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What does it take to create meaningful, positive change?

One year on from the music industry pausing to reflect on the murder of George Floyd, CEO Graham Davies and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager Wesley John examine the impact on The Academy.

The anniversary of the murder of George Floyd is a time that we must reflect and recognise the part we all play in allowing racism, injustice, inequality, hate, and intolerance to take hold in our lives, society and industries.

When I think about it, and I mean really think about it, it is terrifying to know that racism, hate, and atrocities occur every day around the world, in and outside of the workplace, subtle and overt, and have done so for a very long time. The only difference of 2020 was the rise of social media and the fact that George Floyd’s murder was caught on camera. How many people are treated in all manner of ways when the camera isn’t on and how do we change that? The hate crimes against Asian communities and the continued racial unrest around the world makes me question how much harm and hate has to take hold before change really happens.

I reflect on my responsibility and role in the music industry, and the commitments the music industry made a year ago. We at the Ivors Academy are regularly reflecting on the work we have done, the progress we have made and how much work we have to do.

While we take action to ensure the Academy represents the diverse spectrum of people, communities and talent within the industry, and our leadership is much more diverse now than it was in 2018 when I joined, we still have a lot more to do to become the properly representative organisations we want to be.

To help us get there we have spent the last year advocating for reform to our structure to remove barriers to inclusion. I hope our members vote for this change at the AGM in July.

We have taken steps to be clear about what we stand for and what behaviours, actions and statements are not acceptable.

We have established an Ethics Committee to lay solid foundations for the change we want to see in our organisation, and the environments in which our members operate in the industry.

We have launched our charitable trust to enable us to take positive action to reduce barriers in our industry and increase equality of opportunity. And most importantly, we have invited those with new perspectives and experiences onto our Boards, our Committees and Groups with the much needed expertise, so that the right people lead the change we want to see and we all own our responsibility in that journey.

We have momentum for building a better music industry and the memory of George Floyd’s death and all of the atrocities that came before and after, acts to strengthen our commitment to change. I would like to thank all those who have helped us.

– Graham Davies, The Ivors Academy CEO.


Even before the events of 25th May on a street in downtown Minneapolis, I could never have predicted where I, we, or the world would be now. No one could have imagined the global events which shook the world during 2020.

At the start of an unravelling global health crisis, was an event – the murder of George Floyd – which was to have just as profound an impact on our global society as the current pandemic, and which truly made our world stop.

The enforced lockdown emptied the streets of many cities around the world, replacing their vibrant sound of fast-paced life with a deafening silence. Right at the heart, was a singular stillness. In that stillness, in that pause for breath, there was a moment for everyone to reflect, to ask themselves the question, what am I going to do? What can I do about racism and the systemic inequalities that impact so many people in their everyday lives?

The Ivors Academy’s journey defending equality and fighting racism started well before that horrific event of 25th May 2020, with our actions gaining momentum at the 2019 AGM. The panel discussion ‘Understanding barriers to equality in music creation’ prompted conversation and debate, and most importantly urgent and considered action, championed by our CEO Graham Davies, Chair Crispin Hunt, and the Board. In Fact, many voices added strength to our purpose including members of our EDI Steering group, working groups and staff team.

The murder of George Floyd and the music industry’s response as seen through Blackout Tuesday, was a moment where the music industry stopped to pause and reflect. It was the start of many new conversations, and for many more the same conversations were dusted off and revisited again. Only this time, this time, things could not be the same, it had to be different. The shock of seeing the murder of a Black man in broad daylight by a police officer brought the vilest display of inequality and racism, right into our homes, and there was nowhere to hide.

This time the hope of change had a new urgency. Breaking through the pain and anguish of the severest act of brutality, forced the world to focus like never before and emboldened us to act. Not just thinking and talking, but action.

Action to bring about meaningful, positive change.

For the Academy, the result was to galvanise our thinking and intent into one plan and set out our commitments to fight inequality and also enabled us to track our progress.

In July 2020 we published our 12-Point EDI Action plan. This is the blueprint for our action to create greater representation in our Boards and committees, to refresh our HR and recruitment, to undertake diversity-focused research, gather data, and to remove barriers to entering our awards through a complete review of our award access guidelines.

The murder of George Floyd was a ‘line in the sand’ moment and the hope is that the legacy of BlackOut Tuesday will define the future our industry as well. One year on, and it is apt that our EDI Action plan has this marker to reflect on our goals, the progress we’ve made, and the new decisions that are needed to improve diversity and change for our industry.

Our instrument for change is our 12-point plan and at its core is a strategy to embed change. It’s great that we have made progress –

Achieving a male-female gender balance on our Boards for the first time was a real milestone. The forthcoming elections gives greater hope of an opportunity to go further and embed all aspects of diversity and inclusion in our governance with increased representation.

Allies and partners are essential. We’re building our networks and working with new partners to increase our knowledge and broaden our viewpoint. Black Lives in Music are a new partner, whose current research into the Black Musicians’/Creators’ experience, will help us to better understand this perspective. The conclusions will shock and make for uncomfortable reading – some of which will sadly mirror my own career experiences from the past, but our voices need to be heard and difficult issues faced head-on.

Data, Data, Data. The essential material to measure change and influence decisions. We’ve started collecting protected characteristics data to give us an accurate picture of who we are and where to direct our focus for action.

We’ve reviewed our entry criteria and access guidelines for our awards. As a result of removing the chart criteria for entry, access to our awards has increased, and working with our Trust who provide bursaries to creators facing financial barriers has opened a new route of access for greater diversity.

Our industry and society needs those who are willing to taking a stand and speak up against hate and prejudice. Those who will fight against inequality to ensure difference and diversity is valued. Difference of background, experience, and identity – the difference between me and you. After all, difference is actually the norm.

As I look at my 3-year-old daughter each day, I do wonder what the world will look like and feel like when she is my age and more importantly way before that kind of milestone. Will I still need to have ‘that conversation’ which all Black parents have had to prepare about racism, or will it be different? What will her experience of life be, will her voice still struggle to be heard by society or will she just go unnoticed for the same wrong reasons, because she is Black and because she is a woman?

Through the noise of the music business pledging solidarity and words supporting action I do believe there has been progress. We as an organisation can be proud of our genuine and honest achievements which have begun to tip the imbalance and create a level playing field.

They say it’s a journey, the road that’s never ending and there’s still a long way to go. We should not be weighed down with negativity but inspired by the challenge of responsibility. Awareness of privilege, active conversation between people of all differing backgrounds and action. All must pass from generation to generation to never forget the history of experiences and just what it takes for progress to be made.

– Wesley John, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager.

An updated version of our EDI Action Plan will be published in the summer the year with new actions and goals. We want to work more closely with partners and our Trust to provide new opportunities to creators who are facing obstacles.

If you have any feedback or comments about what we are doing please get it touch at equalities@ivorsacademy.com.


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