Access and Opportunity in Wales’ creative screen industries – Making Wales count

Understanding the shape and demographic of Wales’ creative industries and the importance of improving access and opportunity.

The challenge of tackling the lack of diverse representation across the UK’s workforce in the creative screen industries is at the top of the agenda for industry organisations and policymakers alike.


In 2014, the BFI introduced their UK-wide diversity standards, ensuring filmmakers who access funding meet a set of criteria to promote greater equality. This is, of course, reflected throughout their funded activity. Additionally, in late 2016, OFCOM also launched their Diversity and Equality Toolkit, offering guidance for UK broadcasters.


In 2016, BAFTA announced that their awards criteria will change from 2019, to ensure entrants conform to the BFI diversity standards. In March 2017 the Actor, Riz Ahmed’s essential and critical Channel 4 360 Diversity Charter speech to parliament, re-framed ‘diversity’ as ‘representation’ and highlighted both the social, political and economic importance of valuing and representing all UK people, citing that the term ‘diversity’ often  feels ‘like an optional extra’, a tick box exercise.


If diversity is often perceived as a tick box exercise, then the focus should be placed upon better representation. It is helpful to discuss these challenges in terms of increasing ‘access and opportunity’ to develop wider representation, as opposed to ‘diversity’ which intrinsically starts from a point of difference between people.  Additionally, there is sometimes a misperception that the term ‘diversity’ refers solely to underserved BAME groups and its application is, of course, far broader.


What does diversity look like in Wales?

So, how should we be responding to these standards, toolkits and criteria on the ground in Wales? Wales faces a very particular set of challenges. There is no -one-size-fits-all approach, UK-wide. Solutions must be tailor-made.


An important starting point has been Diverse Cymru’s ‘Re-writing the Script’, a report evolved from research with industry and the wider sector. As Diverse Cymru highlights, support and ownership from the Welsh Government and industry is crucial in taking forward the report’s key recommendations and turning them into actions. Equally, this requires engagement wit, and training support for, industry to induce change.


Creative industries in Wales and indeed across the world, are characterised by the precarious nature of work, short term contracts and a proliferation of networks. These are exacerbated by the pressures of reduced budgets, time constraints, fast moving technology and evolution of digital platforms. These are real barriers for both industry and those wishing to pursue and access careers in the industry, and require due consideration when seeking solutions.


Challenges for industry & making Wales count


It has been argued that Creative Industries more generally are not an open meritocracy. Demonstrating ability and talent are integral to progression and success in these industries. Inadvertently, this sometimes serves to marginalise those from under-represented backgrounds who are less likely to have had access to opportunities that enable them to use, develop and nurture that initial ability and talent in the first place. Ultimately this is one element that can contribute to an imbalanced demographic.


Existing figures and data for Wales support this narrative. According to the 2012 Creative Skillset census, BAME representation in Wales was 0.7% of the workforce and representation of Women in creative media industries in Wales was 34%.


Whilst the figures are stark, this important data is used widely by policy makers, academics and industry as a benchmark to determine the shape and direction of the creative workforce. This data is now five years old and is urgently in need of updating for Wales. There remains a gap in terms of independent mapping of the current creative workforce in Wales following a diminished Creative Skillset Cymru presence.


Conducting an independent workforce and skills audit for Wales’ creative industries, participated in by the entire Welsh industry can support policymakers and industry in understanding specifically how best to evaluate and measure the need for wider industry development. This would go some way towards tackling the issue of access to opportunities for under-represented groups.


In August 2016, Creative Diversity Network (CDN) ‘Diamond’ monitoring of actual data was introduced on UK productions to gather important data including gender; gender identity; age; ethnicity; sexual orientation and disability, as well as measuring perceptions of diversity from audience. Two media unions, BECTU and The Writers’ Guild, have, this month, challenged this, arguing that that non-publication of data by Broadcasters will not allow actual change to be effected and lessons to be learned when best practice occurs.


Observing, sharing and learning from best practice examples from within Wales and beyond could serve industry and policy makers well. Leading organisations and Governments continue to embrace the idea that working collectively to support creative industries access for under-represented individuals and communities has socio-economic benefits. Many are developing new models and activity to support this work. This is particularly relevant in areas where there are significant skills shortages and a need to nurture a mix of creative and technical skills.


Examples of this include, Sadiq Kahn’s  ‘Mayor’s Digital Talent Programme’, a  £7 Million fund aiming to offer greater creative and technical opportunity and access to those who are under-represented and from disadvantaged communities in London. Ffilm Cymru Wales’ ‘Foot in the Door’ Programme, is working collaboratively with Charter Housing Association and film and TV production company Severn Screen, to offer new practical work opportunities in film for communities from South East Wales.


A unique and diverse representation of Wales

For Wales, ways must be found to develop and support such access to opportunity both in the short and long term. For those groups in areas of rural, coastal or urban deprivation, it can be the cost of a train ticket or of childcare that stands between an individual and access to work in the creative industries. There needs to be a longer-term view around sustainability. This includes increased collaborative work with communities to ensure that individuals with potential talent and ability understand and recognise that a career in the creative industries is something they can aspire to and achieve.


Creating access and opportunity for under-represented groups is not easy – but it is possible. It takes time, development and genuine collaborative partnership work. It requires commitment from industry and organisations to alter the status quo. It is also essential to understand the significant reasons why these groups are under-represented in the creative industries in Wales in the first place.




Editorial note: This is part of Click on Wales’ week-long focus on media issues.  The Media Policy Group of the Institute of Welsh Affairs is holding the third Cardiff Media Summit on 29th March and booking information can be found here

Faye Hannah is a PhD research candidate at the University of South Wales. Her research examines screen industries talent development and creative labour in the context of Wales as a small nation. Faye is Director of Wales-based Creative Industries consultancy ‘Our Colab’, who also contribute to delivering Ffilm Cymru Wales ‘Foot in the Door’ programme.

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