Is the London Art World Excluding Young BAME People?

A new report argues that young people from ethnic minority backgrounds in London are being shunned by the creative sector

Courtesy: Partnership for Young London and Roundhouse

Courtesy: Partnership for Young London and Roundhouse

A new report has shone a light on the exclusion of young people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in London by the creative sector. The study, published by advocacy collective Partnership For Young London and creative space Roundhouse, pointed to a variety of reasons, including the persistence of unpaid internships, degree requirements for entry-level roles and poor careers advice.

The report draws on focus groups and interviews with people aged between 15 and 24, alongside research into various creative organizations. It has pointed to employers ‘requiring degrees for entry-level roles where a degree isn’t necessary’ and an oversaturation of graduates in the art world.

BAME young people regularly felt uncomfortable in office settings, and many spoke about the challenges of being the only minority in the workplace. One respondent in a focus group said: ‘You feel like you have to speak in a certain way for them to understand you.’ The report also highlighted how prejudices locked BAME people into particular skills – many ‘felt that drama and acting was more for white people and that music was more for black people.’

Partnership For Young London and Roundhouse are now calling on the UK government to reform its careers advice system, and reconsider funding options for young people who decide not to attend university, including the creation of a new grants scheme – in a bid to bolster diversity in the creative industries. Furthermore, the report calls for an end to unpaid internships in the creative industries.

Partnership For Young London director Sharon Long commented: ‘Young Londoners are an asset to this city and its creative industries, yet their expectations of the sector make for grim reading.’ She continued: ‘Many expect to have to persevere past multiple challenges; from financial burdens, a lack of arts education, and pessimism from those they trust most.’

The artistic director of Roundhouse, Marcus Davey added: ‘Our sector is failing young people and we run the risk of alienating the brilliant diverse talent from our organisations if we don’t make drastic changes to make recruitment and environments more inclusive.’

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