Labour report tackles class divide in the performing arts

More needs to be done to tackle arts sector inequality, says the opposition

A new Labour party report suggests that more needs to be done to tackle inequality and the class divide in the arts sector.

Published today (Thursday August 8), the Acting Up report states that the performing arts are “increasingly dominated by a narrow set of people from well-off backgrounds”. Stage, film and TV are all under scrutiny.

“In an industry where perception and wealth are so important,” the report continues, “recognising and understanding the role class plays is crucial. But at the moment there’s a big C-shaped hole.”

Tracy Brabin, a former actor and MP who led the inquiry says “the systematic eradication of arts education in schools, sky-high drama school audition fees, chronic low pay and a lack of diversity behind the scenes are all contributing to a diversity crisis on our stages and screens.”

Read the report in full here.

Two evidence sessions that contributed to the report were held in Parliament, with more than 100 further written submissions later compiled.

The report offers a number of suggestions to improve the class divide in the performing arts, including:

  • Remodelling the English baccalaureate in schools, which “has led to a systematic marginalisation of arts subjects, particularly drama”.
  • Drama schools to stop charging £100+ for auditions: “Drama schools are too expensive to apply to and instances of racism and snobbishness inside them are too common.”
  • The government must tackle the culture of low- and no-pay jobs in the performing arts, which blocks “all but the most well-off talent” from entering.
  • Broadcasters, film companies and theatres should seek to employ a more diverse range of classes.
  • Restructuring the collection of diversity data, as the current model is “too patchy and often has a big hole where class data should be”.

The new report comes after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently pledged his allegiance to maintaining and improving the arts in Britain, including a focus on protecting independent music venues.

Speaking to the Independent in June, Corbyn said that a Labour government would look into opportunities and schemes that would benefit independent music venues.

“What you have is a number of independent venues, sometimes pubs, cafes, so on, that have become almost informal live music venues, and the small cafe does well and ‘hey presto’ along comes Costa, Starbucks, Nero or something to take it over,” he said. “(It’s) the same with pubs, which are often very reluctant to have live music on. Those live venues are absolutely crucial to the future of the music scene. So the £1,000 pub-licensing rebate is a good thing – we want to extend that a lot further.”

“Most children live in places where there isn’t space to put a piano if they’ve got one… our schools have often diminished the number of orchestras… cut all that back, so I am very keen to change that.”

Corbyn also reiterated his belief in the importance of music, saying: “What I’m interested in is the sense of expression that music gives people, hence the points I’ve been making endlessly about musical instruments children for children. Any teacher will tell you that a child learning music at school is likely to do better at a lot of other things because there is a discipline in learning music, a sense of rhythm, a sense of timing involved…”