Kevin Osborne has long been exercised by systemic racial bias in UK arts funding. Last month he produced a panel discussion aimed at ‘digging deep’.
Two weeks ago I produced an online event with MeWe360 'Funding BAME Creativity - Exploring The New Normal'. The aim of the event was to 'dig deep' into the systemic racial bias in UK arts funding.
Bringing together major funders in the sector, our panelists included Francis Runacres, Executive Director, Enterprise & Innovation, Arts Council England; Dame Caroline Mason DBE, Chief Executive, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation; and Genevieve Maitland Hudson, Deputy CEO, Social Investment Business.
I was interested to hear their various perspectives on several issues, most importantly on the structures that have kept arts funding racially biased for decades. But in addition, I wanted to understand what they had learned from Covid and the Black Lives Matter movement about the need to fund equitably.
Looking forward, I wanted to understand their thinking on what a new, more equitable funding system could and should like. As people making the funding decisions, I felt it was important to hear their views.
The event was inspired by an Arts Council England funded research paper by myself and James Doeser on the impact of Covid and lockdown measures on BAME entrepreneurs. It highlighted the invisibility and underfunding of BAME entrepreneurs pre-Covid; how during Covid some BAME entrepreneurs experienced increased visibility and, in some cases, increased revenues due to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
As we start to emerge from Covid there is a real desire by BAME entrepreneurs for a new settlement. One in which we remain visible and are funded equitably.
An open, honest and free-flowing discussion
What follows is an open, honest and free-flowing discussion, expertly facilitated by Mohit Bakaya, Controller at Radio 4.
The panel of arts funders were joined by a sub-panel of sector experts who offered their insights from the perspective of grant recipients, BAME creative entrepreneurs, researchers and arts consultants.
Conversations on race are never easy. I was delighted we were able to explore difficult issues without embarrassment or guardedness, though inevitably there were one or two moments of vulnerability. I want to thank all panelists for their honesty and candidness in contributing to an illuminating conversation.
We are keen to keep the conversation going. Let me know what you think of the event and if you'd be interested in being part of a wider follow-up discussion, you can get in touch here.
Kevin Osborne is CEO at MeWe360
This article from social entrepreneur Kevin Osborne, founder of MeWe360 and Create Equity, is part of a series of articles that promote a more equitable and representative sector.