Tony Panayiotou's Key Note address from the Creative Case Symposium held on 12th September 2011, Manchester
25 September 2011
Good morning everybody and let me also take the opportunity to extend my own welcome to our Creative Case Symposium.
I will in my presentation make references to what is meant by the term the ‘Creative Case’ but that will not be the main focus of what I am going to say in the next few minutes. My colleague Hassan Mahamdallie will elaborate on that further in his comments immediately following me. What I intend to do today is focus around three key headings.
• How and why did the Arts Council arrive at the position it has called the Creative Case and how this work is placed within the Arts Council’s 10 year vision as articulated in Achieving great art for everyone?
• What will we be doing to progress this work over the next few years and what it means for the arts sector as a whole?
• And finally, what might success look like?
I should say at the outset that the Creative Case is entirely about an arts-driven and an artistic-led approach to achieving diversity and greater equality in the arts. As such, it is not something that can be brought about by dictat. Our approach to this work is about partnership, collaboration, mutual support, learning, exchange and planning. Today therefore is an open invitation to the arts sector to work with us to make a real and permanent change to eliminating the horrible, anachronistic and self-perpetuating barriers that distort the arts to the detriment of Britain’s people, audiences (and non-audiences) and especially detrimental to the artists and arts companies. These barriers, elitist by nature, sustained by an oligopoly of thought, deny and exclude merit, innovation and difference, define and maintain the so called ‘mainstream’ and act as gatekeepers to who and what flourishes. This needs to change.
There are many ways to understand diversity. We are clear in the Arts Council that we do not have to create diversity, it exists, it’s there... you can see it, feel it, touch it, it’s in this room, and on the streets of Manchester. What really needs addressing are the issues of inequality and lack of opportunity. But just pausing on that point for a minute, I think it would be useful if I quoted the Arts Council’s definition of diversity so that it is clear about the constituency of people that I am talking about.
We say: ‘Our definition of diversity encompasses responding to issues around race, ethnicity, faith, disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, class and economic disadvantage and any social and institutional barriers that prevent people from participating in and enjoying the arts.’ I think it is important to say that because sometimes people associate diversity with one particular strand, usually race equality. We don’t subscribe to a hierarchy of discrimination – all kinds of discrimination harms everyone in the arts sector and in society as a whole.