In April last year, Manchester-based designer and writer Jaheed Hussain launched Fuse, a platform that strives for inclusivity in what is a predominantly white creative industry.
It was sparked by his experiences of creative events in his home city: "Of all the popular creative events in Manchester, they rarely included creatives of colour," says Jaheed. "Whether that's due to apathetic views of diversity or the failure to try and connect with those from underrepresented backgrounds, Fuse became the catalyst to do better."
Jaheed certainly felt unwelcome and even questioned his own identity: "While at university, and in the year since graduating I've questioned if I truly belong in the industry. I usually ask myself, is this what I'm supposed to do? Seeing events with hardly any people of colour causes self-doubt because we look up at those on stage for guidance and perspective; when that person isn't someone who looks like you, it's difficult to be able to picture yourself in their shoes."
Fuse was part of Jaheed's final year project at Salford University and features insightful articles and helpful resources from diverse organisations, and it supports movements such as Black Lives Matter. It also features a directory of local creatives: "It gives those of colour an open space, dedicated to bringing everyone closer," adds Jaheed.
Following a successful debut year, with 90 signing up to its open directory (many of whom have benefited from the exposure), Fuse is now rolling out to different cities around the world. Jaheed has put out an open call, inviting people to start their own local chapter. So far, Leeds, Brighton, and Zurich have signed up, and London is expected to launch next.
"I hope my platform gives creatives everywhere the chance to build a platform that celebrates diversity and inclusion and sparks the change to become a more equal creative industry," he says.
Despite positive initiatives like Fuse, the creative industries are still failing to put a spotlight on creatives of colour. Jaheed believes one of the issues lies with recruitment. "When you look at the employees of creative studios and agencies in Manchester, most are white. I believe these companies should introduce an inclusive application and interviewing process, to hire more people of colour."
But Jaheed believes the problem starts much earlier than that. "If we don't make the arts accessible to everyone, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, how can we expect to see change? It starts with education and a lack of funding in different areas of the UK. For example, there's a huge difference between Manchester and Oldham, as there's hardly any awareness amongst pupils outside of the larger cities that they could pursue a creative career."
Jaheed hopes universities will also step up and address the lack of representation: "I want to spark a conversation about race issues, not just with creatives of colour, but with everyone. We will only see change if we include everyone. Inclusivity is something we should all be striving for."
He adds: "Fuse has shown that there are so many artists, designers and platforms founded by creatives of colour, some of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, but there aren't many opportunities to fund their projects to elevate their voices and work. We need to push for more support to help those who would otherwise go unheard."