Lisa Holdsworth

Breaking the class ceiling

The lack of working-class writers, performers and musicians is the focus of a new Parliamentary inquiry, launched this week (Monday 26 November 2018), by the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Speaking at the inquiry launch WGGB Deputy Co-Chair Lisa Holdsworth (pictured above) highlighted the realities of being a freelance screenwriter, from not knowing how to do your taxes to the isolation and fear of working on your own.

Topics such as arts education, access to training and low and no pay are also on the agenda in the review, which has come about because social mobility and class are often forgotten in the current high-profile debate around diversity in the arts.

Breaking the Class Ceiling in the Arts: An inquiry into the decline of social mobility in the creative sector will gather oral and written evidence, investigate the barriers that are faced by those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, review current social diversity initiatives and scrutinise best practice from across the industry to identify practical action that can be taken by policy makers and others to effect change.

It aims to build on, bring to wider attention and help to propel the growing body of work undertaken on the issue so far, such as this year’s Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries. It will also review what has been achieved since Tracy Brabin MP and Gloria De Piero MP’s Acting Up report last year.

A dedicated session will focus on careers in writing, and barriers to success including access to networks, financial support, the problem of London-centricity, and the growing expectation that writers should do significant development work for free.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, pointing out the importance of access to the arts in schools, said: “Being creative is good for everything. To be a good scientist, you have to be creative. To be a good engineer, you have to be creative.”

And Tracy Brabin MP gave an overview of the challenges faced by those trying to sustain a career in the arts. She added the inquiry was determined to “reach out” and “dig deeper” by working across the political spectrum to tackle these difficulties.

The Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group brings together peers and MPs, and works closely with arts and entertainment unions WGGB, the Musicians’ Union and Equity.

What you can do

Individuals who would like to find out how they can get involved please email

Organisations wanting to submit evidence should contact Chloe Alexander:

The inquiry would particularly welcome written evidence on the following key questions:

  • What evidence is there to help understand problems of social mobility into the creative sector?
  • What challenges/barriers are faced by those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds from establishing a career as a musician, writer or performer, for example, learning an instrument, breaking into a career and/or sustaining a career in the industry?
  • Are there examples of best practice in the industry, and are there lessons for other organisations?
  • What are the most effective measures the Government and other bodies could take to ensure everyone can access and sustain careers in these professions, to build the talent pipeline?

Evidence sessions will take place from January to July 2019. A report will be launched in September 2019, alongside a campaign.

Read the inquiry outline.

Photo: Mark Thomas