Diversity and Inclusion – A National Conversation

This year we sought to add to the quality and quantity of debate around diversity and inclusion in classical music. We have form in this area having hosted a successful discussion series in London called Class, Race and Classical Music since 2015 and contributing regularly to symposia, conferences and research projects led by partner organisations across the country.

In 2016/17 we asked two questions: firstly, what does diversity mean in a regional context? Secondly, how do we move from discussion to action?

To explore some of the regional aspects of this debate we partnered with two national organisations: IAMA (international Arts Managers Association) and ABO (of Association of British Orchestras), delivering conference sessions for both groups and learning from their members.

We also hosted a Class, Race and Classical Music event at this year’s Cheltenham Festival chaired by broadcaster Tom Service with panelists including conductor Jonathon Heyward and BBC Radio 3 editor Edwina Wolstencroft. In each of these events, we challenged participants to look at diversity in its broadest sense and consider the unique challenges and opportunities arising from engagement with local communities.

The move from talk to action is an important one. At the ABO conference in January, we took the view that many small actions can have a big impact. We invited delegates to pledge to deliver realistic positive actions that would take their organisation one step forwards. To help the process, we followed up with all who had made pledges in the following months and hosted an event in London where delegates could share their experiences of attempting change. Additionally, we invited senior leaders from arts organisations across the UK to help develop tools to identify the impact of implicit (or unconscious) bias at an organisational level. We believe that this hidden bias, which affects us all, has resulted in a lack of diversity amongst artsists, audience and workforce that is completely at odds with the values of the majority in our sector.

London Music Masters committed to building a more inclusive sector the moment we taught our first violin lesson to a group of children in a Lambeth primary school nine years ago. Our more recent focus on working with partners in the sector to develop industry-wide strategic thinking on diversity and inclusion is in many ways the bigger challenge. But as a sector we must find new ways of working and organising which result in a more balanced musical society. Already we are seeing that the positive shifts in the classical music eco-system are impacting our work at the grassroots. There is much to do, and we head into our tenth year with the confidence that much can be achieved.

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