Last week, the chairman of the Arts Council England, Peter Bazalgette, the creative mastermind behind Big Brother (and descendant of the ‘sewer king’ Sir Joseph), unveiled ACE’s new strategy to increase diversity in the arts. ‘We are not doing well enough,’ he said at the launch of the ‘Creative Case for Diversity’ at Sadler Wells. The arts are not ‘reacting fast enough to the changes in society’: ‘we can and must do better’. From 2015, arts organisations will be ‘monitored’ as to whether they ‘better reflect’ minorities and local communities, and this will affect whether they continue to receive funding in 2018. In other words, diversify or die. What will define this ‘better’ reflection of diversity? In his speech, Bazalgette remained vague. ACE says it is ‘considering launching a consultation’.
The atmosphere of the student-organised, leaderless, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last week was hopeful, even jubilant, although the police had attacked the crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets on Sunday 28 September. Under torrential rain, tens of thousands of peaceful Hong Kongers made their way to Admiralty, Central, Causeway Bay and Mongkok. I was volunteering at a station to distribute supplies. On Tuesday we had to refuse any more water donations, we had so much already. Food and first aid workers were abundant. Strangers quickly became friends. ‘Hong Kong people are so practical,’ one fellow outlying islander said. ‘They go to work and then come to protest.’