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COVID-19 and the Experience of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Creative Entrepreneurs

(U.K. report)

November 17, 202117 November 2021

Equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization



Kevin Osborne and James Doeser

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Based on interviews with 20 “Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic” (BAME) creative entrepreneurs from different parts of the United Kingdom (but “with a focus on London”), this report attempts “to understand how the pandemic and the events of 2020 were affecting: [respondents’] ability to produce work; the ways they reach customers and audiences; income and expenditure; use of government support; [and] their plans for the future”.

The research team spoke with people from various ages and career stages who work in industries including “arts and crafts, events, branding, TV and film, digital content, fashion, dance and music”. Representation was less broad on different counts: respondents were predominantly men; there were no East Asian interviewees; and people working in film and television were overrepresented. Because of the nature of the respondent group, the researchers recognize that it “is not representative or reflective of the wider sector or the British BAME experience” and that “generalisations should be made with caution”.

In terms of the impacts on their work, respondents were in varied situations. Some creative entrepreneurs have seen their work opportunities decrease significantly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdown measures. Others reported having “their best year ever, either in terms of business growth, personal recognition or job satisfaction. [However,] their fear is that the heightened interest in diversity will slowly evaporate, and that ‘recovery’ will mean giving up any gains made.”

Regarding customers and audiences, the report argues that British cultural life is “increasingly informed by BAME producers and more attentive to BAME audiences”, as “cultural tastes and engagement patterns are increasingly moving away from traditional passive experience of a canonical elite culture towards a more immersive and experiential participation in all kinds of genres and artforms”. For one respondent, “we’re using our voice in a way that we’ve not been able to use it before”.

In order to increase their capacity, BAME creative entrepreneurs want three kinds of support: “finance in the form of grants that don’t require jumping through the hoops of White gatekeepers, training and expertise for business growth and development and, finally, a sense of community and connection”.

More broadly, “BAME entrepreneurs want and need power and capital”. In the current environment, “power is still held by a minority of predominantly White elite”. One respondent questioned whether Black or diverse creative businesses are being supported: “there are more diverse projects being made. But they’re not necessarily being made by diverse companies.” Over the longer term, the report argues that commitments related to equity and diversity “will fail unless power in the decision-making process is ceded to the people [that decision-makers] are seeking to attract and advantage”.

Rather than sector “recovery”, the report argues for an investment in “regeneration (i.e., creating new systems, new structures and new leaders)” to develop a sector that is “more equitable and as a result more resilient”.

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