European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC)

Inspired by Diversity

We're putting a spotlight on diversity and equality work in culture.

For many years the ENCC has been working on diversity and inclusion, with a specific focus on disability. Our network and many of our members have been partners in remarkable projects about arts education for disabled persons, sign and sound theatre for mixed deaf and hearing audiences; and music and migration.

In 2019-20 we decided to highlight equality as a central topic for our network. Our Inspired by Diversity project recognises that despite recent progress, diversity in cultural organisations is still lacking, and that tacking this problem is not straightforward. With the help of equality expert Zita Holbourne, we attempted to analyse the current state-of-the-art in order and build a multiyear plan to improve equality in our network (and beyond), looking both at cultural centres' staff and audiences.

The urgency of this topic was further underlined by the outburst of the COVID pandemic and the subsequent crisis, which is not only revealing many different types of inequalities, but also amplifying them. We believe that improving inclusion and diversity could help the cultural sector make a shift and create systemic change, instead of going back to the pre-COVID status quo. And that equality must be part of the recovery strategy for cultural centres and the wider cultural sector.

Here are some forms the project has taken so far: 

1 – Diversity, equality and inclusion in culture and cultural organisations was one of the priority topics for our Incubator 2020 support scheme for European cooperation projects, in which 4 out of 6 selected projects explicitly tackled diversity and equality issues.

2- The Art of Inclusion conference - This online international meeting, co-organised with the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and the Cope Foundation, looked at the interaction between the arts and culture sector and service providers. It also gave a platform for disabled artists to reflect on the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and what it means for the arts. The event was hailed as 'one of the first of its kind' by Gerard Quinn, Special UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

3- Diversity in Culture? Equality as part of the recovery strategy for cultural centres (and society)- This webinar, open to all, gathered diversity experts, cultural operators, trade unionists and human rights campaigners to discuss how cultural organisations can place equality at the core of their recovery strategies. A workshop for ENCC members allowed them to share their experiences and needs in diversity and equality work. 

4- BECC 2020 staff exchange/training is dedicated to Working with Hyperdiverse Audiences. The kickoff seminar gathered 13 young cultural managers to work on defining what kind of cultural centre is needed for diverse communities today, how organisations can empower active participation of the different members of their community, how they can contribute to building societies that are more open and democratic, and how to build and manage teams working inside these organisations. The training will include two inspirational talks, open to the public, with Zita Holbourne and Ricky Seabra.

5 - A workshop on diversity and equality at our Cultural Impact Now conference is scheduled for June 2021. Participants will create their own action plans to address equality and diversity in their organisations and in their audiences, while presenting the work developed by our 'Inspired by Diversity' project in the previous months. 

6 - To conclude these first steps and go further, with the support of our equality expert we designed the ENCC Commitment on Equality, a document approved by the ENCC General Assembly and now part of the engagement of all new members.