Live chat with the Arts Council's Director, Diversity, Tony Panayiotou, Tuesday 4 June 2013.
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Welcome to our chat with Tony Panayiotou. Tony will be here until 1pm to answer as many questions as possible. Please abide by our live chat rules of engagement http://bit.ly/WWk7zr.
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ACE Tony: Hi everyone, thanks for joining the live chat. I'm looking forward to answering any questions you have on diversity within the arts.
ACEModerator: QUESTION FROM: FIONA SMITH, NATIONAL CULTURAL COORDINATOR, FEDERATION OF IRISH SOCIETIES VIA EMAIL As a member of a rich and diverse ethnic minority in Britain, our cultural and artistic output is regularly driven by efforts from our own community at both professional and voluntary level, and is very often not funded, recognised or developed through the mainstream cultural landscape. How will the creative case ensure that the cultural contribution of the Irish in Britain is more fully supported, so that we really do achieve great art for everyone?
ACE Tony: Hello Fiona, that’s an excellent question. The Creative Case has three main strands to it, which are vision, recognition and equality, and your question is pertinent to all of those. In terms of the vision, this is really something that the Irish arts community needs to define for itself. What are the aspirations, the hope, how does it see itself as an arts community and what does its future direction look like. I know from previous conversations with people like Ged Kelly that he felt at times that the Irish communities arts and cultural aspirations were not as forward looking or challenging outside of traditional culture. So the vision part is really in the hands of artists of Irish origin. From this the recognition for this work should follow. There is a huge contribution of Irish artists to world culture and artistic heritage but I agree that there is something that needs to happen now with contemporary artists. The Arts Council would like to see applications for funding from artists of Irish origin, and we will support these where the talent is clearly there.
ACEModerator: QUESTION FROM FRUITINGBODIES via twitter @ace_national In 2012 all artists in the top 100 auction sales were male. How can we support female artists and change market perception?
Fiona Smith, Federation of Irish Societies: I agree, Tony, we have a lot to do internally-but it is also good to hear that we would be supported in making applications and being part of the mainstream cultural offer-thanks for answering our question
ACE Tony: Hi, part of the Creative Case is about recognising the contribution of women artists, and re-framing the way we look at their work. There clearly is a problem when you look at the career of Louise Bourgeois, whose exceptional talent was not properly recognised in this country until she was well into her 80s. As Sandy Nairne from the National Portrait Gallery says in his film, we need a new generation of curators who have the vision to resituate women artists, both within the mainstream and in regards to their innovation.
ACEModerator: QUESTION FROM IAN_BECKETT via TWITTER @ace_national #creativecase Diverse Arts "happens" whilst white, middle-aged, middle-class, men meet to talk about it - true?#Q&A
ACE Tony: Hi Ian, yes, you do have a point that the arts in this country is drawn from too narrow a social network, and that needs to change and reflect the wider diversity of this country and its connections internationally. However, it is too easy to write-off the whole of the arts sector as being white, middle-class. You have to differentiate between what people do, and not what they are. The Creative Case films, we think, reflect a diversity of activity around the arts which is very refreshing and impressive. If you look at the work by Sandy Nairne and Alistair Spalding, you will see that they do exemplary work in this area. Both of them have a track record of excellent work around diversity, proving opportunity and of seeing diversity as being intrinsic to the creative process. If you watch Alistair’s film, you will see that in fact he subverts your characterisation, in that he comes from a working class background, and that is central to the egalitarian way that he works. I think Alistair also touches upon an important point around power, in that he says that his greatest delight was when he invited Jonzi D to curate Breakin’ Convention – the hip hop dance festival. Alistair was delighted that the artists and audience took over Sadler’s Wells. The artistic director Madani Younis puts it this way, part of his mission is to “lose control” of the building and shift control of the power towards the diversity of voices.The Arts Council is well aware of gender and other inequalities in the arts, and this is why we have put a lot of focus on arts workforce diversity, because difference of background, life experience and culture is immensely powerful for the arts and leads to good decisions.
nazli_zendeh: Hi Tony and hi to everyone too - The Creative Case makes for a lively catalyst for the circulation and celebration of artists, in thinking about the North in equal relationship to the National landscape can you talk about some examples of work or practice that expresses progressive change across the art forms?
