Diversity, equity and inclusion
In common with many organisations, in 2020 the School began to examine itself more intensively in response to the global Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent feedback and scrutiny from the wider Guildhall School community. As an institution, we recognise that we have not done enough to understand the lived experience of staff and students from underrepresented backgrounds. In order to better understand these experiences, we have been working closely with a range of specialists and organisations with lived experience and expertise, to ensure our School becomes an actively anti-discriminatory, anti-racist and inclusive organisation.
The School has agreed five Objectives:
- Demonstrate our equity, diversity and inclusion commitment
- Create an inclusive culture where everyone can thrive
- Contextualise the library, curriculum/repertoire, and pedagogy
- Attract under-represented student groups
- Attract, select and retain a diverse workforce
Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee has been working on actions to support the delivery of these objectives, and will integrate them into a School-wide action plan spanning all of our faculties, and covering our broader School audience and equity groups. In the meantime, Advisory Groups have been put in place in each department to support and advise on issues that are specific to each area of our teaching (Music, Drama, Production Arts), recognising this is only the start of our journey in this area.
The School has also appointed a new Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion to our senior leadership team. This role will be responsible for managing the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion programme and the delivery of the equity objectives, and will chair the Committee.
You can find details of the work currently being undertaken in each of our departments here:
In Drama, a significant amount of work is ongoing under the leadership of Vice-Principal & Director of Drama Orla O’Loughlin, who was appointed in 2019 with a mandate for change.
In September 2020, the Acting staff began a comprehensive and ongoing process of training. This training included an Introduction to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Unconscious Bias; Creating Inclusive Environments; Safeguarding; Creating Safe Spaces and Mental Health First Aid.
It also included training specifically in anti-racist practice that has been revisited since the initial sessions. Led by a team of experienced practitioners, white staff members engaged in training on Anti-Racist Practice; Interpersonal Racism and Systemic Racism. At the same time, the team of practitioners facilitated sessions exclusively for Black and Asian staff members.
In 2021, the department established a partnership with the award-winning School of Sexuality Education to deliver a bespoke programme of training about consent, sexual violence and bystander intervention. The training, for staff and students, was evidence-based, trauma-informed, trans-inclusive and intersectional.
In 2022, the department worked with Gendered Intelligence to deliver a two-day programme of training in Trans Awareness and Inclusion.
In September 2023, staff will undertake training in Disability Awareness and Creative Access with award-winning theatre company Graeae.
Reflection and Accountability
Underpinning this training, teaching staff within the Acting department have, since June 2020, been engaged in a sustained programme of reflective sessions entitled ‘Interrogating Power, Privilege and Position: a Faculty Reflective Practice Team Development (RPTD) group’.
Facilitated by experienced group analysts, these fortnightly sessions support staff to consider the impact of the training on their work, their personal responsibility and accountability for the structural and cultural change that is necessary within the department.
In September 2020, we appointed Maureen Salmon of Freshwaters Consultancy to receive accounts and experiences of racism from Acting alumni in order to produce an independent, anonymised report, summarising the culture of the Acting programme over recent years and making a series of recommendations. This report, written with and for our Acting alumni, is available here.
The report has been sent to all of our Acting alumni, accompanied by a response and unreserved apology from the Vice Principal & Director of Drama and the Principal. The recommendations from this report will be used to inform the new Acting curricula and the rest of our work going forward, and in addition, School-wide recommendations will be fed into the work of the EDI Committee.
Please be advised that this report contains distressing content and accounts of racism.
In September 2021, we launched a significantly revised BA (Hons) Acting programme. Developed over the last two years in consultation with staff, students, alumni and industry experts, this pioneering new programme embeds progressive industry practice and prioritises inclusivity, representation and wellbeing in all areas, from repertoire to pedagogy. It was described by the revalidation panel as "a beacon of excellence" for the sector.
The new programme retains the core commitment to rigorous craft training in Acting, Voice and Movement that has helped secure the programme’s acclaimed UK and international standing. Throughout the programme, repertoire and reference points have been reviewed and reframed to ensure that the content of our programme is representative of the diversity of our students. For example, the new Project modules focus on key aspects of acting and performance, rather than relying on traditional genres and historical canons of work.
