Let's Stop Our Drama Schools Playing Lip Service When It Comes To Diversity

05/09/2016 12:16 | Updated 05 September 2016

We all watch TV, we all watch films, we listen to music and many of us may go to see a live show but how many of us notice the lack of diversity in our Creative Industries?

I have noticed a real surge in the performing arts world where leading actors, performers, directors, writers and critics have all come forward voicing their views on a lack of diversity in our booming industry. It is amazing to see the large contribution made by the many creative voices within the sector, that are continuing to work and make the creative world a colourful place. But this isn't just the people that are on our screens and stages making the noise for diversity. It is also the people in education who want to make change, the new generation of graduated talent or soon to be graduated talent.

And this year, a new non-profit campaign organisation was set up to address the under representation and diversity in UK Drama Schools:

The Diversity School Initiative.

Our team is made up of students still training to graduates and staff members of drama schools who have come on board wanting to make change. I am a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and was brought on by a chance email with Steven Kavuma from Central.

I am the new Cultural Diversity officer of the Students' Union and only this year in May, during my 1st year, I held a Diversity in the Arts conference, where we had actress Cherrelle Skeete as our Keynote Speaker. Cherrelle is best known for playing Hermione Granger's daughter in the West End Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And it was a first for Scotland to have such an arts conference. Steven held a similar conference at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, an event called "Dear White People", which was about challenging race and diversity at Central.

From one email, I knew instantly that Steven was a student in the arts who was speaking my language of diversity and race in the arts world.

With this Initiative we hope to change:

•How and where drama schools do their outreach and recruit students/staff

•What is being taught and who is teaching it

•Encourage an equality of presence of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) students and lecturers, students and lecturers from working-class backgrounds, students and lecturers with a disability or learning difficulty in drama schools that reflects the wider society.

We want to help hold drama schools accountable for their decisions concerning diversity and to support students who report feeling underrepresented at drama schools. We believe that everyone should be given a fair and equal opportunity to train, to learn, to experiment and to fulfill their potential regardless of gender, ability, ethnicity, social status, nationality, faith, sexuality or sexual orientation.

As members, we will challenge UK Drama Schools to develop a more inclusive curriculum, faculty and student body, in order to be more reflective of the world around us. As well as this, we will support students affected by these issues by providing a mentorship scheme and a network.

The ways in which we will make our mission happen and come alive is:

•The team will meet with senior members of drama schools on a regular basis to discuss matters of diversity and what they can do together to achieve better representation.

•We will work with existing organisations with the aim of sharing knowledge and experience.

•We will monitor and publish information relating to diversity at drama schools, in order to make this research clearer, accessible and visible.

•We will document our interactions with drama schools and publish our challenges and achievements.

•We will celebrate drama schools with best practice and by our actions hold those with poor practice to account.

And I truly am excited to see this come alive, because it shouldn't just be the voices of the people in the industry talking and wishing to make more diversity, it should also be those coming through the ranks and about to join the industry.

When I was the National Union of Students Scotland Black Students Officer, representing all African Caribbean Arab and Asian students, I made sure that the creative argument for more diversity was the top of my agenda. It was the black students who fully supported and wanted to make the change. And its bodies like Equity's Student Membership which boosts up the voices of students, and how it is important this initiative is taken forward.

I am not here to just do my degree and go, I want to have a real say on what my drama school is doing regarding issues around race and diversity, I want to hold the people at the top accountable on what they are doing.

I hope to see many changes to come and this is just the start. I can't say enough how exciting this is but also how inspired I am to meet other students who share the same vision of diversity and change in our drama and performing arts schools.

"Accessibility to training - to education is so important regardless of who you are or where you come from, you should be able to train and at the moment, that isn't happening. Furthermore, the content that's being taught at drama schools, how diverse is it? What are you learning and who's teaching? This Initiative puts those students and lecturers who are underrepresented centre-stage. Let's hold our drama schools accountable together!" - Steven Kavuma, founder of The Diversity School Initiative.



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