ACE Tony: Hi Nazli, there’s a wealth of exciting and innovative work taking place in all sectors of the arts. Every week we get artists coming to us to tell us about the fantastic work they are doing, and we also recognise a wide network of venues and galleries across the country who are receptive to platforming that kind of work.
ACE Tony: If you want one of the most recent examples of these platforms, then we would point to the Decibel Performing Arts showcases, which over its eight-year history moved from being exclusively for African-Caribbean, African and Asian artists to the last one (in 2011) which had moved on to include not only all diverse artists in the wider sense of that word, but also anyone whose work was based in diverse creative practise. From that, we saw a truly amazing range of outstanding work. One of my personal favourites is the work of Paul Anthony Morris, whose company, ‘Crying in the Wilderness’ showcased a fifteen-minute work in progress extract of a dramatization of Ralf Ellison’s novel ‘The Invisible Man’.
Twheaterer: The Creative Case appears to be aimed primarily at mainstream arts organisations. What is its relevance to diversity specific organisations e.g. disability arts? Where do those organisations fit into the future vision for Arts in the UK?
ACE Tony: The Creative Case absolutely applies to everything, and that’s really what people have recognised as its strength in that it allows them to interpret it in a way most relevant to themselves as creators. I’m not sure that the terms ‘mainstream’ and ‘diverse’ organisations is helpful anymore. We all believe in great art, and that’s what the Creative Case is about. Part of the Creative Case is about examining and reflecting upon the diverse practise historically and today. I would point you to a whole series of case studies on the Creative Case website on the relationship between disability and artistic practice, and the work that the live art development agency has done. Please have a look at the film on Ian Ritchie from City of London Festival and you will see a great example of the way in which the centre is shifting.
Tori: Twheaterer - see here for a particularly good example of how the Creative Case is crucial to disability arts organisations http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/jo-verrent-food-for-thought and here http://thespace.org/items/s0000cxn
nazli_zendeh: Thanks Tony for those examples - In turn I look forward to continued unlocking of pledges made by NPOs in connection with the Creative Case, and how these link with the vibrant scales of ambitions of artists making work in England and as part of international dialogue.
ACEModerator: QUESTION FROM BOOM VIA CHATROOM: What is the creative case? and how do i use it in the creation of my work?
ACE Tony: The Creative Case is about a conversation about art, how it is created, how it innovates itself with the true value of equality and art at the heart of it. Previously we have tended to have two separate conversations, one about diversity and one about artistic practice. Our view is that whereas the legal requirements in the business case and the moral case are absolutely important, the strongest case of all for diversity and equality in the arts is the Creative Case. I.e. that diversity feeds creativity. In terms of practise, that is for everyone to decide, but we would highlight the value of collaboration, different ways of working, who you work with and how you work with. For more, please visit the Creative Case website: http://disabilityarts.creativecase.org.uk/
Mia: I would like to ask Tony what ACE is intending to do to address the existing discrimation and disparity in male/female ratio of cast, writers and directors in many of the ACE highly subsidised theatres as flagged up in the Guardian's recent statistics? Thank you
ACE Tony: Hi Mia. The Arts Council will continue to work with key partners, such as Equity, and organisations such as Sphinx Theatre and Tonic Theatre to address this very pertinent issue.
Twheaterer: Thanks Tony. Agreed, mainstream is probably not helpful. Those are excellent examples that I know well and would encourage people to take a look and comment using the forums available on those pages. I'm interested in highlighting the fact that diversity specific organisations have an important role in advocating for artists and nurturing talent so that diverse artists are more readily programmed by the larger institutions and should therefore be supported (and funded!) to carry that important work.
