Socio-Economic Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts: A Toolkit for Employers

In 2019, Jerwood Arts and the Bridge Group joined forces for this Toolkit with a mission to look to the future: to support long-term change across the arts sector by sharing knowledge, providing expert support, and encouraging take-up of an intersectional approach to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Disclaimer: We are aware that this Toolkit has dated since it was published in July 2019. While we believe it still contains lots of useful ideas and starting points for organisations to think about class in the arts, it is a product of where these conversation had got to in early 2019. We now recommend reading the Social Mobility Commission’s Creative Toolkit for the most recent guidance on how to ask questions about socio-economic background for equal opportunities monitoring purposes in particular. We also recognise that the social mobility framework has been successfully critiqued in recent years and current approaches to improving socio-economic diversity and inclusion focus as much on the need to change organisational cultures as on supporting individuals to thrive.  Updated March 2023.


Fair access to working in the arts remains one of the most urgent issues facing the sector today, with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds still vastly underrepresented amongst the artists and employees of UK theatres, festivals, galleries and arts organisations of all kinds.

We are delighted to gather here some of the practical ideas from the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme, alongside case studies from our Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries Host organisations. We have partnered with the Bridge Group to bring in research and advice from other sectors and to encourage organisations to take a strategic approach.

You can also access a Welsh language translation.

You can also interact with the first sections of the document online here. Click through the sections below to find the Top Five Tips for what to prioritise, and where organisations can have the greatest impact on advancing socio-economic diversity and inclusion across the sector. There are also a selection of Case Studies, you will find the full set in the PDF download.

You can read the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries Evaluation Report 2017-19

In 2022, Jerwood Arts started working on a reimagined version of the Toolkit, to be published in March 2023. This resource reflects and amplifies the voices of the 51 Fellows, as well as Fellows from previous editions of the programme, on ‘what works’ in creating an inclusive workplace for people from working class and low socio-economic backgrounds in our sector.


Improving equality, diversity and inclusion across the arts is key to releasing the true potential of our nation’s artistic and cultural talent, and it starts with entry level roles like those created by our programme. Only a more representative sector at all levels will ensure that in future, the art that gets made is not just outstanding in form and content, but relevant to the widest possible audiences.

Our rigorous evaluation process has helped us to identify good practice and capture vital lessons which we can now share. We do this in the hope that the ideas within will help anyone with the power to appoint and promote to support more outstanding people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and, eventually, make the arts more excellent for all.


Since the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme was set up in 2010, this ‘class crisis’ has deepened, with recent research emphasising that chronic issues of socio-economic under-representation persist.
This makes its work more important than ever; and the successes along the way even more valuable and worth sharing. We want to make sure that the people who create artistic work and run cultural organisations are representative of the way that England looks and feels today – and the same is true for audiences too. Our investment in this new toolkit is a step in helping this to happen – but there is still much to do.
Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England


Of all sectors, the arts must be where diversity and inclusion should be taken most seriously. Works that explore, challenge and reflect contemporary society are naturally richer if they are informed by a wider range of social perspectives and experiences. We hope this guide supports organisations and individuals to make important steps in this direction.
Nik Miller, Chief Executive, the Bridge Group



Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries

The Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries is a nationwide programme supporting arts organisations to expand their approach to diverse recruitment and talent development, and build their capacity for outstanding artistic production. 40 new, paid, entry-level roles in the arts have been created for recent graduates at 39 leading arts organisations nationally. Watch our film that tells our story so far

How to use this Toolkit

This Toolkit is informed by learning and case studies from almost a decade of the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme working with 110 arts organisations and significant research produced by the Bridge Group, an independent charity that has been working with organisations across sectors on this agenda since 2010. Regardless of whether your organisation is already taking action or has yet to consider socio-economic background, we recommend a strategic approach rather than focusing on individual, unconnected initiatives.

  • look at the issues holistically, understanding that change is required across
    a range of related areas of your work;
  • monitor, collate and use robust evidence to inform and evaluate the change
    you want to make; and
  • use advocacy and your ability to bring people together to support wider
    systemic change.

