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, reflecting the wide range of people who make classical music in the UK's diverse, multicultural society.
We adhere to the Equality Act 2010 which states it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of any of the following protected characteristics:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- 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 communicating openly and beyond familiar circles, clearly and authentically expressing that we welcome applications from diverse backgrounds, ensuring that we use terms and phrases that do not knowingly deter potential applicants, and receptively encouraging enquires from anyone about their potential involvement. We are pleased to have eliminated an entry fee for the RPS Composers programme, instrumental prizes, and our RPS Women Conductors courses.
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 inclusivity monitoring questions. We are committed to ensuring that everyone feels welcome to apply for opportunities with the RPS, and to monitoring our progress in this. The answers given are reviewed entirely separately from any applications.
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. Since 2020, we have ensured at least 20% of panellists are of the global majority, and the Awards themselves are celebrating a greater diversity of artists from across the UK.
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 and enable us to market opportunities more extensively.
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. At our last count, only two British orchestras had a female principal conductor, and only five women conductors had titled roles amid the several hundred conductors on the staff of professional orchestras. Furthermore, as at January 2023, only 52 of the 463 conductors represented by British agents were female. While that 11.2% is better than the 9% we recorded in 2020 and 5.5% in 2017, it is still a long way from equality.
On behalf of the sector, the Royal Philharmonic Society has since 2016 taken a lead in delivering a programme of courses designed to help women of varying age and background further their confidence, skills and interest in conducting. Our Women Conductors ('WoCo') courses are devised with conductor Alice Farnham and a growing range of partners nationally. The 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. To date, over 500 women have participated in the courses we have organised, and a number of participants are now enjoying regular high-profile work in conducting as a result.
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.
In 2020, following the internationally-reported murder of George Floyd, many music organisations said they stand against racism. We recognise more of us must say out loud what we are actually doing to overcome racial inequality in classical music. We know we have much more to do here and are committed to becoming an anti-racist organisation and to playing our part in fostering an inclusive culture in classical music.
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, Asian and ethnically diverse 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: https://www.chineke.org.
Since 2020, we have ensured that at least 20% of RPS Awards panellists are of the global majority. In 2023, 27% of the individual performers and composers nominated for the RPS Awards were of the global majority.
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 receiving applications from and supporting a greater proportion of composers of the global majority.
Following a BBC Radio 3 forum on inclusivity, we led 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 composers of the global majority 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. Our Chief Executive joined Arts Council England's Diversity in Classical Music External Reference Group as it set 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 representation that reflects a diverse and multicultural society. We are pleased to share what knowledge we possess with colleagues across the cultural sector, and regularly recommend and introduce composers of the global majority in particular to programmers and commissioners.
We are pleased to talk further with any colleagues in the cultural sector about what more we can collectively do to dismantle racism and achieve equality in classical music.
We 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.
Furthermore, we urge colleagues to download and read the National Open Youth Orchestra's 2018-2022 report, produced in partnership with independent researchers Sound Connections, to find out more about their journey pioneering a more diverse and inclusive orchestra.
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 disabled musicians on our programmes and worked with them to address positively optimising the delivery of our offer for disabled people. We are also in the early stages of devising a new commissioning initiative that we hope will foster more opportunities for talented disabled composers to write for professional ensembles and, from this, draw case studies and good practice that encourage more such ensembles to do the same.
Currently, our office is based on the second floor of a building, accessible only by stairs. We recognise this presents an accessibility issue for some people. We are always ready to organise meetings at locations convenient to others, and when advertising an opportunity to work with the RPS, we will always address how this can be positively achieved with applicants who may not 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 foster an inclusive culture for disabled musicians.
The Royal Philharmonic Society has a small working team in which everyone plays an important role. We work extensively in partnership with other arts and educational organisations and - as a registered charity - we engage a number of freelancers and occasionally some volunteers to help fulfil objectives. We expect all those we work with to bring a friendly and respectful ethos, and contribute to making the RPS an enjoyable and safe place to work, where what everyone contributes is listened to, recognised and valued.
We recognise the rewards that come from a diverse group of people working together. Duly, when appointing staff, we aim to communicate openly and beyond familiar circles, clearly and authentically expressing that we welcome applications from people from diverse backgrounds, ensuring that we use terms and phrases that do not knowingly deter potential applicants, and receptively encouraging enquires from anyone about their potential involvement.
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 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, we are pleased to hear from you.
Royal Philharmonic Society
020 7287 0019