British Composer Awards – updated figures in terms of ethnic representationPosted: December 3, 2014
[UPDATE: I have been informed of the omission of the student award in the 2014 list (this was not included in the earlier years either, as it is awarded in a different fashion and so does not appear on the shortlists). I would thus like to point out that in this category there was one ethnic minority award given this year. More broadly, I would stress that the issue is not of the decisions of this award-giving body, with respect to ethnicity, gender, or any other factor, considering that nominations come externally and are not determined by the BCA, but of the lack of representation of ethnic minorities within the field of new music in general. This is an issue which needs debating more widely.]
A year I published an article on here looking at the representation of British-born ethnic minorities in the British Composer Awards. Following the announcement of the 2014 awards yesterday, I wanted to update the figures I provided then.
2003: 100% white (11 awards)
2004: 100% white (11 awards)
2005: One composer of African/Afro-Caribbean origin, all others white (Radio 3 listeners award) (11 awards)
2006: 100% white (12 awards)
2007: 100% white (13 prizes)
2008: 100% white (11 prizes awarded)
2009: One composer of African/Afro-Caribbean origin, all others white (in jazz category) (13 prizes awarded)
2010: Two composers of East Asian origin (chamber, and international) (13 prizes awarded).
2011: 100% white (13 awards)
2012: 100% white (13 awards)
2013: One composer of East Asian origin (international award) (14 awards, one joint).
2014: 100% white (13 awards)
Total number of awards given 2003-2014: 148. Total number of white composers: 143. Thus 96.6% white composer winners.
Total number of awards given to British Composers: 140. Total number of white composers: 137. Thus 97.9% white composer winners.
Of the five non-white winners, two have been winners of the international award, one of the chamber award, one of the jazz award, and one of the Radio 3 Listeners’ award. Three of these are of East Asian origin, two of African/Afro-Caribbean origin.
Going through the shortlists for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 one finds the following:
2011: 41 names and 1 collective of five individuals. One individual of East Asian origin.
2012: 39 names, all white
2013: 39 names, one of East Asian origin
2014: 36 names, all white
Since 2009 there has been a prize for jazz composition, a field with historically strong associations with African-American communities. Of the six winners of this, five have been white. Of the 18 names shortlisted, 16 have been white.
All of this points to the forms of composition recognised and rewarded by the BCA being overwhelmingly white (bearing in mind that according to the 2011 census, only 87.1% of the UK population were white). No individual of South Asian origin has ever won a BCA award, despite their accounting for around 5% of the population, whilst the representation of individuals (two) of African/Afro-Caribbean origin falls well below the figure of 3% of the population they make up; one of the names only won because nominated by Radio 3 listeners, the other in the category of jazz composition.
This is not to criticise the awards necessarily, nor their organisers, rather to point out a wider issue in new music, as I have argued elsewhere. To what extent can new music be viewed as part of a multicultural Britain (or in other Western countries), or is it a field disengaged from black and minority ethnic (BME) cultural and musical traditions?