Nottingham Playhouse, the Donmar Warehouse, Hampstead Theatre and the Almeida are among the theatres at risk of jeopardising their Arts Council England subsidy if they do not improve diversity, it has been revealed.
Nearly one in 10 national portfolio theatres are being told by ACE that their diversity ratings must be better by next year, when decisions over future funding will be made.
It comes as the body publishes its annual diversity report, with ACE chair Nicholas Serota lamenting a “disappointing picture” in which the representation of minority ethnic and disabled people among the arts workforce remained at a standstill.
He said: “In the new strategy, organisations that receive regular investment from the Arts Council will need to set themselves stretching targets for representation in governance, leadership, workforce, participants and audiences. Failure to meet these targets will have an impact on future funding.”
The Arts Council’s fifth annual diversity report includes data from 2018-19 and is the first to cover the 2018-2022 national portfolio.
While data was previously only published in aggregate form, the new report reveals diversity ratings for individual organisations for the first time.
Companies are rated under a four-point scale – not met, met, strong and outstanding – and ACE has already stipulated that NPOs receiving more than £250,000 per year must achieve at least a rating of strong by October 2021. Failure to do so will be taken into consideration when the next national portfolio is decided.
Of the 70 theatre organisations given this target, 52 are already rated strong, with just two – Graeae Theatre Company and Contact Theatre in Manchester – labelled outstanding.
The ratings judge how well organisations integrate diversity into their work, factoring in elements such as artistic programming, talent development and equality initiatives.
While no theatres fall into the ‘not met’ category, 16 were rated ‘met’ and will therefore need to improve their ratings before next year. This represents 9.3% of the total 172 theatres in the portfolio.
Alongside the Almeida, Hampstead, Nottingham Playhouse and Donmar, the list includes Oldham Coliseum, Kneehigh, the Royal and Derngate and the Watermill Theatre.
The group of NPOs requiring improvement also includes major opera and dance companies such as the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, English National Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Over the whole portfolio, nearly half (44%) of organisations are rated either not met or met, meaning ACE expects improvement. However, this figure includes companies in band one – those in receipt of less than £250,000 – for which the targets are encouraged but not enforced.
Just 5% of NPOs are currently rated outstanding, the highest proportion of which are found in the South West, where 7% of companies achieved this rating. London had the lowest density of outstanding organisations – 4% of the total – but the highest number rated strong – 59% – meaning the capital has the most positive ratings overall.
Because the report is the first to cover data from organisations in the 2018-22 portfolio, the overall figures are not directly comparable with the previous 2017-18 report. However, ACE still criticised the slow pace of change in minority ethnic and disability representation, claiming it “remains too low”.
This is despite the number of diverse-led organisations nearly doubling between the previous funding round and the current group.
Serota said: “Over the years there has been progress – and since launching the Creative Case for Diversity in 2011 much has been done by organisations to focus on the work they produce, collect and present – but we must now all act with greater determination to remove the persistent inequalities in our boards, our workforce and our audiences that are holding back opportunity and achievement in our sector.”
Only 11% of the NPO workforce is from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background. This was 12% in 2017-18, and 11% in previous years, and compares with 16% of the working-age population.
The percentage of people with a disability increased by just 1% to 6%, compared with 21% of the working-age population.
The proportion of female theatre leaders remained broadly similar, at 45% of artistic directors and 52% of chief executives. Last year, these figures were 46% and 51% respectively.
At board level, the number of female chairs rose by three percentage points to 40%, but ACE acknowledged there is still more to be done in this area. Only 5% of chairs are disabled, while 11% are from BAME backgrounds.
Looking at individual disciplines, theatre has the second highest minority ethnic representation after dance (18% and 15 % respectively), while also displaying the highest percentage (9%) of LGBT+ people among its workforce, tied with visual arts.