Culture secretary Jeremy Wright makes diversity pledge as he delivers first major arts speech
Culture secretary Jeremy Wright has issued a call to arms around diversifying the sector’s future workforce, as he promises to support the creative skills pipeline.
Wright said he was committed to exploring all potential barriers to the arts faced by young people, and acknowledged a challenge around ensuring the next generation understands the range of cultural careers available to them.
He told The Stage: “There are two aspects – one is to make sure there is good visibility of the careers the creative industries can offer, and I don’t think there is yet full visibility. For a lot of young people, they can identify some careers in the creative industries, but they can’t identify all of them. We need to work harder on that.
“Once we’ve identified the careers, we have to make sure that those same young people can see themselves doing those jobs. That’s about making sure there is diversity within the profession, and they understand someone who looks like them, sounds like them and comes from where they come from, could do those kinds of things.”
Wright said he would listen to the sector about the practical barriers they perceive, and highlighted the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s £5 million youth performance partnerships, which will bring arts organisations and schools together to teach on and off-stage skills when the funding is allocated later this year.
He was speaking following an event in Coventry, the next host of the UK City of Culture scheme, where he delivered his first major speech on the value of culture.
In it, he identified a number of focus areas, including pledges to work with the government’s education and health departments to “bring the benefits of drama, dance, art, music and more to a greater number of people”. This includes social prescribing, he said, which enables GPs and other primary care givers to prescribe arts activities to tackle mental health issues and loneliness.
Wright addressed the forthcoming spending review, in which government departments will receive renewed budget allocations for the years ahead.
He said: “It is more important than ever that we all give the most robust possible evidence about the impact of what we do. And I don’t just mean evidence of economic impact. But demonstrating that the superb experiences that you provide are benefitting all parts of the UK.”
As part of this, Wright announced the recipients of the government’s Cultural Development Fund, which is giving a total of £20 million to five locations across England.
The funding is intended to invest in local culture and help drive economic growth, and will be given to projects including the Thames Estuary creative hub.
Projects in Wakefield, Grimsby, Plymouth and Worcester were also supported as part of the programme.