This project was incited by recent calls to place diversity at the forefront of thinking in the cultural sector. As the Creative Case for Diversity makes clear, a failure to prioritise diversity risks irrelevance to communities, funders and governments. The Warwick Commission powerfully states that ‘the Cultural and Creative sector need to take a united approach that guarantees equal access for everyone’, whilst also acknowledging that there are ‘barriers and inequalities in Britain today that prevent equal access to culture from being a universal human right’. What is often read as the dis-interest or disengagement of minority communities, in fact relates to complicated processes of exclusion – those major ‘barriers/inequalities’ - not fully understood by the cultural organisations that serve them and as such deter mandates of ‘equal access’.
Levitas et. al define social exclusion as ‘a complex and multi-dimensional process’ that ‘involves the lack or denial of resources, rights, goods and services, and the inability to participate in the relationships and activities, available to the majority of people in a society... affecting both the quality of life of individuals and the equity and cohesion of society as a whole’ (Levitas et al, 2007, p.9). A 2015 report on social exclusion by the UK-based and cross-sector Governance and Social Development Resource Centre notes that certain racial groups experience disproportionate challenges to inclusion—from political participation to schooling and housing (Khan et al, 2015). In communities across the UK, these challenges are being locally met in different ways but co-exist with a culture that now describes itself as ‘more racially prejudiced’. (British Attitudes Survey 2013).
The project bridges gaps in evidence on the impact of the arts on society, specifically addressing how participation in the arts contributes to ‘reducing social exclusion and isolation, and/or making communities feel safer, particularly among the older generation.’ We are interested in how we both enable the creative ability of those who experience exclusion and isolation to respond and change circumstances and the degree to which institutional efforts are able to build trust with communities with whom they are engaged.