Photo: Allan Hong
By Merlene Toh Emerson
As a Liberal Democrat candidate for the London Assembly, I am keen to ensure London stays a centre for the arts and creative industries. Our theatres, museums, galleries and sporting venues play a vital role in life in the capital and help make London a vibrant and attractive place to live, work and play.
Whilst it is great that the creative economy provides employment for an estimated 800,000 people in London, I can’t help but ask the question: is there equal access to people of different backgrounds to those jobs? We need to promote inclusion and equality in all aspects of London’s life including participation in the Arts, on TV and radio, in film and in the media.
It is Liberal Democrat policy to maintain an active events programme led by City Hall to celebrate the diverse culture and vibrant communities of London. We will work with London boroughs to highlight the economic and social benefits that cultural activities bring to local communities and encourage attendance not only to theatres in central London but also to borough and fringe theatres.
We also wish to ensure that the London cultural industries’ workforce reflects the diversity of the communities it serves, which it has failed to do under both Labour and Conservative mayors.
If I am elected to the London Assembly on 5 May 2016, I will:
• Hold talks with the national houses such as the Royal Opera House and National Theatre, and the major West End theatre employers to discuss how they plan to improve the diversity of their workforce, both for performers and backstage crews.
• Press Ofcom to adopt a policy of transparency and accountability of the commercial broadcasters who are awarded licences on behalf of the public. We will urge the regulator to follow the example of the Arts Council of England and the British Film Institute and require each licence holder to monitor their workforce for ethnicity, the results of which Ofcom would publish.
For years now, I have been campaigning with Chinese actors including Alice Lee, Anna Chen, Paul Hyu, David Tse, and Daniel York for more British Chinese/east asians to be on TV, film, theatre and the radio. I have heard stories of how few auditions come up and the limited roles requiring an actor of Chinese or east asian background.
I look forward to the day that casting directors and producers are colour blind and can cast Chinese/east asian actors in different roles and not only those written for an east asian character. Beyond that I would like to see more Chinese and east asians take up professions including script writers, production crew, directors and producers, so that they can be responsible for putting on these shows and programmes.
The media has such a critical role to play in informing and influencing public opinion and perceptions. Not having public figures in the media renders our community invisible and stereotyping of characters can do as much damage in holding our community back. So now it’s time to make a change.
So please join me in lobbying for changes including checks on the industry and its stakeholders to ensure they comply with equalities legislation. And if you help me get into City Hall as an elected politician, I can do even more for the Arts and for London’s diverse communities.