In addition, a suite of new modules have been introduced into the training to equip students for sustainable careers as actors in the 21st Century. Among them, the Reflective Practice module develops students’ understanding of their own artistry, identity and the wider critical context in which their practice exists, empowering them to be compassionate, courageous and socially-engaged. Students are also supported to consider their emotional wellbeing, their allyship and to share agency in creating an inclusive culture at the School.
Auditions and Mentoring
In line with the ethos and approach of the new BA (Hons) Acting programme, we have reviewed and updated our audition processes to ensure best practice with regard to access and inclusion. In September 2020, we reduced the one-off fee to audition in the UK for Acting programmes from £66 to £35, a decrease of 47%. As well as holding second round auditions in London, subject to demand we will be holding second round auditions in six cities across the UK, helping applicants reduce travel and accommodation costs they may incur from auditioning in London.
Audition panellist recruitment and training
In September 2021, we held an open recruitment process for audition panellists; we have a team of nearly fifty audition panellists with a diverse and intersectional range of lived experiences and industry skills. Those conducting first and second round auditions undertook a suite of bespoke training sessions in preparation for the current year’s application cycle. This included work on Inclusive Practice for auditions, Unconscious Bias and the vision of the new curriculum.
Third Year Mentors
In anticipation of their final year, second year students were invited to share their aspirations in relation to working with a Professional Mentor in the third year. In seeking to meet the students’ thinking and priorities in this regard, the programme team were excited to invite an extended number of professional actors to join the pool of mentors. The team recognises the important role that these mentors have in supporting students as they make their initial steps into the industry.
Equality & Wellbeing Associates (Drama)
In March 2021, we appointed two freelance Equality and Wellbeing Associates (Drama). Designed to provide short-term additional support through a period of intense change in the department, these dynamic and evolving freelance roles had a specific focus on empowering students within the Acting Programme to share agency in nurturing an anti-racist culture at Guildhall. Their roles were split into three key component parts: listening and signposting; facilitating space for students to share their experiences; and advising the senior leadership team within the Drama Department on relevant and necessary training for students.
This work has since been consolidated into the roles of all departmental staff members and built into the curriculum via the new Reflective Practice module.
Acting Advisory Group
In June 2020, we made the commitment to establish an Acting Advisory Group to give critical feedback and advice on a wide range of different issues pertaining to anti-racist practice within the Acting programme.
This group was first convened in July 2020 and met weekly or fortnightly during term time throughout 2020 and 2021. It was comprised of recent alumni, external partners and staff members. The group primarily advised and supported us to deliver on the commitments we made in our Acting Programme Anti-Racist Action Plan, published in June 2020. They also consulted with us about staff training and reflection; alumni relations; improving the reporting and complaints process; mental health support provision for staff and students; resources in anti-racism for staff and students; recruitment and audition processes; and curriculum and repertoire.
In line with the recommendations made in the Freshwaters Consultancy Report, Acting Alumni Voices, this work is now evolving to engage more directly with our alumni community to consider and support the ongoing culture change within the department.
The Music Division is working on the following initiatives in alignment with the School’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion priorities.
Training for students and staff
The development of a training programme for students and staff in Music began in 2021. Heads of department received initial training in Unconscious Bias, provided by a specialist company delivering training on equality, diversity and inclusion for arts and cultural organisations, and further training for leaders within the division will be introduced in the coming months.
From Academic Year 2021-22, training in Consent has been made available to students and staff, covering issues of sexual consent, communication and relationships, and bystander intervention. A wider programme of training for our extended community of teaching staff is the subject of consultation and is expected to be put in place later in 2022.
In summer 2021, Guildhall School became a partner of Black Lives in Music. This organisation works across the UK jazz and classical music industries to achieve equality for people of colour so they can express themselves in music of all genres and in all areas of the music profession. Black Lives in Music is advising the Music Division on how to address issues of discrimination and to build an equitable, inclusive environment.
Guildhall School, together with the Barbican, leads the London centre of the National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO), the world’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra. The orchestra empowers 11-25 year-old disabled and non-disabled musicians to rehearse and perform together as members of a pioneering inclusive ensemble.