This is a practical tool, including top tips, case studies and extensive practical appendixes of what to measure, where to advertise and further reading. We challenge all organisations to set their ambitions high and to act with rigor, thoughtfulness and pragmatism. The rewards could be significant: increased overall social equality; an artistic community more representative of society; and artistic endeavors that are more engaging, diverse and outstanding as a result.

This guide includes a range of case studies (included as quotes with full case studies in Appendix F) to inspire and inform practice. We appreciate that there are many more excellent examples out there of effective efforts, and hope these give a flavor of the changes happening across the sector.

It will be relevant to all arts and cultural organisations and individuals interested in taking action to advance socio-economic diversity and social equality, and achieve excellence in our sector.

Why focus on socio-economic diversity and inclusion?

Research from the Bridge Group highlights that the professions are deeply unrepresentative of wider society with respect to socio-economic background. Individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds typically progress more slowly once they are in, and there is also a class pay gap: those from lower socio-economic backgrounds earn on average £6,800 less than their colleagues from more affluent backgrounds doing the same job.

These challenges can often be more acute in the arts, since there are less defined career routes, often with limited job security.

The Labour Force Survey data published in the Panic! Report 2018 shows that individuals from higher socio economic backgrounds are currently over-represented in most creative occupations, particularly in leadership roles. Additionally, there is strong evidence that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely suffer as a result of not having the right networks, the right set of cultural references, and the knowledge of the right way to present themselves to get ahead.

Socio-economic background remains a huge but largely invisible issue that Arts Council England thankfully, beginning to acknowledge. It’s because of work that Jerwood do to create opportunities recent undergrads from underprivileged backgrounds that things are beginning to change.
Callum Berridge, Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries Fellow 2017-19

Although the ‘working class’ are 35% of the working population, they make up only 13% of publishing, 18% of music, performing and visual arts, 12% of film, TV, video, radio and photography, and 21% of museums, galleries and libraries.

Significant momentum has been building in recent years around the need for socioeconomic background to be recognised as a ‘protected characteristic’ alongside other identity markers such as gender, sexuality, disability and ethnicity under the Equality Act 2010. Without this protected status, social-economic background will remain an under-researched, under-funded, ‘hidden barrier’ in the arts.

This Toolkit builds on existing guidance for organisations to recruit a more diverse workforce, most notably, Arts Council England’s Culture Change Toolkit (2017).

We focus specifically on socio-economic background to address a current gap in research and practice; and we also make significant reference to the important ways in which socio-economic background can intersect with protected characteristics including gender, ethnicity and disability.

The case for change is often made in terms of fairness: an arts sector that recruits and promotes according to a narrow social background is unjust in principle. But beyond this case for justice, there is also evidence that tackling barriers relating to socio-economic diversity and inclusion is a matter of artistic and societal benefit – as highlighted by Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity.

Top Five Tips/ ONE: Measure socio-economic background and publish what you find

Step one is to understand the most robust way to measure the socio-economic background of your staff, freelancers and artists.

Questions of class are never far from headlines in the arts, but there is limited independent guidance on how to monitor socio-economic background and devise staff surveys. The Bridge Group, however, have undertaken extensive research, in partnership with the Cabinet Office, on how to do this and maintain high ethical standards.

Based on this research, we advise that organisations should include the following questions in their equal opportunities monitoring forms for applicants and their existing workforce (employed and freelance, artists and administrators):

  1. Type of school attended at age 11-16
  2. Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility
  3. Parental experience of higher education
  4. Parental occupation when you were aged 14

Full guidance is available on how to monitor socio-economic diversity in Appendix A.

Research from the Bridge Group and the Cabinet Office indicates that if only one question is asked, number 4, relating to parental occupation, is the key indicator and the one to choose.

This table indicates what the answer to this question might indicate in terms of socio-economic background.

The main reasons for this are because it is a strong predictor of adult outcomes, it is internationally applicable, and response rates at employers across sectors have been relatively positive.

It is also the indicator used in many national surveys, including the Labour
Force Survey.

