“Diversity is back at the bottom of the agenda in the live industry,” said Manchester International Festival head of music Jane Beese who oversees the Equality Diversity and Inclusion sub-committee at LIVE.
Beese, speaking as part of a panel at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) focused on diversity, said, “The pandemic was a devastating two years but a silver lining was that the diversity conversation and mental health made it onto the agenda in a serious way, now we are back to business there doesn’t seem to be space for it.”
The session was chaired by Black Live In Music’s Roger Wilson, and also included CAA agent Emma Banks and South Africa-based promoter Theresho Selesho at Matchbox Live.
Beese said that with the industry having lost a considerable proportion of its workforce during the pandemic now is the ideal time to focus on building diversity into a recruitment drive: “We need to grasp that as an opportunity to develop some really forward thinking recruitment and training in our industry. We need to use the opportunity to change the face of our industry.”
She suggested that one of the things holding up the process was a nervousness about the correct language to use when discussing race and diversity: “Among the things that are holding progress up is that people don’t know where to start. There needs to be education around language, there is a nervousness as that changes all the time.”
Wilson said, “I sense a lot of fear among the industry about this, it is palpable – this is about inclusion and making sure what we see in our organisations and on our stages reflects modern day Britain.”
Banks said that more work needed to be done to encourage people into the industry and make them aware of the opportunities available to them. She also suggested that the junior roles should be more highly paid.
Said Banks, “If you pay derisory salaries to junior staff you will only have rich people’s children working for you.”