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Royal Opera House and English National Opera among 60 organisations promising gender parity by 2022

Scene from Flight Pattern, part of the Royal Ballet's mixed programme Within The Golden Hour, Medusa and Flight Pattern performed at the Royal Opera House in 2019. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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The Royal Opera House, English National Opera and Opera North are among more than 60 music organisations publicly committing to achieving gender parity, as part of a new push to drive change in the industry.

Individual pledges include striving to reach gender equality among composers and creative teams on new operas, ensuring an equal number of men and women on programming line-ups and blind application processes for administrative roles.

More than 60 organisations, including some of the UK’s highest-funded companies and prominent performing arts conservatoires, have promised to take positive action towards equality.

The Keychange project is the brainchild of charitable funding body the PRS Foundation. It was launched in 2018, when 180 music festivals committed to programming gender-balanced line-ups by 2022.

That promise of gender parity has now been extended across the sector, with music organisations of any type able to sign up, each with tailored pledges based on their operation and output.

Among the first group to get behind Keychange are the Royal Opera House, ENO and Opera North.

The Royal Opera has committed to ensuring that women make up 50% of all creatives working on new opera productions at Covent Garden by 2022. This means in any given season, half of all composers, directors, designers, librettists and movement directors employed for new productions will be women.

Royal Opera director Oliver Mears told The Stage: “Opera must represent the widest possible range of people and perspectives both on and off the stage. This commitment supports our long-term ambition to change the landscape for women across the sector.”

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Leeds College of Music, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Trinity Laban – which both run acting courses as well as music – are also on the list, as is the Royal Northern College of Music.

All said they would strive to make their institutions more gender-balanced in areas such as lecturers and staff teams, visiting professionals and student intake.

In January, ENO said it would aim to achieve gender balance of composers when commissioning new work and promised to run blind audition and application processes for its orchestral, choral and administrative roles.

ENO to appoint BAME choristers and directors as part of diversity drive

Opera North has committed to gender equality across its ensembles, staff and commissioned composers.

London arts centres the Southbank and the Barbican have made music-specific pledges, but stressed their commitment to equality across their programming and workforces.

The Southbank will ensure gender balance for all new music commissions by 2022, while the Barbican committed to a 50/50 balance on two of its music festivals by the same date.

The PRS Foundation said the extended pledge was a reflection of the notion that the gender gap “is an industry-wide challenge”.

Together with the festivals that signed up to the first wave of the pledge last year, more than 250 organisations are now involved in Keychange.

It is the latest in a series of commitments by the arts sector aimed at reaching gender parity. The National Theatre is working towards a target of 50% female living writers and directors and equal gender balance on stage by March 2021, while campaign group Equal Representation for Actresses is lobbying to achieve gender balance across British theatre, television and film by 2020.

National Theatre commits to gender equality by 2021

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