Inclusivity Policy

Central to the RPS’ charitable objects is the aim to encourage creativity in music and give recognition to excellence in music and musicians. In doing this, we strive to be inclusive, ensuring we are representing the UK’s diverse society, reflecting the wide range of people who play a valued part in, or have the right to play a part in, the nation’s musical life.

We adhere to the Equality Act 2010 which states it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of any of the following protected characteristics:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Opportunities for musicians

Whilst applicants must be musically skilled to draw benefit from the specialist opportunities we offer, we continually address how we can minimise barriers to the widest possible participation. This includes endeavours to communicate our offer beyond familiar circles, clearly expressing that we welcome applications from diverse backgrounds, ensuring we use terms and phrases that do not knowingly inhibit or deter, and receptively encouraging enquiries from anyone about their potential involvement. We are pleased to have recently eliminated an entry fee for the RPS Composers programme, instrumental prizes and some of our RPS Women Conductors courses.

We newly adhere to Sound & Music's Fair Access Principles and have signed up to PRS Foundation’s KeyChange initiative to achieve 50:50 gender parity in the composers we support.

Our shortlisting and selection processes always involve external experts. We appoint different people to fulfil this role annually and, in our brief to all involved in such processes, including partner organisations with whom we work, we ask that they be aware of and challenge their own implicit biases.

We invite all applicants for such opportunities to complete some standard diversity monitoring questions. These are not compulsory: applicants are welcome to answer as many or as few of them as they wish. However, by completing them, you will help us gauge the range of people we are reaching and monitor the effectiveness of our Inclusivity Policy.

RPS Awards and Honours

Annually, we strive to ensure that the awards and honours we grant represent the vibrancy and breadth of first-class music-making today. We actively seek nominations from across the music profession and a growing Membership nationally. We refresh panels of external musical experts for the RPS Awards annually and again ask all those involved in such processes to be aware of and challenge their own implicit biases. In 2020, we ensured representation of those who are Black, Asian and ethnically diverse on all RPS Awards panels.


Anyone can apply for Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society. Subscriptions are offered at a range of levels reflecting that people have different means.

From 2019, we embarked on a Strategic Plan to transform the scope and appeal of our membership offer and devise a national strategy to draw a far greater range of people to join the Society. This in turn will generate funds that further the scope of our work, enable us to market opportunities more extensively, and remove impediments such as entry fees entirely.

Women Conductors

As substantially accounted in the media, the majority of educational and vocational opportunities in conducting are currently assumed by men. There is significant concern about the limited number of women taking an interest - and finding their way to sustainable careers - in conducting. On behalf of the sector, the Royal Philharmonic Society is delivering a programme of courses designed to help women of varying age and background further their confidence, skills and interest in conducting. Its long term aim is not only to redress this inequality but to cultivate more role-models who may inspire women to fulfil their promise as conductors.

This initiative may be described as ‘positive action’ in that it is taking an equitable approach to resolving an imbalance: not denying one gender of any extant educational or vocational opportunities, but serving as a supplement to ensure more people feel a greater right to such things. The ultimate goal is to eliminate any reference to a conductor’s gender, so they are judged on their talent alone, at which stage the initiative will have successfully served its purpose.

Black Lives Matter

In Summer 2020, following the internationally-reported murder of George Floyd, many music organisations said they stand against racism. We recognise more of us must now say out loud what we are actually doing to overcome racial inequality in classical music.

We know we have much more to do here but recognise how people should not shy away from sharing even small gestures or pledges: this being better than not saying anything for fear of accusation that one should have done more.

