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Festivals Toolkit: Diversity

A commitment to ensuring that the arts are at the heart of our society is fundamental to contemporary arts practice and funding. That means two things in particular; firstly that we ensure that the very best talent is able to fulfil its potential; through creating an environment in which established and new artists are supported and valued. And secondly, that we ensure that everyone in society is able to engage with the arts, whether as artist, audience, or participant.
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A fundamental part of fulfilling such a vision is ensuring that the arts truly reflect all our communities. Everyone in our society is entitled to be able to enjoy the arts, and attaining the highest quality of arts in this country is dependent on ensuring that anyone with talent can develop and exercise it.

So, embedding diversity in all that it supports is of fundamental importance and all festivals should aim to ensure that this priority is properly reflected in their planning and programmes of work. One of the key priorities is to develop opportunities for black and minority ethnic (BME) artists and communities; to ensure that their creativity is allowed to flourish and that the arts in England truly reflect and celebrate their place in our society.

This approach is reflected in all the funding streams that Arts Council England provides, not least in its Grants for the Arts programme. Developing cultural diversity as a theme in a festival’s programme will therefore help to position it more strategically and possibly increase the potential for a festival to derive funding from public sources, grant-making trusts and the private sector.

Further advice on Audience Development initiatives is available from:

Further reading:
In recent years several publications have been produced which contain good practical advice, case studies and other valuable essays based on research into cultural diversity and organisations for which this is central to their work.

Navigating difference: cultural diversity and audience development (Arts Council England, 2006)
Navigating difference is a debate about issues that are at the heart of what it means to be British today. Leading voices from the art world discuss the relevance of cultural diversity and cultural identity to the arts.

The Voluntary Arts Network (VAN) have published three Briefing Sheets that provide useful information

  • VAN Briefing Sheet no 93 (pdf format) looks at the importance of cultural diversity to the voluntary arts as a concept extending beyond issues of race and equality. It considers the subject from a philosophical stance, discusses why it matters, looks at its interpretation in practice and shows what voluntary arts organisations can do to demonstrate and promote cultural diversity in their work and artistic activities.
  • VAN Briefing Sheet no 111 (pdf format) provides general advice on how to increase the range of people who participate in a group, with a checklist of simple things that can be done to achieve this quickly and easily.
  • VAN Briefing Sheet no 110 (pdf format) provides guidance on including disabled and deaf people on a board, management committee or advisory group.

Demographic Data
Arts Council England has developed Area Profile Reports, a system of creating demographic profiles of specific areas of the UK. You can define the area you are interested in by distance, drivetime or local authority area. These reports will tell you the number and percentage of people from very broad ethnic groups (‘ White’, ‘Black’, ‘ Mixed:White/Black’, ‘Mixed: White/Asian’, ‘Asian’, ‘Other Mixed’ and ‘Other Ethnic’) within each postal sector in the area you define.

Postal sectors contain on average 2,500 households each, a manageable number at which to target marketing activity. Area Profile Reports are only available to funded clients of Arts Council England, the Scottish Arts Council or Arts Council Wales or to venues that present work produced by funded clients. Get more information and an order form by emailing areaprofiles@artscouncil.org.uk

  • A detailed commentary on the 2001 census data on ethnicity and religion can be found at the National Statistics website
  • The National Statistics website provides more general overview of the UK population including headlines on ethnicity and religion.  
  • A variety of detailed statistics can be found at Neighbourhood Statistics, providing a break down by ward and local authority district, including data on ethnicity.

Further information
The following documents are all available to download or order online at http://www.artscouncil.org.uk

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)
The following publications are available to order from the NCVO website

  • Are you looking at me?
    A practical guide to recruiting a diverse workforce
  • Making Diversity Happen
    A practical guide to creating a diversity policy, strategy and action plan including how to involve volunteers, users and employees. 

Also see:

  • Arts About Manchester. Executive summaries of project reports including: Chinese Audiences Profiling, North West Diversity Festival, What in the World? Comic Book Project and Enabling Diversity are available to download under ‘ Completed Projects’ on the left hand menu. There is also a link to a presentation Re-thinking Cultural Diversity under ‘ current projects’.
  • New Audiences
    Reports, project summaries and articles resulting from the New Audiences programme aimed at finding new approaches to audience and art development that target harder-to-reach audiences.  
  • Arts Professional
    Subscribers to the magazine can access an online, searchable archive containing features and case studies on cultural diversity issues.

An explanation of key works and their meanings is given in a Word document that is available to download from the Related Documents section of this page.

Sources of Information about Artists and Companies
No artist likes being labelled. As Jorella Andrews points out, artists aren’t abandoning their cultural heritage, but they want to use it as a resource if they choose, rather than it being something that narrowly defines who they are. So although some artists have proposed an online Black arts register, others are reluctant to associate themselves with information resources that centre on ethnicity.

Here is a selection of the available sources of information:  

  • As part of its London: Diaspora Capital project, Cultural Co-operation lists 216 audio visual artist profiles searchable by artform, genre, culture or faith origin, country of origin and the London Borough in which they are based.
  • A list of Independent Theatre Council’s 600-plus members is available at but nonmembers can only search alphabetically.
  • London Dance has a directory of London based dance companies categorised by dance style.
  • Mainstream Newsletter contains profiles of ‘culturally diverse’ artists and practitioners in the East Midlands. Subscribe by contacting mainstream@artstrainingcentral.co.uk or calling 0116 2425202.
  • The North West Profile (an Arts Council England publication) contains a directory of 40 ‘culturally diverse’ artists and organisations in the North West region.
  • Promoting Diversity is a list of ‘culturally diverse’ theatre companies funded to tour in the UK, although it is not an exhaustive list of arts organisations presenting culturally diverse work.  
  • What’s Apnaing is a quarterly ebulletin produced by Audiences Yorkshire listing South Asian cultural events throughout the region. Sign up through the www.digyorkshire.com website by joining the mailing list and ticking the ‘South Asian Arts’ box.
  • Archives of past showcases organised by xtrax, including decibel showcases, at www.xtrax.org.uk.  They also host a directory of street artists.

Related documents

The following document is in Portable Document Format (PDF). You can download software to view PDF documents for free from the Adobe website (opens in a new window)

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