Major Study on Workforce Needs of Theatre & Performing Arts Should Benefit BAME Creatives!

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre jointly commissioned research  to assess the current and future needs of the UK’s world-leading theatre and performing arts sector workforce. This was carried out on behalf of the sector.

The UK’s creative industries, including theatre and the performing arts, are growing at almost twice the rate of the wider UK economy, and are worth £84.1 billion a year, with government statistics showing that they provide 1.9 million jobs!

As that workforce continues to grow, and the demands of off-stage roles continue to change, this research will allow SOLT and UK Theatre to work with the industry, including employers, sector bodies, skills providers and government, to make workforce investments and ensure the long-term health of the sector.

Nordicity and Alistair Smith, editor of The Stage, were commissioned to undertake the research, which included a survey of workers and employers, focus groups and interviews with key figures.

Challenges identified in the research include:

  1. A workforce that is passionate and engaged, but struggling with issues of low pay and a lack of investment in skills development, particularly with freelance contracts.
  2. An organisational culture that must become more open to talent and skills from new areas, to long-term commitment to professional development and to flexible working practices.
  3. A workforce that is currently unrepresentative of the public, with low numbers of people from ethnic minority backgrounds and very low numbers of disabled people.
  4. Shortage of skilled technical workers (including in lighting and automation) and senior managers (especially outside London), and in areas such as marketing and finance.

SOLT and UK Theatre have resolved to establish a consortium of sector bodies and skills providers, including commercial and not-for-profit employers across the industry; sector bodies such as the new National College for Creative and Cultural Skills, and drawing from educational and union organisations, to help address the challenges raised.

UK Theatre will also review its training programme, offering new courses and renewing its existing syllabus. The Theatre Development Trust will support this initiative with seed funding.

Julian Bird, Chief Executive of SOLT and UK Theatre said, “We are rightly proud in the UK of our dynamic and world leading theatre industry. For the sector to continue to thrive in ten or twenty years’ time, we need to make sure that we have the right skills in place and are attracting the right diverse mix of people. This report gives us a roadmap to work with Government and employers, and on behalf of the industry, to address the requirements of our growing workforce.”

TBB Says: The theatre has led TV and film in the employment of BAME creatives, which is reflected in the casting of our artistsin title roles like John Boyega in Woychek at The Old Vic; Zawe Ashton and Uzo Aduba in The Maids at Trafalgar Studios; Adrian Lester in Othello at The National; Lenny Henry in Othello at the Yorkshire Playhouse; and Don Warrington in King Lear at the Manchester Royal Exchange and Birmingham Repertory. Other star castings include Lenny Henry as Prof. Frank Bryant in Educating Rita at the Minerva, Chichester; Cathy Tyson as Marie Curie in Radiance at the Tabard and Lucien Msamati as Salieri in Amadeus at The National.

Our stories have been rostered in numbers which can only rival the 1980s when numerous black theatre companies thrived. Plays like Les Blancs at The National; A Raisin In The Sun on tour; Fences at The Duchess; Torn and Father Comes Home From The Wars at the Royal Court; Blackta at the Young Vic; Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes and The House That Will Not Stand at The Tricycle; Intimate Apparel at The Park; Chewing Gum at The National; House and Amongst The Reeds at the Edinburgh Fringe and The Yard via Clean Break; and Blue/Orange at the Young Vic.

So, for SOLT and UK Theatre to publicly acknowledge that they can and should do better highlights the fact that British TV and film need to do much, much better too! Lets hope that the recorded arts are inspired to do just that. We applaud the theatre for attempting to pull up its own boot straps. ENDS.

The full Theatre Workforce Review can be read here.


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