The Advance Network Phase 2 Closing Event – what did I miss?

Despite the excellent work and high levels of commitment to change in the Cultural and Creative Industries, low cultural and social diversity amongst audiences, consumers and the creative workforce remains a key challenge for future success. We are particularly concerned that publicly funded arts, culture and heritage, supported by tax and lottery revenues, are predominantly accessed by an unnecessarily narrow social, economic, ethnic and educated demographic that is not fully representative of the UK’s population.”  Warwick Report

Many thanks to all the delegates that attended The Advanced Network phase 2 – taking action final event that took place on the same day as the Warwick Report was announced in the media. This is a brief reminder of the day for attendees and a short report about the event for those unable to attend.


This final network event took place at City Hall on 17th February marking the formal end of the Advance Network project. It sought to examine and highlight some of the actions that have taken place during the past 2 and a half years and also to empower delegates to either begin to take action or to continue building on the action they have already started to take.

Dr Christina Scharff was the first speaker to take the stage to present some of the highlights from her recently completed research report examining diversity and equality in relation to gender, race and class. Although Dr Scharff opened her presentation by stating that the findings paint a depressing picture, however, the data does provide a solid foundation for action to redress imbalances. The full report can be viewed hereIMG_3369 Dr Scharff concluded that: 1.The issue of gender inequality proves that there are institutional practices that need to change. 2. The pace of change is slow and change is not always progressive. In order to make a substantial difference the sector needs to consider positive action. 3. Structural issues require structural solutions – quotas or blind auditions for example.

Janine Irons MBE IMG_3383 gave a hard-hitting and impassioned presentation. She began by saying that she was not going to put a positive spin on the situation and that, after nearly 25 years of Tomorrow’s Warriors existence, it was soul-destroying to be having the same conversations about diversity. Despite decades of diversity initiatives and  funding to support this area very little had actually changed. Janine made a very strong case for the work that Tomorrow’s Warriors does to provide equality of opportunity for all, and made a plea to funders to stop setting up new initiatives and instead to focus on creating fundamental structural change. The focus must shift away from seeing diversity as a deficit and something that leads to the dumbing down of quality, and instead an acceptance of diversity being a badge for quality and excellence. Janine also made a plea to organisations to stop trying to use Tomorrow’s Warriors to tick their organisation’s diversity boxes!

Robert Adediran IMG_3386  began his presentation with the very personal story of his mother, whose own musical journey was severely limited despite her genuine interest and the support of her music teacher, Mr Wilson. Through this initial engagement Robert’s mother was passionate  in supporting her own children to develop their musical interests.  As a direct consequence of this, Robert and his two siblings now work in the music profession and have a lifelong love of classical music. He used his story to highlight the importance of taking the long-term view  i.e. that it can take at least a generation for real change to happen.   Robert went on to point out that it is critical that music organisations try to remove the often perceived ‘paternalistic’ approach of music education in the community. London Music Masters have begun to embed themselves in the communities around them and  don’t actually have to reach very far because they are already part of the diverse communities on their doorstep. The other main point he made was that the relationship with the community must be reciprocal.  From a personal point of view he spoke about his own interest in seeing how classical music is filtered through the experiences of diverse communities, so that the music they create is very different from those who have been classically trained – “music is a living thing that grows and changes”.

Milica Robson  IMG_3395  reiterated the importance of diversity to excellence and quality, neither of which can truly flourish without diversity. ACE are there to support and enable organisations to take action and strongly support those organisations that continue to place diversity at the heart of their work. Alongside excellence, accountability remains a core need but ACE is opposed to organisations simply ticking boxes and praised the excellence of the work done by Tomorrow’s Warriors. Milica also spoke of the work that ACE has been leading to set up the network of Music Hubs across the country. She reiterated the importance of this part of the ACE’s portfolio  – to give all children widening access to music around the country which must never be underestimated. The Hubs are based on the principles of equality and access, firmly enshrined in the National Strategy for Music Education. Milica ended by reiterating the need for a long term approach and encouraged all those present to continue with the good work that the Advance Network had initiated.

Key points raised from the floor in response to the presentations included:  

  • Agreement with the danger of a paternalistic / cultural imperialist approach – many initiatives come from well meaning mainstream organisations and the risk of these being patronising is immense.
  • The need for some care when looking at statistics on gender / race / class in relation to employment in the sector as there is an inevitable time lag due to the longevity of careers. It is important to also factor in the replacement rate and not just the employment rate.
  • Agreement that positive action measures need to be taken, and that diversity doesn’t mean a compromise.

Charlotte Barbour-Condini, BBC Young Musician 2012 winner of the woodwind final, gave a beautifully judged performance of  Telemann Sonata.

IMG_3399 Roundtable discussions The conference participants discussed in smaller groups whether there were small shoots of change emerging as a result of the Network’s activities, and what barriers remained.