Whether you include all four questions, and in how much detail, will depend on your organisation’s size and the context for your work, what you decide you want the data for, and what level of analysis you will be able to do with it. If possible, do some piloting to get a sense of what works for your capacity, and your programmes.

For example, Free School Meal (FSM) eligibility is a very powerful measure if you work predominately with people who have been through the English school system since 1980, and you can get general data on FSM in the population to benchmark against. Your monitoring data will give you a baseline to measure against, and the evidence you need to help you decide where to focus your energy and resource. Measuring and monitoring will enable you to assess your impact, and in time, see how you are doing compared with others in our sector, and in other sectors.

The monitoring of socio-economic diversity is becoming increasingly common practice, and Arts Council England is expected to publish guidance on what measures to use soon. Those already monitoring this area of diversity include the BBC, Channel 4, the Civil Service, most large professional services firms, and the BFI (including through their funding criteria ‘Diversity Standards’), alongside some arts organisations including The Young Vic and Battersea Arts Centre.

Some larger arts organisations have set themselves public targets to help drive diversity and inclusion, regarding both their staff composition and artistic production. These targets are art form and context-specific, and are usually bench-marked based on proportionality of working age population. It is important to understand that targets are not the same as quotas – quotas can unintentionally induce people to ‘positively’ discriminate, which is unlawful.

We recommend making a clear distinction between monitoring data for diversity characteristics, and how you use that data to inform decisions about hiring and progression. Monitoring data is essential for building an evidence base and assessing progress; but anyone disclosing their diversity characteristics should be reassured that the information they share will not impact on any decisions made about their individual appointment or progression.

If you are publicly funded, you will already be reporting your HR data to Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and other funders. Include your socio-economic background data and advocate that it is taken as seriously as protected characteristics in support of a more diverse and inclusive arts sector.

Transparency is vital. It will help you to understand how you compare with others and it will help to benchmark change across the sector. So, once you have data monitoring in place, publish your findings, alongside the practical actions that you are taking to advance socio-economic diversity and inclusion.

Top Five Tips/ TWO: Create spaces for conversations about taste, talent and merit

Language matters, especially since many terms in common use around issues of
diversity can be loaded with value judgments.

Bridge Group research on definitions of talent chimes with our own experience of working on the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries programme with Hosts and Fellows. There is ambiguity about how we define and identify concepts like ‘talent’ and ‘merit’ – not to mention how we talk about ‘diversity’ – and this lies at the heart of many of the challenges relating to improving socio-economic diversity and inclusion.

For example, when we talk about needing to be ‘passionate’ to work in the arts, how do we evidence that ‘passion’? Is it synonymous with having enjoyed Shakespeare plays since an early age, or having spent the long summer holidays taking a prestigious, but unpaid, internship overseas? Or, is it the ability to contribute new ideas to creative processes, or engage fully in how art can reflect and affect people and society?

Ask yourself how artistic talent, taste and merit are defined, discussed and rewarded in your organisation. How do these link to recruitment, artistic programming and individual performance?

You may also want to trigger conversations about these issues in relation to power and inclusion across the organisation. Are there any power structures at play that mean some people might be present but have a limited voice and role in decision making? Talk about the power of language, and the words you use about the work you are making, and the art and culture that you are ‘valuing’.

These are difficult conversations to have but they can be transformational, especially if the whole organisation is able to contribute. Conversations can be facilitated at public events, such as conferences; internally at Board meetings, staff meetings, Away Days; or online in blogs or webinars. They should be approached sensitively, taking into account the needs of all staff, and be focused on practical responses.

Full guidance on the recommended terms and phrases to support conversations about socio-economic diversity is available in appendix B.

