30% of the managerial jobs.

In the report, Centre for London has made three recommendations for employers to level the playing field for young people entering the industry.

These are:

  •  Pay interns at least the national minimum wage, or the London Living Wage for larger organisations
  • Work with educational institutions to develop a formal city-wide mentoring programme
  • Amend recruitment practices to prioritise creative talent and potential rather than focusing on academic achievement

The Camden Roundhouse in London is cited in the report as a positive example of broadening young people’s access to culture, through a series of development programmes as well as outreach work in schools.

Researcher at Centre for London, Mario Washington-Ihieme, said: “Too many young people are locked out of the opportunities in London’s creative industries.

“Sadly, it is still who you know, not what you know, that counts. And being unable to afford unpaid internships or unstable freelance work makes it harder still to get a job in the sector.

“Ultimately, if people in positions of power continue to hire people who are predominantly ‘like’ them, the creative industries will continue to miss out. London’s culture club needs to open its doors.”

Justine Simons, deputy mayor for culture and creative industries, added that the data “clearly shows that the creative sector is falling short in reflecting the diversity of our city”.

“Our diversity is a strength and London is overflowing with creative talent – but we can’t allow it to be locked out, we must make sure Londoners from all backgrounds are able to access the creative career opportunities on offer,” she said.

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