Through the RPS Awards and other such initiatives, we are well placed to draw attention to individuals and initiatives fostering positive change. For example, in 2019 the Board and advisory Council of the RPS presented our inaugural Gamechanger Award to Chineke! - Britain’s first majority black and minority ethnic orchestra. In the presentation, our Chair John Gilhooly OBE said they are ‘an example to us all of the change we can achieve if we set our heart on it.’ We consequently urge colleagues to listen to Chineke! founder Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE’s acceptance speech on our YouTube channel and consult and draw upon the knowledge, contacts and possibilities which Chineke! has cast open for the benefit of classical music:

As noted above, we are dismantling barriers to participation in our programmes and adopted Sound & Music’s indispensable Fair Access Principles, and are consequently pleased to be supporting a greater ratio of composers who are Black, Asian and ethnically diverse in 2020-21. Also as noted, we have now introduced representation of those who are Black, Asian and ethnically diverse on all RPS Awards panels.

Following a BBC Radio 3 forum on inclusivity, we vowed to lead a discussion at the 2020 Association of British Orchestras Conference urging colleagues nationally to programme a greater diversity of composers. Here we shared our research that 3.3% of works programmed by UK pro orchestras in January 2020 were by Black, Asian and ethnically diverse composers but, in that month, not one of those composers was black.

Sector-wide we need to collaborate, sharing knowledge of artists and repertory and initiatives to end such stark figures. We pledge to connect with BBC Radio 3, the Ivors Academy, Sound & Music and the Association of British Orchestras and other willing organisations to define what fora and networks can be instigated for this. Our Chief Executive has joined Arts Council England’s Diversity in Classical Music External Reference Group as it sets out to survey diversity in classical music and address what measures and benchmarks we can collectively set to foster among our artists, audience and workforce Black, Asian and ethnically diverse representation that reflects society at large.

We are pleased to talk to any further colleagues in classical music about what more we can collectively do to address this vital issue.


We equally appeal to more colleagues nationally to download and read the report that Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra wrote for us all on engaging more disabled musicians in what we all do – drawn from their ChangeMakers initiative which won the 2019 RPS Impact Award.

Through the RPS Audience Fund, we are supporting the Paraorchestra in the production of a toolkit / good practice guidelines on making classical music venues in the UK more accessible and welcoming to disabled audiences.

In recent years, we have welcomed musicians with several disabilities on our programmes and worked with them to address positively optimising the delivery of our offer for disabled people.

Currently, our office is based on the second floor of a building, accessible only by stairs. We recognise this may present an accessibility issue for certain individuals. We are always ready to organise meetings at locations convenient to such people. When advertising an opportunity to work with the RPS, we will always address how this can be positively achieved with applicants who may not readily be able to access our office.

We are pleased to talk to any further colleagues in classical music about what more we can collectively do to address greater inclusivity for disabled musicians.


The Royal Philharmonic Society has a small working team and engages a number of freelancers – and occasionally, as a charity, some volunteers – to help fulfil objectives. We work extensively in partnership with other arts and educational organisations and expect them, as well as all those we employ, to share our regard for inclusivity. We recognise the rewards that come from a diverse group of people working together. Duly, when appointing staff, we endeavour to communicate our offer beyond familiar circles, clearly expressing that we welcome applications from diverse backgrounds, ensuring we use terms and phrases that do not knowingly inhibit or deter, and receptively encouraging enquiries from anyone about their potential involvement.

We pride ourselves on the RPS having a friendly and respectful ethos and being an enjoyable and safe place to work, where what everyone contributes is recognised and valued.

We never unlawfully discriminate in regard to employees’ protected characteristics in terms of recruitment, pay and benefits, conditions of employment, dealing with grievances and discipline, dismissal, redundancy, requests for leave and flexible working, promotion, training or other developmental opportunities.

We do not condone or tolerate any bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination from colleagues or anyone with whom we work, towards other colleagues, our beneficiaries, our Members, supporters, and all others with whom we work.

We take seriously complaints of bullying, harassment, victimisation and unlawful discrimination and follow a standard grievance and disciplinary procedures as recommended by ACAS. Our Inclusivity Policy is closely allied to our Safeguarding Policy which can be viewed here.

Our team regularly reviews the principles of this policy and our working practices to ensure we possess and enact a good understanding of our rights and responsibilities regarding inclusivity.

If you would like to talk to us about any aspects of our Inclusivity Policy, please do contact us.