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Elisabeth Murdoch gives $4 million to promote racial diversity in UK arts

The daughter of conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch has adopted a lower profile than her brothers Lachlan and James and held back from the race to succeed their father.

Elisabeth, the founder of two successful independent TV production companies, launched the Freelands Foundation in 2015 to direct donations and support to the arts, particularly outside London.

The creative sector, Britain’s fastest growing industry, will decay if it does not embrace input from women, ethnic minorities and those from poorer backgrounds, she told Reuters on Thursday in an interview:

“Access to a creative education and to a cultural arts-rich life … has an impact on future social mobility, on mental health, and we know that culture and the arts lift horizons.”

The British art scene, home over the decades to David Hockney, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth and Banksy, has in recent years been described by the Arts Council as treading water when it comes to reflecting Britain’s diversity.

Murdoch said the summer’s Black Lives Matter movement had been a massive wake-up call, and that the arts could help people understand the fractious world around them.

Her foundation’s Diversity Action Group will be led by Sonita Alleyne, a media executive and the first Black woman to head a college at either Oxford or Cambridge university.

The skills fostered by emphasising the arts in education — creativity, innovation and problem-solving — are all the more important in a world increasingly dominated by technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence, she said.

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