We are always tweaking our language and making incremental changes. We would advise others to start somewhere that feels possible and build (and learn!) from there. There are resources available that weren’t available five years ago. Start using these early on in your journey so you can capture your baseline and track progress, but most of all, keep
the discussion open, welcoming and ongoing.
Charlotte Turton, Head of People & Development, Battersea Arts Centre


I came across the Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries when I was working at Liverpool Biennial and connecting back to the North after many years away. I had come home: I could eat tea as well as drinking it. It was a wake-up call and I realised that I had just spent the last 30 years employing varying degrees of faking it to be part of the art world that I loved.
In a recent discussion at a-n one of my team remarked that schemes to support people from lower socio-economic groups were often focused (in his words) on the ‘gentrification of people’ and ‘social mobility’ rather than creating change in the institution or indeed a home for difference. Being self-aware as an organisation is the first step we need to take to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Julie Lomax, CEO, a-n, The Artists Information Company

Top Five Tips/ THREE: Create a more inclusive organisational culture

Having conversations about ‘taste’, ‘talent’ and ‘merit’ should help you understand the lived experiences of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. It should support the majority group in realising how they can be part of creating a more inclusive culture in your organisation. Often in life, and especially at work, people naturally want to do what feels most comfortable and familiar; this inclination has a clear impact on advancing diversity and inclusion. Engaging with the unfamiliar and choosing to do what will lead to the most impactful and innovative outcome, rather than what feels most comfortable, will be key to making long term, positive change.

We also embarked on board recruitment for Youth Trustees. This has had a positive impact
on diversifying our governance: we now have 5 new board members and two new youth trustees, the majority of whom are local to Peckham and represent a more diverse demographic
and experience than previously.
Emily Druiff, Artistic Director, Peckham Platform (London)

When those from lower socio-economic backgrounds opt out of particular careers or professional and artistic routes, it is rarely about lack of ambition or awareness and more to do with battling feelings of not belonging – negotiating low-level but constant micro-aggressions in the workplace – and access to opportunities. Most practical initiatives focus on helping under-represented groups assimilate into unfamiliar cultures, rather than tackling the cultures themselves. The research strongly suggests we need to switch our priorities to changing organisational culture to affect real, long-lasting change.

Informal sponsorship, whereby senior people informally support and advocate for the next generation, can often mean that those from majority groups get ahead because senior people are naturally inclined to offer support to people most like them. Focus on ending this kind of unofficial patronage: it is an example of ‘affinity bias’ that plays a huge role in the arts where individuals’ tastes can lead to the exclusion of those with from different backgrounds who may have different perspectives. Raise awareness and create a curious, caring culture where informal connections between those in positions of power to recruit, programme and select staff and artists can be questioned to ensure decisions are based on potential and not background.

Provide support for individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds but in a way that does not stigmatise or jeopardise inclusivity. For instance, where support is welcomed, consider offering mentoring and networking with colleagues who share similar backgrounds.

And, to avoid targeting specific individuals who may not want to be singled out, we recommend placing an emphasis on all staff being encouraged to mix and share ideas with each other, respect different viewpoints and develop understanding about how an individual’s background may influence their views.

Induction processes for new starters need to take into account that candidates from different backgrounds can have very different levels of familiarity with artistic working cultures, or working/office culture in general. The best approach is to avoid making assumptions and consult with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds directly to ask what, if any, support they would like. In what ways are they going to have to navigate things like ‘out of hours’ work, care for dependents, accent, dialect, dress codes, political discourses, after work social activities, locations and budgets, to name but a few examples. Think about and raise awareness of the ways in which we might exclude, alienate or silence people unwittingly through majority group culture.

Bakani Pick-Up was appointed from a strong field and he became the only non-white member of the team (though not any more). This visible and invisible diversification of the staff team does have an impact on how we and others think about the organisation.
Rachel Emmett, Executive Director, Dance4 (Nottingham)

Take intersectionality seriously. To change the make-up of the arts so they better reflect society as a whole, we must understand socio-economic background in the context of its intersections with other characteristics, such as gender or race. Look at people’s work lives as being shaped by many axes of inequality that often work together and influence one another or create distinct types of disadvantage. For instance, ethnic minority women from low socioeconomic backgrounds could be seen to experience a ‘triple disadvantage’
because of their gender, their ethnicity, and their socio-economic background.

Factors of disadvantage can be multiplicative rather than simply additive. We recommend, therefore, that you give careful consideration to the some of the possible hidden demands of individuals’ personal lives and ensure HR policies are flexible and adaptive. Additionally, do not expect individuals to use their private money for work-related expenses as it may cause unnecessary stress for those experiencing financial hardship.

