Theatre employers are being urged to ditch unpaid internships and expand the places where jobs are posted in order to tackle the sector’s “class crisis”.
Changing the language around inclusion and getting rid of arts jargon are also among the practical steps that companies can take to increase socio-economic diversity in the arts, according to a new handbook by the philanthropic foundation Jerwood Arts and the Bridge Group, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes social equality.
Described as a blueprint to help the arts industry change organisational cultures around class, the guide argues that a socio-economic background should be given the same consideration as ethnicity, gender, disability and other protected characteristics.
It includes five key recommendations for employers, which are:
The guide also includes a glossary of preferred terms, and those to avoid, as well as a list to help organisations extend where they advertise jobs, which features national and regional examples such as job centres.
Last month, it was announced that backstage vacancies at 50 London theatres would be advertised at job centres for the first time, as part of a new diversity drive by BECTU.
In addition, it calls for the onus to be put on employers to have a strategy for levelling the playing field and creating sustainable change, rather than taking a “piecemeal approach”.
Lilli Geissendorfer, director of Jerwood Arts, said: “Evaluation of our work has given us a unique view on what does and doesn’t work in recruiting those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and the toolkit shares what we now know. We hope it will help anyone with the power to appoint and promote to make strategic changes to embed inclusive practices, and make the arts more excellent for all.”
Nik Miller, chief executive of the Bridge Group, added: “Of all sectors, the arts must be where diversity and inclusion should be taken most seriously. Works that explore, challenge and reflect contemporary society are naturally richer if they are informed by a wider range of social perspectives and experiences.
“We hope this guide supports organisations and individuals to make another important step in this direction.”