Brit Awards ad­dress lack of di­ver­sity

Af­ter #Brit­sSoWhite trended dur­ing cer­e­mony, or­ga­niz­ers move to over­haul judge panel

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT & LIFE - CHRISTOPHER D. SHEA THE NEW YORK TIMES

LONDON— Bri­tain’s lead­ing pop mu­sic prize, the Brit, will shake up its ros­ter of judges next year in an at­tempt to ad­dress a per­ceived lack of di­ver­sity. The move, an­nounced Mon­day, comes af­ter an out­cry that no mi­nor­ity artists won awards this year.

Sev­eral black mu­si­cians, in­clud­ing Ken­drick La­mar and Drake, were nom­i­nated in cat­e­gories re­served for in­ter­na­tional artists, but pop­u­lar black Bri­tish mu­si­cians were broadly over­looked.

Though the out­cry and Mon­day’s news cen­tred around the lack of mi­nor­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the awards, the new ros­ter also ad­dresses the broad un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in the Brits vot­ing con­stituency. More than 700 new judges — a mix of record la­bel rep­re­sen­ta­tives, mem­bers of the press, mu­si­cians and other in­dus­try af­fil­i­ates — have been in­vited to vote for the 2017 prizes.

The ros­ter of 1,200 vot­ers will be 52 per cent male and 17 per cent BAME, a com­monly used term in Bri­tain that stands for Black, Asian and Mi­nor­ity Eth­nic. Last year’s vot­ers, roughly the same to­tal num­ber, were 70 per cent male and15 per cent BAME.

(About 86 per cent of English and Welsh res­i­dents call them­selves white, though mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions are much higher in ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas.)

In the lead-up to this year’s Brits, whose win­ners were an­nounced in Fe­bru­ary, mu­si­cians in­clud­ing soul singer Laura Mvula and grime artist Stor­mzy pub­licly de­nounced the awards for the lack of di­ver­sity.

The hash­tag #Brit­sSoWhite, a riff on #Os­carsSoWhite — which came into pop­u­lar use when only white ac­tors were nom­i­nated for 2016 act­ing Os­cars — started trend­ing on Twit­ter dur­ing the Brit Awards cer­e­mony, which also took place in Fe­bru­ary.

Sev­eral days later, Ged Do­herty, chair­man of Bri­tish Phono­graphic In­dus­try, the trade group that or­ga­nizes the awards, pub­lished an open let­ter in the Guardian ac­knowl­edg­ing that race was an is­sue that the or­ga­ni­za­tion had to tackle. “There was an ele­phant in the room” dur­ing the awards, Do­herty wrote. “I can tell you that it was sat firmly on my lap.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a state­ment that it had ap­pointed a com­mit­tee of lead­ing black and Asian me­dia and mu­sic pro­fes­sion­als to help them choose the vot­ers for 2017.

“I be­lieve that as a re­sult of these changes, the Brits will be bet­ter equipped to re­flect the di­verse na­ture of Bri­tain and Bri­tish mu­sic,” Do­herty said in the state­ment.

MICHAEL LOCCISANO/GETTY IM­AGES FILE PHOTO

In the lead-up to this year’s Brits, mu­si­cians in­clud­ing soul singer Laura Mvula de­nounced the awards’ lack of di­ver­sity.

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