Top Five Tips/ FOUR: Cease unpaid or unadvertised internships, jobs and opportunities

Any form of unpaid or very low paid work favours those who can rely on other financial means. And as those who undertake unpaid opportunities have a much higher chance of being hired and offered paid opportunities off the back of it, you are narrowing entry routes from the outset for those who have outside financial support.

An associated and similarly unhelpful practice is unadvertised internships, jobs and opportunities which are available only to those within your existing networks.

We ensured that the application form did not refer to unpaid work/volunteering/internships. No  that candidates could talk about transferable skills rather than specific experience within the arts.
We are having far more conversations about the diversity of artists we are programming. We are canvassing the opinions of our audiences, having difficult conversations and actively trying to programme more diverse artists particularly in relation to ethnicity.
Wieke Eringa, Artistic Director, Yorkshire Dance (Leeds)

Creative & Cultural Skills and Arts Council England have produced arts sector specific guidance on what distinguishes a volunteer opportunity from a role that should, by law, be paid; and best practice regarding the differences between internships, apprenticeships and volunteering.

Use this to inform how you design and offer all your early-career opportunities. Think how everyone you let in through the back door will disadvantage someone without those connections. Even small actions have big consequences. As a general guide, we recommend all positions over four weeks in length are paid.

Being involved in the programme has been an important reminder of just how hard it is for people to find entry points in the arts especially if they are unable to fund themselves to do unpaid internships. This obviously results in a narrowing of the pool of people that end of up working in the arts and is not good for anyone involved.
Hamish Dunbar, Co-Founder, OTO Projects (London)

Top Five Tips/ FIVE: Create more inclusive recruitment processes

You will, no doubt, have a statement on your job application template saying you encourage applications from all; yet, not receive high quality applications from. Our work has shown that first impressions count and taking the time to thoroughly review your recruitment process end to end – from the creation of the job description and candidate specification to how you will conduct the interview and selection process – can have a significant effect upon the candidates and artists you attract. Investing developing an inclusive recruitment process that nurtures all is the single most powerful change you can make to the long-term equality and diversity of the sector.

The Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries training day opened our eyes. We tore up our standard job advert template and started from scratch and as a result have since overhauled all our recruitment processes and documentation.
Bronwen Price, Deputy Director, Literature Wales (Cardiff)


We created a new application process specifically for our new role for WJCB, including a simple online application and a request for a 3-minute video. We didn’t ask for a CV or a written statement and based our selection procedures on attitude, ideas and each candidate’s responses to Duckie’s work.
Emmy Minton, Fundraising & Development, Duckie (London)

The Action Plan, below, details key issues for you to consider: from hidden barriers to biases, to including a letter from your CEO or Artistic Director celebrating the value of a diverse workforce.

For some diversity characteristics, specific approaches have been developed that are proven to increase the chances of candidates with those characteristics being appointed. For instance, the Disability Confident scheme means that all those applicants identifying as disabled on the application form that meet the job specification are guaranteed an interview.

In many sectors, there has been a lot of discussion and development of ‘blind’ recruitment processes, including online platforms that aim to remove all identifying factors and leave only skills and capabilities for assessment. For example, a leading publisher now uses only three questions designed to reveal transferable skills for their junior entry level roles, having removed all names, educational achievements and other standard CV information from the process.

But research on the effectiveness of blind recruitment methods is mixed, and growing evidence suggests that the most effective way to change who gets in and who gets on is the opposite approach: one where individual achievements are considered in context. This might include questions inviting candidates to reflect on their professional and personal journey and any obstacles or barriers they have experienced. Channel 4, the Young Vic and Royal Court Theatre have all experimented with this approach.

One thing we did, which I got good feedback on and still do, is to always write a welcome letter from me. In it I emphasise that we want to hear from candidates who may have different
backgrounds and believe they have transferable skills relevant to the post.

Daniel Brine, ex-Director of Cambridge Junction, now Director of Norfolk & Norwich Festival


CASE STUDY ONE: Battersea Arts Centre, London Charlotte Turton, Head of People & Development

My main piece of advice when you are thinking about changing your recruitment practices is to make hard and fast rules, in line with the values of your organisation, and stick to them!