Key discussion points included:

  • That the debate needs to move away from seeing diversity as a problem and recognise the important role it plays in creating quality and excellence.
  • The story of Mr Wilson as a metaphor for the need to take the long term view
  • The issue of class – which is often not discussed but which has a huge impact on access.
  • The need to not make too many assumptions and understand some of the complexities in this area – for example on the point made previously regarding the number of students at conservatoires coming from private schools – many BAME young people had received scholarships to private schools and this is an important entry route for many young people.
  • The need to do it for ourselves and not wait for diversity initiatives coming down from on high.
  • The need for structural change
  • The need to be passionate about music as this can be powerful when engaging young people – but perhaps not very ‘British’?
  • Need to show young people that there are different options and career paths in the industry.
  • Investing in teachers as they play a critical role.
  • Change is definitely happening but that shouldn’t be an excuse to just sit back and do nothing, we all need to play a role in creating sustained change.
  • Using a Hegelian approach to challenging ‘thesis’ – the status quo.
  • Reaching parents is very important and encouraging them to see music not just as a career path but a lifelong engagement.
  • The importance of flagship organisations / individuals as role models and providing examples of different ways of doing things.


Will appear in the next blog! There is plenty of food for thought until then ………………



Heading towards the sunset or is it a new dawn?


Are we heading towards the sunset or is it a new dawn for diversity within the musical landscape?  The Advance Network what next? My organisation is not interested but can I make a difference? Can we see some organisational change already or is it too soon?

These are some of the diversity pancakes we will be making, tossing and devouring  on Shrove Tuesday at : 

The Advance Network Phase 2 Closing Event  

On:Tuesday 17th February 9 – 1 .30pm 

Where: City Hall.

Please don’t forget to register as tickets are going fast. You can access a direct link into the event website via the previous blog.

More information about our guest speakers: Milica Robson will speak about the current place of diversity within the arts and whether there has been a significant change in the last 2 years at the Arts Council. James Douglas will share his perspective on the classical music scene as he embarks on his career as a professional cellist. Beverley Mason will be presenting the executive summary of the research project she undertook for the first phase of The Advanced Network. Sean Gregory will outline some of the exciting initiatives that will actively promote diversity within the education and performance sectors.


Kuumba orchestra -2

Kuumba Youth Music will once again be running its Young Music Leaders Programme for young BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) musicians aged 14 – 17, kindly supported by the Arts Council.

There will be a launch event on:

Saturday 21st February at 3 pm at the Royal Academy of Music

If you know of any young musicians who would be interested or who would benefit from taking part in this programme please direct them to: or send them along to the event to find out more about the project!


I was sent this link to a short documentary about a young viola player who has overcome her family’s poverty in Chile which I would like to share with you as it yet again confirms the power of music!





‘Taking Action’

“Never underestimate the power a committed group of individuals has to create change, in fact it’s the only thing that ever has” Margaret Mead

On Monday 10th February we had a focused and fascinating gathering in City Hall at     The Advance Network, phase 2 ‘Taking Action’ Launch.

‘Taking Action’ considers ways in which we can work together as a classical/jazz music sector to take action in relation to diversity and to share effective practice.

We began with a beautiful and moving performance from surprise guest, MOBO nominee and Kuumba Youth Music mentor,

Ayanna Witter Johnson


Paul Broadhurst, our host from Greater London Authority, formally welcomed us and gave an update on the work that GLA are doing to support young musicians.

Surya Turner gave an overview of The Advance Network activities to date and shared her vision of ‘Taking Action’ phase 2. (Watch it here)


Following this we enjoyed presentations from:
Adam Jeanes, Senior Relationship Manager at the Arts Council England, revealed his insights and recent experiences of the fast changing world of music education. (watch it here)


Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, with Beverley Mason from Medar Pysden International introduced the Advance Network phase 1 research and updated us on some of the emerging themes in looking at barriers and effective practice in ensemble music making. (watch it here)


Ruth Cook, Managing Director of Action Learning Associates spoke enthusiastically about how action learning is used to effect change. (watch it here)


Sean Gregory, Director of Creative Learning at Barbican & Guildhall, shared his own leadership journey, the tools he has used to encourage change and his views on diversity in the sector today. (watch it here)


After the presentations, delegates formed into themed small groups. Some robust and focused solutions to barriers in the classical and jazz sector were made in a relatively small amount of time. (watch it here)

Finally we shared how delegates can be involved with the professional/organisational development opportunities that form part of The Advance Network phase 2.

We would love for you to be part of this community of ‘thoughtful individuals’ who are looking to make a positive difference and grow in the process.

There are 3 ways you can join in and be involved:

1)    Action Learning

‘Action learning is a process which involves working on real challenges, using the knowledge and skills of a small group of people combined with skilled questioning, to re-interpret old and familiar concepts and produce fresh ideas.’ Action learning Associates

There are still some places left to join an action learning set that will be exploring barriers and effective practices in working with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic musicians and families.

We are particularly interested in involving individuals whose work is primarily in music hubs and/or in classical and jazz organisations which work with 16-25 year olds across these musical genres.

If you are interested and need more information drop us a line here.

If you know you want to get involved Apply Here.

We are looking forward to welcoming you…

2)    Action Research

We will also be running a small bespoke workshop. If you have a specific project that you would like to develop or are currently working on, we would like to help. This workshop will give you an opportunity to share your ideas and receive instant feedback.

We will then be working closely with 3 projects, chosen from the workshop, over the course of the year who will share their learning with the wider Advance Network community.

If you want to be invited express your interest HERE and we will send you an invitation.

Alternatively, if you would like to have a conversation with Surya Turner or one of The Advance Network Leadership team about whether either activity is right for you or your organisation please do let us know and we can set up a short call.

3)    Research and our Blog

We will be continuing with our research from phase 1 and would love your input on our blog.

If you have any projects or stories that we can share on our blog around diversity in music we would love to hear from you, so do get in contact with us if you would like to be featured.

We are looking forward to working with you.