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High salaries are rarely the motivation for studying arts degrees (your views, June 21)

Creative arts graduates in Britain earn the least after university, claims a new report. Photo: Shutterstock Creative arts graduates in Britain earn the least after university, claims a new report. Photo: Shutterstock
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The report quoted in The Stage article ‘Arts degrees offer worst earning potential, Institute for Fiscal Studies claims’ mentions some potentially alarming figures for performing arts students. It states that creative arts students will earn about 15% less than the average university leaver.

The report summarises: “The evidence on returns (earnings) provided in this report provides new information for students to consider when making this decision (of what subject and where to study).”

In hard accountancy terms, I have no doubt this is correct. I have also no doubt that few – if any – students embarking on performing arts degrees and subsequent arts careers do so because they are motivated to be the highest earners among their peers.

The potential to earn a high salary is rarely the motivating force behind the choice to study performing arts. Most graduates will have a portfolio career of varied work, embedded in and contributing to their communities in many meaningful ways.

Longitudinal earnings are a very narrow measure and only one of the outcomes students should consider when thinking about a subject and career choice.

Performing arts students will have the opportunity to make work that produces tangible positive benefits for their audience and for their own personal satisfaction.

These so-called ‘soft skills’ are part of what binds us together in our communities and their value to both the practitioner and audience member cannot solely be measured in terms of pounds and pence. From our experience, the personal satisfaction and the ability to work at what you love are far more important to our graduates than their annual income, and they are continuing to make innovative and vital contributions to our society.

Jeffrey Sharkey
Principal, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Theatre, like the arts in general, is renowned for offering fairly low-income careers. Even in areas such as marketing, wages don’t match equivalent jobs in other areas. But that does not indicate that an arts degree is worth any less.

Matthew Jackson
Via Facebook

Arts degrees offer lower earning potential because graduates tend to go into arts careers, teaching or caring professions which pay less than other jobs.

This doesn’t mean they’re not capable of getting a different job, but most arts graduates want to use their degrees. Unfortunately, if you want to work in the arts it’s badly paid. It doesn’t mean arts degrees are not wanted.

Sarah Garred
Via Facebook

Earlier West End start times

Shows should continue to start at 7.30pm (‘Actors oppose ‘crippling’ early West End starts’, News, June 14). When I’m working in theatre, a 7.30pm curtain-up means the call time is usually 5.30pm, so there is time to do other things in the day.

Sophia Curran
Via Facebook

Earlier start times will cripple audiences too. If you’re lucky enough to work 9 to 5, you still want some time to change and grab a drink before seeing a show.

Amy Ward
Via Facebook

Unlike nurses, social workers, doctors and teachers, all of whom often work long and unsociable hours, there is no shortage of trained personnel in the acting profession.

Evening work is an inevitable consequence of being one of the very privileged few who are fortunate enough to work in the theatre. A 7pm start for a children’s show is surely not an unreasonable price to pay for being in one of London’s most popular shows.

Simon Clarke
Goodleigh, Devon

I do feel sorry for performers but there are plenty of occupations that make it difficult to see your kids.

When I worked in accident and emergency, if I worked a late shift then an early one, I didn’t see my children at all, let alone pick them up or bath them. But I can’t complain as I chose my profession. My husband is a fireman who also works set shifts, so we’ve had no choice but to pay for childcare

Kate Simkin
Via Facebook

Volunteer power

As a senior citizen involved in community acting for the past four years, I support Mark Shenton’s views on professional versus amateur theatre (May 24).

In this age of austerity, I understand why volunteers play such vital roles in theatres around the UK, but as an Anglican, I concur with the statement in the book of Timothy that “the labourer is worthy of his wages”.

I have just spent a month in the community chorus of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch. My rewards have been the abandoning of my walking stick as the dance routines have eased the pain in my arthritic knees, favourable reviews of the chorus, standing ovations at most performances and my teenaged grandsons declaring the show the best they have ever seen me in.

I would not expect to be paid for my thespian efforts but perhaps travel expenses might be appropriate for younger members of the 20-strong community team – my journeys to and from the theatre were covered by my tax-funded pensioners’ bus pass.

The reported difference between £20 tickets and the actors’ pay of £7.14 per show is shocking, but the situation is unlikely to improve soon. Meanwhile, volunteers are still needed to ensure live drama continues as part of British culture.

David Savage
South Ockendon

Quotes of the week

Josie Rourke. Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Josie Rourke. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

“Quite a senior male director, who will remain nameless, went around calling it Julius Beaver.”
Josie Rourke, on Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female version of Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse in 2012. (Guardian)

“In London theatre we are at a vital moment where there is an acknowledgement that new stories are happening and we are going to have to change.”
Joe Murphy, creator of The Jungle (Evening Standard)

“I have an insane two-and-a-half hour routine. I get to the theatre at five, eat something, go to sleep at six for half an hour, shower and do make-up and then go down on stage to warm up. In London, two previews in, I said to Lyndsey [Turner], ‘I’m so lonely, can someone come and warm up with me?’ So the whole crew would come and play [the board game] Articulate!, which was so great. I’m hoping that in New York there will be some willing participants.”
Carey Mulligan on her warm-up routine for Girls and Boys (New York Times)

“The theatre world needs to radically change who they invite to press nights.”
Director, writer and founder of the Diversity School Initiative Steven Kavuma (Twitter)

“Some things phones bring us do nourish us – you can read a book, it’s not all pouting on Instagram. I really don’t want to be someone who just says, ‘Get off your phone’, because of course there’s community in Snapchat or whatever – [young people] are getting something from it that we used to get drinking beer down by some lake.”
Actor Andrew Scott (Guardian)

“Diversity is, of itself, neither good nor bad. The real issue is about how we engage with diversity. But that means engaging with all the issues for which ‘diversity’ has become a proxy: equality, identity, class, immigration, racism, ideas of belonging and home. In this context, neither unthinkingly celebrating diversity, nor reflexively rejecting it, makes much sense.”
Writer Kenan Malik (Observer)

“Caryl Churchill is like my fantasy grandma! I’m desperately trying to meet her.”
Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Times)


Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk Please mark your email as ‘for publication’. The Stage reserves the right to edit letters for publication.

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