In addition, Guildhall School’s Vocal Department partners with the National Opera Studio on their Diverse Voices programme, which provides support and guidance to singers from under-represented ethnic backgrounds across the UK.
Music Advisory Group
The Music Division launched its Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Group in October 2021, chaired by Roger Wilson from Black Lives in Music. Members include the student president of the African-Caribbean Society, professors from across the classical, jazz and research areas, and the interim Director of Music.
The agenda of these meetings has covered topics such as staff training and the School’s wellbeing, support and complaints processes. Also discussed were planning and outcomes from the Music Division’s first Town Hall gathering, held in October 2021, and also facilitated by Roger Wilson.
This meeting allowed students, teaching staff, Heads of Departments and senior staff including the Interim Principal to discuss issues of prejudice experienced within the community. Future Town Halls are anticipated, with an aim to expand attendance, particularly from students, and embed the conversation.
Teaching & Performance Programme
Work on greater representation, diversity and inclusivity in our curriculum and performance activity is under way across the Music Division. The programme of public performances is overseen by the Performance Committee whose terms of reference have been updated to include considering and monitoring accessibility, equity and diversity in music events and planning. Formal academic processes such as revalidation of degree programmes also have a renewed emphasis on questions of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Highlights of the performance programme in 2021-22 that reflect this focus include: the Guildhall Chamber Orchestra’s concert with works by William Grant Still and Roxanna Panufnik; the Guildhall Opera Department’s performances of Judith Weir’s Miss Fortune and of Pauline Viardot’s Cendrillon, for which orchestrations were specially commissioned from Guildhall doctoral composer Amy Crankshaw; the Jazz Department’s Dizzier and Dizzier celebration of Dizzie Gillespie, with Trevor Watkis and Byron Wallen; the Studio Orchestra’s homage to Motown; the harp department’s ongoing series of commissions from British women composers; and the Vocal Department’s Ouroboros project, which includes Chinese and Japanese folksongs (sung in the original language) as well as works by Mitski, Leaha Maria Villarreal, Margaret Bonds and Tania León, among others.
Throughout the curriculum, students address key social, cultural and identity issues. They are given questions and contexts to start developing their own individual awareness and response, and the tools and space to pursue these at their own pace in artistic practice, reflective practice, and in an academic research-based context.
For example, from the beginning of the undergraduate (BMus) course, Academic Studies classes require students to critically engage with multiple canons, to help students negotiate relationships between the past and their present artistry. Compulsory academic and reflective practice modules in both the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes offer students significant space to develop individual work and it is notable that in 2021-22, 17% of Year 3 undergraduates, for example, have chosen to address issues around the subject of ‘the Artist in Society’ in these modules.
The free choice offered to students in the majority of end-of-year Music performance exams and recitals also proves a welcome opportunity for many students who wish to present work they feel represents them or is of particular relevance to them. Diversifying repertoire is encouraged through curriculum initiatives such as classes for Year 3 & 4 singers dedicated to song by Black British and African American composers, Music & Politics talks and elective options open to students across the Music Division, and soprano Julia Bullock’s appointment as Artist-in-Residence, leading to projects on programming and commissioning.
Visiting Artists such as Julia Bullock also provide important role models for students and staff in the Music Division, and departments aim to engage a diverse range of artists each year. In 2021-22, guest artists for classes and conversation also include Alison Buchanan, Felix Klieser, Hera Hyesang Park, Davóne Tines and Roderick Williams.
The Production Arts department is working on the following initiatives in the current academic year, in alignment with Guildhall School’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion priorities.
Production Arts Advisory Group
A Production Arts Advisory Group was established in 2020/21 to consider matters relating to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, particularly in relation to anti-racism. Featuring four external colleagues from our industry and five members of staff, its discussions contributed to drawing up a longlist of organisations in arts and education with significant access and diversity agendas, for onward liaison; the inception of wider discussions and training activities in the department; and the recruitment of a diverse representative group of ten visiting practitioners as mentors for third year students.
