The Royal Festival Hall’s Level 2 foyer spaces are currently being refurbished, as we work to bring you a brand new cafe, bar, shop and Ticket Office. Find out more

Equity, diversity and inclusion

We aim to be one of the most vibrant, innovative, welcoming and inclusive arts spaces in the world, and to be renowned for championing the imagination of artists, audiences and communities.


Many issues around disability, race and gender are systemic in the world, and at the Southbank Centre we’ve been considering some key questions: what are the structural challenges we face to being an equitable organisation? What does representation mean to us? How do we most effectively hold ourselves accountable?

We’ve been having direct conversations with our colleagues, our board and other key stakeholders to make sure that we’re all completely committed to this work. We’re determined to be as honest, clear and transparent about our progress as we can be. We may not always get it right, but we’re dedicated to learning and improving. 

As we pledge to support diversity and move towards becoming a more equitable organisation, we know that we need to be clear about what we mean. 

We believe diversity relates to a range of lived experience which can be shaped by, but is not limited to, age, caring responsibilities, disability, gender identity, neurodivergence, race, religion or belief, sexuality and socio-economic background. We’re working hard to ensure our colleagues, artists and audiences reflect the diversity of London. 

We recognise that we cannot be complacent. Creating an inclusive and equitable organisation is the responsibility of us all. To ensure we’re focused in our approach, we formed a new Culture team in 2022 which brings together our work on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI), Learning & Development (L&D), as well as Internal Communications. We believe that it’s important that EDI is embedded in our approach to learning, developing and communicating as an organisation. 

Data capture, transparency and accountability

Understanding the demographics of our workforce enables us to make informed decisions to address where we’re less representative in comparison to the diversity of London. But we can only report statistics if our colleagues share their data with us – we must continue to earn and maintain their trust and do not take the sharing of this data for granted.

Our information gathering is an ongoing process, but when we assessed the data in June 2023, 23% of our colleagues who had shared their information identified as Black, Asian or Ethnically Diverse (BAED), 17% as part of the LGBTQI+ community, and 4% as having a disability. We’ve also expanded our data collection to start including caring responsibilities, class/social mobility indicators and neurodivergence. 

In 2022, we started publishing our voluntary Ethnicity Pay Gap Report alongside our Annual Gender Pay Gap Report. It’s important that we are transparent about our progress over time. We do this by providing data updates throughout the year to our colleagues and Board of Governors, and report annually to Arts Council England. 

Building culture with an EDI lens

We’ve opted to take an intentional approach to shaping the Southbank Centre’s culture. 

We don’t believe culture should be prescriptive, but we strongly believe that it should be nurtured. As we change, our culture will evolve and grow with us. In line with this, we are undergoing a Values & Behaviours Refresh project in collaboration with our colleagues and key stakeholders.

We want to build a psychologically safe environment where all colleagues feel listened to. It is important that we are continuing to build clarity on how any issues can be called in and called out, and are addressed appropriately.

We cannot do this work alone and remain grateful for the support from our critical friends.  Building on work with Questions of Difference and The Equality Trust in 2021, we have worked with additional partners, including the Business Disability Forum to support our progress. 

We recognise the importance of learning together. All staff were invited to take part in a four-part training series (An Introduction to Anti-Racism) with anti-racism educator Jess Mally. These sessions use history, data, lived experience, ideas, policies and power as a framework to ensure we have a shared understanding of anti-racism. All new staff are invited to engage with this content when joining the Southbank Centre. 

Our departmental leads learning sessions, Southbank Centre e-Learning Academy and intranet resources, along with our Learning Lunches for staff, ensure year-long programming, providing space to come together and hear from an array of experts. Previous topics have included accent bias in Britain, disability in the workplace, managing anxiety, the menopause at work, neurodiversity, and the trans and non-binary space.

In the roles that we hold, we all play a part – individually and as an organisation – in dismantling the barriers to progress that exist at the Southbank Centre. There is much to change and improve, but we continue to make meaningful progress towards building an inclusive culture, in line with our Purpose, Vision and Values.

Elaine Bedell, CEO