Black Lives in Music – making conversations happen

11 months ago

Black Lives in Music works to address the current inequality of opportunity for Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse people aspiring to be artists or professionals in the Jazz and Classical music industry – from learning musical instruments at grassroot levels to pursuing and realising their musical ambitions.

In recent years we’ve benefited enormously from BLiM’s guidance and support as we’ve developed our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. As we look ahead to an even stronger partnership, BLiM’s Director of Operations, Roger Wilson, reflects on the ongoing conversations between BLiM and ABRSM, their own work as an organisation and what the future holds. 

Roger writes...

Black Lives in Music believe conversations and collaborations underpin social change. The current zeitgeist has helped to stimulate, encourage and nurture important and very honest conversations around inclusive culture, and over the last year, we’ve had some interesting and significant conversations with ABRSM. 

Conversations with ABRSM

It’s important to share perspectives and to examine and better understand the perceptions of different organisations. I’ve had many heartening conversations with ABRSM staff, including Lincoln Abbotts, ABRSM’s Executive Director for Strategic Development, and I’m pleased to say that we have been simpatico in all areas of discussion without exception! There’s a strong collective commitment to ringing the bells of change and flying the flag of best practice in ABRSM’s efforts to build a diverse community of staff, teachers, students and parents/carers. 

We’ve talked about their many strands of work, including what they bring to so many children young people and adults and we’ve discussed their aspirations to diversify and how they have already embarked on a path of change. We recognise the first steps are the hardest, but nevertheless, they need to be taken if you are to embark on the journey. There’s acknowledgement of ABRSM’s history while looking forward to enjoying the delivery of its work through a new and refined lens which aspires, ultimately, to be decolonised.

ABRSM looks to have found some rhythm in its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work and is developing a coherent strategy across it’s wide-ranging activities. With the Ivors Academy and the Musicians’ Union, we were pleased to support ABRSM’s Composer Mentor Scheme with recommendations for composers from under-represented groups.  We’re really looking forward to seeing how the new cohort progresses and enjoys the scheme.  I was also involved in an interview focusing on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for use in ABRSM’s teaching courses. Visiting music teachers need a lot of support in this area, particularly as many UK services continue to lack meaningful diversity across their workforces.

BLiM's work across the UK music ecosystem

BLiM are working with a number of organisations across the UK music ecosystem. The challenge of impactfully improving representation throughout the UK music industry is indicative of the endemic problem that prevails. Through the conversations we’re having, we’re developing confidence about the direction and speed of travel of change making in our sector. There’s obviously a long way to go, but organisations like ABRSM are open to the need for the important conversations around inclusive practice that still lie ahead.

We’re sharing our ideas of best practice with all of our partner organisations in the interests of building an inclusive music community. Other facets of our work include working with students and employees from underrepresented groups in facilitated safe space conversations. We’re supporting organisations to review their recruitment processes and mechanisms with a view to developing a representative workforce within their organisations. We’re also working with organisations to develop and refine EDI strategies that are fit for purpose. Our work with UK orchestras involves conversations and collaborations on projects, including Recruiting Classical, a potentially game changing initiative to support recruitment of global majority orchestral musicians (from Black, Asian and ethnically traditionally underrepresented groups) to join orchestra extra-lists.

Being Black in the UK Music Industry

We consider data and reporting to be an important aspect of our work.  Last year’s report, Being Black in the UK Music Industry, was a ground-breaking first in understanding and recording the experience of the Black community of music creators and industry professionals currently involved in the UK music industry. Key takeaways from the report largely formed under the headings of the plight of Black women in the UK music industry, how poor mental health disproportionately affects Black people in the UK music community, issues of pay disparity and barriers to progression for the Black community. 

Looking forward

We’re looking forward to building on our work through continuous assessment, evaluation and strategy review. Just as importantly, we look forward to developing our conversations and collaborations across the UK music ecosystem. 

We’ve enjoyed our conversations with ABRSM and look forward to developing our working relationship. The organisation takes seriously its responsibility – in supporting music education and widening opportunities – to improve access to its services by a representative and diverse community.  We’re pleased to have supported its work through our lived experience and expertise.  We share the aspiration of achieving meaningful change and highlight this relationship as a key collaboration for both organisations.

Find out more about Black Lives in Music

Read ABRSM's Diversity and Inclusion updates



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