The mayor of London Sadiq Khan claimed theatres should be “pulling out all the stops” to improve the ethnic diversity of their workforces.
Khan argued a career in the arts has the potential to transform the futures of black, Asian and minority ethnic young people, and in some cases “help steer them away from a life of violence”.
The comments were made at the launch of BECTU’s Diversity Action Plan at the London Coliseum on November 27.
More than 90 theatres across the UK have signed up to the plan, which aims to improve the proportion of people from BAME backgrounds working off stage.
Khan said: “In London, 40% of our population is black, Asian or minority ethnic, but only one in five people working in the creative industries are from BAME backgrounds.
“While we’ve come a long way, clearly we have much further to go. We need to be pulling out all the stops, to get more BAME Londoners on screen and off screen, backstage and behind the scenes, whether it’s directors, writers, stage managers, costume designers, lighting designers or sound engineers.”
Khan argued that every Londoner should have a “fair shot of making the most of their abilities irrespective of the colour of their skin or the postcode they grew up in”.
He added: “I believe that expanded access to culture and boosting diversity throughout our creative workforce is crucial.
“Not only because it can transform the prospects of young Londoners from BAME backgrounds and in some cases help to steer them away from a life of violence and towards positive career paths, but because by tackling systemic discrimination and drawing on the talents of all Londoners, we stand a much better chance of building a society that is strong and safe, an economy that is successful, and a culture that is open and inclusive.”