The group has been expanded for 2021/22 (to include more external colleagues and three student representatives), and has the following remit for the 2021/22 academic year:
To offer consultancy and advice concerning:
- The Production Arts department’s Equity Action Plan, including its anti-racism initiatives
- Student recruitment actions and initiatives
- Staff development (training and updating)
- Diversifying our staff base
- Curriculum and repertoire/project development
- Examples of relevant good practice, reference points and support systems
Visiting Practitioner & Mentor Scheme
Introduced in 2021, this scheme helps to diversify the pool of colleagues from the theatre and entertainment arts industry that work with the Production Arts department as visiting and associate tutors; and extends the range of support with specialist development and career opportunities that we provide to our students. Visiting practitioners/mentors work with students to provide advice and support regarding individual journeys as theatre practitioners, next steps into the industry on graduation, and potential networking opportunities.
Training for students and staff
The Production Arts department held a number of training sessions in 2021. These included workshops for all students on Unconscious Bias and Consent, provided by a specialist company delivering training on equality, diversity and inclusion for arts and cultural organisations. Training for staff, designed specifically for educators, was delivered in Race & Allyship, Unconscious Bias and Introduction to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
In addition, an online training course on Consent Matters: Boundaries, Respect and Positive Intervention was offered by Guildhall School across all departments, with optional participation by Production Arts students encouraged by the department. It provides training on sexual consent, communication and relationships, and bystander intervention.
Designing for Diversity masterclasses
Designing for Diversity masterclasses for students are new, regular sessions exploring aspects of design for theatre productions in relation to diverse and representative casting. Lighting Designer and alumna Prema Mehta recently delivered our first masterclass on lighting design; artist/set-designer Moi Tran delivered a discussion on set design; and Guildhall’s own Vanessa Lingham will be discussing costume design early in 2022.
Although specifically aimed at current second-year students across both the BA (Hons) Production Arts and BA (Hons) Video Design for Live Performances programmes, students across the whole department are invited to attend. The intent is to cement this training into the curriculum on an annual basis to ensure Production Arts students are learning in line with best industry practice, and that they can lead the way in ensuring a future for the industry that is truly inclusive, diverse and equitable.
Creating a safe space
Guildhall School is committed to creating a safe study and working environment. The School does not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment, and expects all members of our community to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration.
You can read the School's Safe Space statement below.
Everyone working and learning together at Guildhall is entitled to do so in a safe space: a space free of bullying and harassment of any kind.
We will honour our differences and collaborate in the true spirit of ensemble, promoting creative challenge whilst retaining the utmost respect for each other.
We will treat one another with courtesy and respect at all times, and if we are subjected to or witness bullying or harrassment we will speak out knowing that our voices will be heard and we will be taken seriously.
We will actively promote a positive, optimistic and mutually supportive approach to work and study.
Together we can create a safe space.
In addition, the School’s Principal and Student Union President have signed the Conservatoires UK Code of Practice and Respect, which is available for current staff and students to view on MyGuildhall.
The Equality Act 2010 introduced the Single Equality Duty for public bodies:
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
- Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
- Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
The general equality duty covers the following protected characteristics:
- age (including children and young people)
- gender reassignment
- pregnancy and maternity
- race, religion or belief
- sex and sexual orientation
- marriage and civil partnership
The specific duties of the Act require each public body to:
1. Publish information to demonstrate its compliance with the general equality duty; this information to include information relating to people who share a protected characteristic who are its employees and other people affected by its policies and practices.
2. Publish one or more objectives that it thinks it needs to further the aims of the general equality duty. The objectives must be specific and measurable.
You can find our published information below.
Members of staff of the School are employees of the City of London. Information about the City of London’s commitment to equality and diversity in the workforce can be found at the City of London’s equality and inclusion webpage, which includes the City's Equality Objectives, Equal Opportunities statement and Equality & Inclusion Performance Report.
You can find other monitoring summaries here:
For previous monitoring summaries please see the Academic Board or Teaching & Learning Board report in the agenda pack for the November meeting of the Board of the Governors in the relevant year.
Following a period of staff and student consultation, the School has reformed its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy is expected to be published as an output of this committee.