Rant 93: It’s 2013 why am I still having to bang on about equality and diversity in the arts?

Rant 93: It’s 2013 why am I still having to bang on about equality and diversity in the arts? Aidan Moesby, Hang on, itll be okay, 2013 - 2013

How seriously do we take our responsibilities regarding equality and diversity? Aidan Moesby suspects that a lot of lip service is being paid and not enough support is being given to artists trying to get out there 

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Creative Case – Arts Council England’s new approach to diversity and equality, where the focus is on great art rather than a limiting label of gender, sexuality, race or disability for instance.

I recently attended a regional Creative Case conference – as a ‘diverse artist’ an invitation would have been nice – but then I realised that the conference wasn’t really for me, neither was it for the few other freelance artists present. It seemed more for organisations to collectively say ‘Yes, we do diversity’, satisfy their Arts Council England National Portfolio funding criteria and dispense a self-congratulatory pat on the back. Tick that box!

In an ‘Open Space’ forum I got told many things including ‘It’s hard for everyone in the arts’ and I’ve ‘Got the same access to opportunities as everyone else’. It was clear most of the people present had little experience, understanding or awareness around issues of getting seen, heard or making a living as a ‘diverse artist’. Clearly, if we all had the same access to opportunities and there really was a level playing field, what were we doing at a conference devoted to diversity in the arts?

As I tried to express the difficulties faced by diverse, particularly disabled, artists, I felt I was marginalising myself even more. The more I tried to convey that we haven’t all been to art school and that a massive schism exists between how ‘diverse arts’ and ‘mainstream arts’ are valued and represented, I could feel the disconnect intensify. Oh, the irony!

The word disability returns 89 search results on Axisweb and 69 on the a-n site. Disability is under-represented in society as a whole and this is reflected and magnified in the arts. Shouldn’t arts organisations be doing better? How can there be ‘great’ diverse art if diverse artists are consistently excluded? So if you do diversity like you say you do, then invite us in. Go on, take a risk, let’s converse, let’s collaborate!

Contributed by Aidan Moseby, August 2013

Aidan is an artist and writer based in Newcastle/Gateshead, North East.

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