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Inquiry into working-class actors to address ‘leaky pipeline’ in theatre

Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson. Photo: Twocoms/Shutterstock
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An inquiry into working-class representation in the arts is being launched by Labour in a bid to combat a “leaky pipeline” from which talent is being lost.

The inquiry’s first stage will focus on theatre, film, television and visual arts and comes amid increasing concern around the lack of people from working-class backgrounds in arts jobs.

Research published last year identified a “class ceiling” within the performing arts. Middle-class actors dominate the industry and working-class performers are paid less.

Launching the inquiry, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said it would respond to voices across the industry speaking out about the challenges faced by working-class people when trying to get into and sustain careers in the arts.

“Britain’s performing arts are one of the jewels in our creative crown, but at the moment jobs in this industry, whether on screen or backstage, are inaccessible for too many people from less well-off and diverse backgrounds.

“Labour’s commission aims to identify the stages at which working-class people hit barriers to entry in this industry and find policy solutions to plug the holes in the currently leaky pipeline,” he said.

Performers who have recently criticised the inequality include Julie Walters, Mark Strong, James Corden and Julie Hesmondhalgh.

The inquiry, called Acting Up – Breaking the Class Ceiling in the Performing Arts, will investigate working-class representation on screen and on stage as well as in backstage roles such as writers, technicians, producers, directors and designers.

Issues explored will include poor facilities and a lack of encouragement at schools, the difficulty and costs of getting into drama school, lack of roles for working-class actors and low pay.

The inquiry will be led by Labour MPs Gloria De Piero and Tracy Brabin, who will hold a number of evidence sessions prior to a report being published in the summer.

Written, video and oral evidence submissions will be accepted until the end of February.

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