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    Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

    Ahead of the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd on 25 May and the Black Lives Matter protests which gained momentum in June 2020, we want to state our ongoing commitment to stand with our black colleagues in solidarity and allyship.


    In the spirit of this solidarity, we want to set out our actions towards greater equity and inclusion. This is a journey that we started in June 2020 and one that we are still on and are wholly committed to.

    Before we went into the pandemic, the Southbank Centre’s representation across the protected characteristics of declared disability, race, gender and age, put us in the top 10%

    of Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations. Our Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse staff (BAED, previously described as BAME) representation was at 23%.

    Effects of the pandemic

    In early 2020, we laid out plans in our Diversity and Inclusion strategy to increase our BAED representation across the organisation to 25% by 2023 and at management level to 25%; to increase our staff with a declared disability to 10% by the same year and to increase the number of women in our Production and Technical roles to 30%.

    Then, due to the sudden financial impact of the pandemic, we lost a large number of close colleagues, many in front of house roles and many of whom had a declared disability, or were young, or Black, Asian or Ethnically Diverse.

    Our representation across the protected characteristics dropped to 14.5% for Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse staff, to 5.3% for staff with a declared disability and to 22.3% for staff aged between 20-29.

    Rebuilding a diverse organisation

    This is a moment to re-set. The world has changed and the Southbank Centre is changing with it. 

    Many issues around disability, race and gender are systemic in the world at large as well as here at the Southbank Centre. We’ve started some important work over the last six months to improve our culture, our communications and our behaviours, as well as our commitments to anti-racism, so that we are a truly inclusive organisation. This work is ongoing and is iterative.

    As we begin to re-open this week and welcome our audiences back to the Southbank Centre, so we are able to improve the diversity of our staff and we can confirm that of those rehired through our re-engagement programme so far, 26% identify as BAED, 11% have a declared disability and 23% are aged between 20-29.

    We have started to do the work we need to do both as a leadership team and individually -  and while these numbers are promising, we know that we have more to do to ensure that we are a truly equitable and inclusive organisation.

    Working with expert partners and critical friends

    We have engaged with Questions of Difference (QOD) and The Equality Trust (TET) to undertake a listening exercise with all staff and internal networks across our organisation to get feedback on those issues which are important to staff and which require action. 

    As part of this journey, the leadership team has also undertaken Equity, Diversity and Inclusion training with The Equality Trust, in which anti-racist practice was discussed, and we have work-shopped the behaviours, discrimination and structural inequalities at play not just at the Southbank Centre, but in society as a whole.  

    As recognition of the importance of creating a diverse, inclusive and welcoming culture for everyone, all staff will undertake a foundational training session with The Equality Trust. 

    We will also continue to engage with partners, groups and critical friends, both internally and externally, as we review our Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) Strategy, our action plan and our anti-racism commitments, based on the insights and feedback from the listening exercise and our EDI workshops. 

    Our commitment to people and culture

    As well as hiring our new Director of People and Culture in February 2021, we’re also building back our People team, including a Head of Diversity & Development and an Internal Communications & Engagement Manager.  Whilst EDI is owned at every level of the organisation, investment in the People Team will ensure we have dedicated resource to support the initiatives and programmes of work that will drive measurable change and address systemic inequalities. We want to build a Southbank Centre where all employees embody a culture where everyone feels recognised, has opportunities to develop and feels they can bring their best selves to work.

    We believe that creating a truly inclusive culture is fundamental to the Southbank Centre’s vision and values. It is an essential path to creating the bold, entertaining and ground-breaking work that we present in our wonderful spaces.

    There is much to unpick and much to change, but we have started the work and we recognise how important it is that we all take responsibility and for each of us to play our part to ensure that we get this right.

    Elaine Bedell, CEO.