Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Does counting still count?

Sticking with Sustained Theatre, it's been very interesting seeing the different reactions to it, especially how its relationship to Arts Council has been perceived - is it a report by ACE, for ACE or about ACE etc? The ever-entertaining Article 19 is puzzled and can't see how artists have been given the lead role. It may be they just don't trust what's said about the artists steering group. It may be the artists are saying the 'wrong' thing. They see the site as a sop to avoid real change - though I'm not sure they agree change is needed.

On the other hand, Arts Industry and others are running it as 'ACE told to stop using BME', which is not quite my reading of the report as a whole, although there are certainly some saying that, but wanting another term, not no account taken of patterns relating to background. AI concludes we no longer need to gather data on race, gender ,sexuality and 'to an extent' (whatever that means) age, and disability. That definitely isn't my reading of the Sustained Theatre work. It seems a complacent conclusion. (Which also fails to give any acknowledgement that this is ACE and the artists involved grappling with long-standing, still-debated issues.)

It may be crude, it may feel awkward at times, and there is undoubtedly a long way to go still, but counting has definitely helped make a difference to equality of opportunity. We shouldn't rule it out because it will make some of us feel more at ease that 'great art does not tick boxes'. The time taken to still not achieve equal pay for women, despite legislation, suggests that it's easy to overestimate the natural fairness of the world, left to its own devices.

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