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Less than a fifth of workers in performing arts are working class – report

Posters for Panic! 2015 – the new report highlights the lack of working-class employees across the creative industries. Photo: Emil Charlaff Posters for Panic! 2015 – the new report highlights the lack of working-class employees across the creative industries. Photo: Emil Charlaff
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Less than a fifth of employees working in music, performing and visual arts are from a working-class background, a new report claims. The study reveals a “significant and longstanding lack of social mobility” in the creative industries.

Just 18.2% of employees working in music, performing and visual arts are from working class origins – compared with 35% of the workforce overall.

However, this is a slight improvement on other areas of the creative industries, including publishing and film, TV and radio, which have 12.6% and 12.4% representation respectively.

The report by arts charities Create London and Arts Emergency, titled Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries, claims to be the “first sociological study on social mobility in the cultural industries”.

It also reveals that within music, performing and visual arts, only 4.8% of workers are from BAME backgrounds – compared with just under 10% of the UK workforce overall.

The report also shows cultural workers to be socially exclusive, with respondents tending to mainly know other creatives, to the exclusion of many other occupations including bus drivers, labourers or factory workers.

Additionally, as well as coming from disproportionately economically privileged backgrounds, cultural workers were revealed to have the most liberal and left-wing politics of any occupational sector.

Create London and Arts Emergency have revealed a cultural programme aimed at addressing some of the issues explored in the report.

The Barbican, in partnership with Create London, will host In Focus, a platform for discussing social class within the creative and cultural sector on June 27. The afternoon will host panel discussions and group activities on topics such as meritocracy and leadership, the taste and attitudes of the workforce, and the reality of working class representation in the arts today.

Create London has also commissioned artist-activist Ellie Harrison to devise a project around the themes of the Panic! paper.

Josie Long, co-founder of Arts Emergency, said: “We began organising as Arts Emergency because we believed passionately that those with most potential are often the least able to pay for education, the least able to pull favours or access helpful networks, to work for free, or find short cuts into paid creative and cultural work.

“What’s been striking as we’ve watched this research unfold, is that through our challenging of the ‘old boy network’ in these industries in the various ways we do, we’ve been responding in a quite radical manner to the exact issues raised in this paper.”

Hadrian Garrard, director of Create London, said he hoped the study would “open up doors and possibilities to how we might make our industries more representative of and relevant to the population as a whole”.

Garrard added that Create London is also launching a new group called Interchange, made up of 18 to 25 year olds, which will help develop new ideas to address issues of representation within the creative industries.

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