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‘One in four performing arts careers halted by parenthood’ – survey

Laura Wells, author of a report into parenthood in the performing arts, with her son Jem
Laura Wells, author of a report into parenthood in the performing arts, with her son Jem
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Almost a quarter of people with children in the performing arts have seen their careers come to a halt or stop completely because of their parental responsibilities, according to a new study.

The claim is made in a major new report into the impact that being a parent can have on people working in the sector, which also found that around three quarters of survey respondents – 74% – had to turn down work because of having a child.

Called Becoming Invisible – Parenthood in Creative Industries, the report calls for better childcare solutions in the sector after 22% of those surveyed said they had seen their careers halt or stop because of the difficulties they faced being a parent.

In addition, 64% of the respondents stated they had been unable to attend an audition, meeting or rehearsal because they had been unable to find childcare.

A further 13% reported that they had only been able to make an engagement if their children went with them.

Nearly half of all those surveyed - 48% - said they had missed a performance or day at work because of a lack of childcare, while one in 10 only made it to work by taking their child with them.

The report states that the quest for “childcare solutions” left parents feeling “stressed, distracted and frustrated before important engagements”.

RADA graduate Laura Wells conducted the survey after having a child herself.

“Unfortunately, at present, too many parents in creative industries are being forced to choose between making childcare work and making their career work. This filters through to those who’d like to have a family but feel their hard-won, yet perennially tenuous, professional position will not accommodate parenthood. There is a sense of being on permanent probation,” she said.

She explained that the survey had been conducted to give weight to an initiative she has devised called Eleventh Hour. This would be a hub for artists, with free childcare facilities.

“The hub is where they could do castings, for example, with a creche that is free and funded by other organisations within the same building. The survey suggested it as an idea and 74% were supportive of it,” she explained, adding that most people wanted it in London.

In total, 545 were surveyed, of which 67% were aged between 25 and 40. The average age women give birth in England is currently 30.

Most of those who responded were female (83%). Wells said most respondents were actors, followed by producers and directors.

The report suggests that the wages of people employed in the sector do not currently support them in being able to afford childcare.

It adds that parents having to leave jobs on time to get to nurseries “caused additional pressures” for them.

In addition, the report found that many women felt as if they were being “pressured to work as soon as possible to maintain their career and please their employer/agent”, but were “faced with constant questions as to how they were going to manage their childcare”.

Some women felt their professional reputation would suffer as a result of childcare responsibilities. While women felt they were being judged, men felt "their parenting roles were either lauded or attracted nothing more than ambivalence".

The report adds that “damage done by turning down jobs can be permanent”.

It suggests a number of solutions, including creches being made available at workplaces and theatre companies encouraging more work that employs pregnant women.

Wells’ findings will be unveiled this week at the inaugural meeting of Parents in Performing Arts, a new initiative to support people with children in the sector.

By numbers: parenting in the arts

  • 74% of respondents said they have turned down work
  • 64% were unable to attend auditions or meetings due to lack of childcare
  • 48% ofrespondents missed a performance or day of work due to lack of childcare
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