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.

CLOSING EVENT – PART ONE

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.

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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.

CLOSING EVENT – PART TWO

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

 

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