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MPs and peers commit to major inquiry investigating ‘class ceiling’ in the arts

Tracy Brabin at the Equity ARC. Photo: Phil Adams Tracy Brabin. Photo: Phil Adams
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A parliamentary inquiry has been launched to explore the lack of working-class performers, writers and musicians in the entertainment industry.

Equity councillor Jackie Clune, who is working on the inquiry, described the issue as a ”leaky pipe that needs fixing,” to ensure the arts does not become the “sole preserve of the privileged few.”

Topics such as arts education, access to training, low and no pay and recruitment will be covered in the wide-ranging review, which has been launched in response to the idea that social inequalities and class are often forgotten in the debate around diversity.

Cross-party MPs and peers will engage in the inquiry, which is being led by the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group and which will also work closely with Equity, the Musicians’ Union and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

It follows increasingly stark warnings of the impact that under-representation of certain groups will have on the future of the arts, and is intended to expand the work of Labour’s Acting Up inquiry, held last year.

MPs sitting on the Performers’ Alliance APPG include Tracy Brabin, Ed Vaizey and Thangam Debbonaire, while peers include Genista McIntosh.

It is expected that a report will be published in September next year, coinciding with a campaign to encourage support from MPs through open letters and potential ten-minute rule bills based on the inquiry’s recommendations.

The inquiry, which was launched at an event in parliament on November 26, will question whether current initiatives for improving social diversity are having a positive effect and will seek to identify action that can be taken by policy makers and others to bring about change.

“Critical pressure points” will be covered by different sessions held as part of the inquiry, such as arts education, monitoring class and social mobility, and barriers to accessing training and sustaining careers, specifically in acting.

This could focus on specific difficulties such as low and no pay, poor enforcement of National Minimum Wage legislation, barriers faced by parents and the complexity of freelance work.

Speaking at the inquiry’s launch, Clune said working-class people are being “priced out and written out of the arts.”

“The class ceiling is not just a neat pun on a metaphor to establish gender inequality in the work place – it is real.

“Working-class access to creating and enjoying art is a leaky pipe that needs fixing if the cultural life of this country is not to become the sole preserve of the privileged few – an outcome that is looking ever more likely. It is my view that this impoverishes us – not only as individuals but also as a nation,” she said.

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