Mohammed Aerosol Ali: How do we get venues and spaces to engage in a meaningful way with BME artists. despite clear evidence that on the occasions when the spaces have been offered, they have filled venues and even sold out - but sometimes still a reluctance from those venues to develop longer term support and not just become 'one-offs' during an 'ethnic' festival.
ACE Tony: Salams Mohammed. It’s almost a question that the traditional venues offering just traditional programming need to address in terms of their own business models in resilience. In a sense they cannot afford but to not engage with new work and diverse practice if they are to remain meaningful to what modern audiences want. I refer you to Mark Robinson and Tony Nwanchukwu’s paper ‘Diversity and adaptive resilience’ (on the Creative Case website) that argues that arts organisations need to operate in a diverse, open and equal way to be able to survive in this harsh economic climate. That means programming diverse work as part of their central mission, not marginalising it in community or outreach programming. You will know as well as I do that we also need to grow new generation of programmers and curators who understand diverse work and its potential for innovating new arts and generating new audiences.
ACEModerator: QUESTION FROM BLANKAS VIA CHATROOM: Hi everyone, what sort of data does Arts Council capture to support it's work on the Creative Case? Is this data published anywhere e.g grants used to fund BME or LGBT focused projects? Thanks
ACE Tony: Hi. We do gain a broad picture from information that our National portfolio organisations send to us every year. However, we are increasingly aware that although it gives us headlines around areas such as workforce diversity, it is not sufficient enough to truly understand where things are going forwards and where they may be retreating. It is increasingly obvious to us that we need to find new ways of measuring equality in the arts which would involve qualitative as well as quantitative measures. We do carry out, internally, equality analysis and all the large decisions we make are examined through the lens of quality assessments. You’ll find for example our Quality impact assessment of our last NPO process on the Arts Council website. DCMS survey ‘Taking part’ is also quite revealing in so far as class seems to be the biggest discriminator or all, in terms of careers and engagement in the arts, and I’m really worried, given today’s university fees, how less privileged young people will be to seek careers in the arts, and does this mean that Britain’s art will be drawn from a very exclusive and narrow band of people in the near future.
paulbonham: Tony you mentioned the role of Creative Case in reflecting historic diverse practices. I see this as a real opportunity, to re-evaluate or re-enlight the arts. How have Museums, Libaries and Archives become involved with the discussion?
ACEModerator: Thanks for all your questions. Only a few minutes remaining but we hope to get through as many as possible before time is up!
ACE Tony: Thanks Paul, we would point everyone to the example of Sandy Nairne’s work at the National Portrait Gallery. We think that libraries have a particular key role to play in this conversation. In many ways local and regional libraries can give us answers to some of the problems we face in the arts sector in regards to learning, sharing knowledge and accessing an audience that most arts organisations would love to have.
AYD: How do you promote the value of companies that support the development of specific ethnic minority groups? My group promotes dance for young people of African and Caribbean descent but it is sometimes difficult explaining the value of such a group to those from non minority groups
ACE Tony: Hi. This is where we think the Creative Case really comes into play, as it places the real value on the work you do in artistic terms, taking your area of work out of being regarded as marginal activity, and focusing more on the way that your dance practice and aesthetic permeates contemporary dance. The Creative Case argues strongly that black dance culture has always played a central role in what we normally see as European dance forms. For example, did you know that when George Balanchine was appointed to the New York City Ballet over 100 years ago, he asked for a mixed company to work with of equal white and African-American ballet dancers. One of the African-American ballet dancers, Arthur Mitchell, then went on to form the dance theatre of Harlem. So our shared history gives us a different vision of black dance than the one which is usually promoted.
ACE Tony: Thanks everyone for taking part, I hope we have addressed some of the issues and comments you had around diversity in the arts. Please have a look at the first four films from the 'Heads Up' series on the Creative Case website. You can also share your thoughts on the blog there as well. The final four films from the series will be live next Monday.http://disabilityarts.creativecase.org.uk/ Thanks again, Tony