As part of our Diversity in Film and TV project, we were invited to the home of Channel 4 in London to attend their D.I.V.E.R.S.E Festival.
Our project, which is supported by the Welsh Government through the Creative Industries division, focuses on the very evident inequality within the creative industries within Wales. Our focus crosses all of the protected characteristic groups, but especially (due to highlighted need) individuals from the BME community and disabled people. We have a special interest in ensuring that representation ‘behind the camera’ is encouraged and supported, as ultimately more diversity in the workforce will lead to better representation of diverse communities within the content developed.
The Channel 4 event
In 2015, Channel 4 introduced their 360° Diversity Charter (pdf) that laid out their commitment to equality and explained the detail of their various equality initiatives and this event was to see how far they had travelled a year on.
The event started with an introduction by their CEO David Abraham who clearly laid out both his own and his organisation’s commitment to making a difference by funding and supporting several initiatives that have been developed after consultation with their audience and partner voluntary sector organisations. Mr Abraham was followed by the keynote speaker Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, who emphasised the need to increase and diversify the talent pool to ensure that the UK can meet the ever-increasing needs of an expanding and far-reaching cultural and digital economy.
Next, and hot on the heels of the recent lack of diversity within the Oscar nominations, a welcome by actor Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther). Idris had only the day before delivered a keynote speech to Parliament on Diversity in the Media, and following on from this he made a passionate speech about the benefits of ensuring that diversity within the arts, and how content that is far-reaching needs to be truly representational of the country as a whole, can only lead to a greater quality of output and a better understanding of what a complex but exciting world we live in. Idris Elba speaking at the Houses of Parliament (Photo from theguardian.com)
We’re not trying to put a man on the moon. We’re just trying to redesign the face of British TV. And because British TV helps shape our world, and is the window onto our world, this is a debate for everyone. Idris Elba
The event lasted the whole day and the audience were invited to ask questions of a panel that highlighted the importance of not only the common goal, but also the importance of working together to achieve it. The panel included David Abraham (CEO, Channel 4), Tony Hall (Director General, BBC), Adam Crozier (CEO, ITV) and Anne Mensah (Head of Drama, Sky).
We were then treated to presentations around diversity of the workforce, the class influence on advancement within the industry, gender discrimination and the importance of social mobility.
The event also included presentations given by individuals within the industry that have a passion for equality, and some who have themselves overcome barriers that have been put in their way, including:
- Asifa Lahore (star of ‘Muslim Drag Queens’)
- Jessica Hynes (Writer, Actor ‘W1A’, ‘Royal family’)
- Ade Adepitan (Paralympian, Broadcaster)
- Grayson Perry (Artist, Broadcaster)
- Sandi Toksvig (Writer, Actor and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party)
Finally, we were joined by an unexpected guest speaker, Sir Lenny Henry, who praised Channel 4’s diversity plan as an “extraordinary step forward”, but still believed that ring-fenced funds for BAME projects is the best solution as the industry bids to better reflect UK society.
In Wales, we believe that there is an even wider gap between access to opportunity, and uptake by individual from BAME communities and disabled people, both in front of and behind the camera. Our project will work in partnership with individuals facing inequality and those providing employment opportunities in the hopes of overcoming layered barriers that still exist. Our aim is to ensure that our creative industries reflect the rich cultural mix within Wales.
Our project has generated interest beyond Wales, and organisations such as Channel 4 and Sky are now supporting us in our goal. We would like to see common issues discussed and joint partnership working across all of the creative industries in Wales
If you work to promote equality in the arts or If you’re trying to break into the industry and believe you have been discriminated against or that additional barriers stopped you pursuing this career, please get in touch with us. We would like to add your story to our research to ensure that this does not happen in the future and that opportunities are equal for all. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
More from our blog: