Cambridge Case for Diversity: Whose Culture is it Anyway?
We live in an incredibly diverse society. But do our arts organisations, artists and audiences reflect this?
WHAT IS THE CASE FOR DIVERSITY?
In recent years there have been a number of national studies, initiatives and wide-ranging reviews of current and past evidence regarding equality and diversity within the arts and cultural sector in England. This research has revealed that participation and engagement by diverse groups has shown little or no growth over the past nine years, demonstrating that there still remains significant variance in how people of different backgrounds access the arts across the country.
Why is this? Research on the subject concludes that the underlying reasons that influence an individual’s ability or motivation to engage in arts and culture are far from simple. Some suggest that the under-representation of some groups is explained by a complex interplay of different preferences, drivers and barriers (social, institutional, economic, educational, ethnicity, age, disability and gender). Others address this imbalance from the perspective of traits inherent within the sector itself, such as cultural elitism, or an arts workforce that does not represent the society it serves.
SITUATING CAMBRIDGE: UNDERSTANDING THE BIGGER PICTURE
The Cambridge Case for Diversity will span two events; the first conference Whose Culture is it Anyway? will kickstart the discussion by considering the national picture and address issues and topics that affect diversity within the arts and cultural sector as a whole. By bringing a range of external speakers together with local representatives from equalities groups and arts and cultural organisations, the conference aims to better reflect Cambridge’s diverse communities. Through situating Cambridge within this broader context, the outcomes of the conference will provide the framework for a dedicated follow up event to discuss the city’s response, highlight local examples of successful practice and areas for improvement, and explore how arts and culture can best reflect Cambridge’s complex cultural and unique socio-economic makeup.
To set the scene, Whose Culture is it Anyway? will provide a platform to discuss the key factors that impact on our sectors ability to engage diverse audiences; including artistic programming, communication, access to funds and audience and arts workforce development. With a combination of thought provoking key note speakers, breakout sessions, national case studies and initiatives, and networking opportunities; this conference aims to discuss diversity from a positive perspective and as an opportunity to explore the benefits and creative potential of taking an inclusive approach, addressing not only the protected characteristics but also the impact of education, class and geography upon diverse communities.
WHOSE CULTURE: KEY QUESTIONS AND POINTS FOR THE CONFERENCE
- What constitutes ‘art’ and ‘culture’ and to what extent are these terms still meaningful or useful?
- Who defines what good or bad quality art is, what is high or low culture; and is this important?
- What do diverse groups want to engage in and where, either as participants or as audience members and how do we find out their tastes and preferences?
- How do we ensure that non-funded, non-NPO delivered and/or voluntary arts activities are acknowledged and recognised as equally legitimate alongside funded or professional arts?
- What impact does positive or negative discrimination have across programming (creation and consumption), audience and art workforce development?
- How can we improve communication between arts providers and diverse communities and equalities groups?
- What support is available to arts and cultural organisations, equalities groups, and artist practitioners to help foster greater diversity?
NETWORKING: WHO IS ATTENDING THE CONFERENCE?
We have invited representatives from Cambridge based equalities and voluntary groups, the education sector, and arts and cultural organisations and independent practitioners to attend the conference to meet, participate in breakout sessions together, share experience and network. The speakers and breakout leaders have a wide range of experience and knowledge of working across diverse communities, from a variety of positions including research, consultation, project delivery, communication, training, audience development, funding and cultural strategy.
The Cambridge Case for Diversity is an opportunity to bring together these different sectors and to collectively discuss what challenges we need to understand and overcome, and to consider what ‘culture’ means to different groups in society. We will also produce a full delegate pack with organisation and contact details so you can continue conversations beyond the conference.
CAMBRIDGE: CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
Cambridge is a diverse city: over a fifth of its population totally changes each year, a third of residents are born outside of England with over half from non-EU countries, nearly a fifth of people are ‘non-white’, and 11% of households do not speak English as a main language. In short Cambridge continues to be one of the most culturally diverse places in the country outside of London. However, despite having a thriving economy, a reputation for globally recognised hi-tech and bio-tech industries and being a national centre for higher education and research; many residents do not share in the city’s prosperous economy. For example, 20 areas in the city are amongst the 40% most deprived areas nationally. Poorer educational attainment and aspirations for children and young people growing up in low income families, has made Cambridge the fifth worst place in the country in terms of social mobility for young people leaving school. The correlation between poverty and engagement in arts and culture is also recognised as impacting to a greater degree on people from BAME or disabled backgrounds. To help make a difference, a series of consultations and a review of available evidence about poverty in Cambridge were conducted and an action plan created in response, as set out in the Cambridge City Council Anti-Poverty Strategy.
For further information on the event, including the agenda, breakout session choices, location and travel; please visit the CAN website here