In 2014 BAC made a solid commitment to pay all employees London Living Wage salaries and to provide regular entry-level opportunities across our traineeships, apprentices and junior level roles. We don’t offer unpaid opportunities (apart from 1 – 2 weeks’ work experience for those at school) and we see ourselves as a learning organisation, supporting our staff to develop and grow in and beyond the organisation, which in turn creates new opportunities for those just starting out.

We are now developing an in-house survey measuring the socio-economic background of our staff. We are using the Civil Service case study’s list of 5 questions which have been thoroughly researched and tested so finally there is a set of measures we can adopt and test out. We are also following their guidance in providing the rationale behind these questions and not compressing the data. We are looking to collect this data on an annual basis so we can see how we compare to the national averages.

We see this very much as part of the journey we have been on since we shifted our approach in 2014. We are always tweaking our language and making incremental changes. We would advise others to start somewhere that feels possible and build (and learn!) from there. There are resources available that weren’t available 5 years ago. Start using these early on in your journey so you can capture your baseline and track progress, but most of all, keep the discussion open, welcoming and ongoing.

When we were recruiting for our new Artistic Director/CEO at the end of 2018, we wanted it to be really open and encourage lots of people to apply. Here’s an example of a video we tweeted during the recruitment campaign, which we aim to do more of in the future: “Only 2 and a half weeks left until applications close to become our new Artistic Director and C.E.O. – here’s Fiona and Henri from our Young Peoples’ projects telling you to apply!

CASE STUDY SIX: LITERATURE WALES, Cardiff Bronwen Price, Head of Development & Deputy CEO, Literature Wales

The Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries training day opened our eyes to how our current recruitment practice was less accessible to applicants from outside the traditional arts sector. We tore up our standard job advert template and started from scratch and as a result have since overhauled all our recruitment processes and documentation.

Our job adverts now include a ‘day in the life’ section, with jargon removed and an emphasis (especially for entry level roles) on potential rather than experience. We ask candidates to focus on their aspirations and the change they’d like to make, rather than how they exactly match the job requirements. Our interview techniques now include (as appropriate) a smaller ‘panel’ with CVs provided in advance, a coffee shop choice of venue and providing the questions in advance to quell nerves. We work with our second-choice candidate to support them, and link them to our wider networks.

We challenge our preconceptions about the best candidate for roles. We’re increasingly focused on what skills and experience a candidate can bring to the organisation which we don’t already have.

These changes to our recruitment have inspired us to turn to increasing the representativeness of our clients – artists, participants and audiences. Our new Strategic Plan emphasises Representation & Equality as one of three tactical priorities and identifies three target client characteristics which our activity will be designed and curated for.

We will also use the lessons learnt through WJCB to recruit new Board members who might think being a trustee isn’t for them. Focusing on breaking down barriers to accessibility, we’re rethinking our Management Board meeting times/days so we aren’t relying on Directors being in sufficiently senior posts to be released from jobs, or alternatively asking them to sacrifice salary.

The programme has led to reputational growth for Literature Wales in many ways and we are now working with our core funder Arts Council Wales to share our learning on diversifying recruitment with all of Wales’ national companies.

Della Hill, Development and Communications Officer

The advert stated that the organisation wasn’t too fussed on employment experience, but rather on the skills acquired in other aspects of life. They simply stated they were looking for a curious person with lots of drive, energy and dedication. I did have relevant experience, but I also felt that I had a lot more to offer than the skill-set on my CV. I am determined to break down the barriers that exist when from a low-income background.

Normally, this would be something that wouldn’t be mentioned in the process, but this organisation was actually asking me to speak about it. I’m a mixed-race individual and I feel this has made a huge impact on my life experiences. I feel that I have always been a little different to the crowd that surrounded me, and I have used the arts to express myself from a young age. With this in mind, I felt my background would be important for the role, and this had never been relevant before.

Downloads: Socio-Economic Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts: A Toolkit for Employers; and Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries 2017-19 Evaluation