The future of diversity charity Creative Access is in jeopardy, after the Department of Education announced a £2 million cut to funding for the BAME internship scheme.
Founded in 2012, Creative Access aims to promote diversity in the creative industries; it provides support for young black, Asian, and minority ethnicity graduates through paid internships, networking events, and training.
Over its four-year history, the charity has worked with 260 media partners across the UK in ten different creative sectors, such as publishing, journalism, and the arts. Companies like the BBC, Twitter, and the National Theatre have previously hired Creative Access interns. The television production company ITV Studios has hosted over 70 internships across the organisation.
The 2011 census revealed that approximately 14% of the UK population was non-white. The demographic’s size was not reflected in the creative sector, where the proportion of BAME workers had fallen to only 5.4%, according to the 2013 Employment Census published by Skillset.
Companies like the BBC, Twitter, and the National Theatre have previously hired Creative Access interns from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds
The news of cuts to funding for Creative Access comes days after the Arts Council published the findings of its second annual diversity report. The study revealed that the number of black and minority ethnicity people in the arts and museum workforce is increasing, though BME people continue to be underrepresented among audiences.
Funding for internship schemes like Creative Access was controlled by the Department of Business, Skills, and Innovation until June 2016. Under Theresa May’s new government, funding for internships and apprenticeships became the responsibility of the Department of Education, which assured the charity that their subsidy would continue.
The government provided approximately 30% of the charity’s finance prior to its withdrawal of funding. The Department of Education has justified the cut as part of its renewed focus on apprenticeships.
The scheme is known for its high placement rate – the charity secured its 700th intern in December 2016, and 82% of Creative Access interns were in full-time employment after completing their internship.
“Almost every BAME young person I know in the media has been put on by Creative Access in some way, be it through internships or networking”
The announced cut to BAME internship schemes raised yet more questions for Theresa May’s government about its position on diversity. In November 2016, it emerged that culture secretary Karen Bradley had blocked the appointment of Althea Efunshile to the board of Channel 4. Efunshile was the only one of five candidates submitted by Ofcom to be vetoed, whilst the other four candidates were all white and male.
Creative Access was itself subject to controversy recently, following an ad placed by the BBC that requested interns from exclusively BAME backgrounds. Outspoken television personality Katie Hopkins called the scheme “a very modern form of discrimination” in her Mail Online column for excluding white applicants, despite acknowledging the racial disparity in the creative industries. Hopkins went as far as to claim that “black power seems to have gone to everyone’s heads and racism has spun 180 degrees.”
Prominent members of creative industries have expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s decision on Creative Access. Journalist and former Warwick student Yomi Adegoke tweeted that “almost every BME young person I know in the media has been put on by Creative Access in some way, be it through internships or networking.”
BAME people are underrepresented in creative industries, and when present they are often tokenised and stereotyped – Creative Access is a lifeline
Former Director of BBC Television Danny Cohen described the move as a “total disgrace”. Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy also criticised the government’s position, calling the move “very concerning news.” Lammy previously condemned Karen Bradley for blocking Althea Efunshile’s appointment during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Iranga Tcheko, Warwick SU’s Ethnic Minorities Officer, said: “The government’s cuts to internship schemes like Creative Access are not only disappointing, they are unacceptable. BME people are underrepresented in creative industries, and when present they are often tokenised and stereotyped.” She went on to describe programmes like Creative Access as “a lifeline” for BME people looking for access to the creative industries.
A petition to save Creative Access has been created by journalist William Njobvu. The petition has reached 2030 signatures at the time of publication.