LABOUR pressed for a gaping “class-shaped hole” in performing arts to be addressed by the government and the creative industries yesterday, warning “we’ll all be poorer” if progress is not made.
In a report published yesterday, the party found that the sector is “increasingly dominated by a narrow set of people from well-off backgrounds.”
MPs Tracy Babin and Gloria De Piero led the research and said widespread action is needed from the government and HMRC, as well as drama colleges, broadcasters, film companies and theatres to increase diversity.
Ms Brabin — a former Coronation Street actor and MP for Batley and Spen — said a “carousel of the same stories” will continue if more working-class, disabled and diverse talent is not supported.
The report looked into representation in film, TV, and theatre, including actors, writers, producers, directors and technicians, with hundreds of industry voices contributing evidence.
It followed research in 2015 by the London School of Economics and Goldsmiths University which found that only a quarter of actors are from a working-class background.
It calls for HMRC to enforce a sector-wide national living wage, and asks the Arts Council to end funding for projects which pay “poverty wages.”
Actor Tom Stocks, who took part in the research, told the Star: “It’s brilliant that Labour is tackling the issue. It is a very frustrating time for people in the industry.
“When we talk about diversity, class never really gets mentioned as usually there’s a focus on gender, sexuality — all the legal things.”
He has been campaigning on the issue for several years and set up the campaign Actor Awareness after being accepted into drama school but being unable to afford the fees and said: “We’re a voice for working-class people to fight that.”
National Youth Arts Trust director Ruth O’Brien said: “Fees are hugely prohibitive and stop young people from accessing these opportunities.”
As well as changes to fees, Labour recommends reforms in schools to tackle the “systematic marginalisation of arts subjects, particularly drama.”
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said the teachers’ union has long raised concerns about curriculums “depriving young people of the opportunity to take creative subjects in which many of them have the skills and talents to excel.
“The government continues to fail to act on the clear evidence that too many children and young people are being denied their fundamental entitlement to access a broad-based national curriculum.”