Lisa Holdsworth

Breaking the Class Ceiling

The lack of working-class writers, performers and musicians is the focus of an on-going Parliamentary inquiry, launched on 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.

Next Evidence Session

The next evidence session is due to take place on Monday 13th May, 4.00-5.30pm, House of Commons.

The aim of this session is to focus on the challenges facing writers as they try to break into a career.

The first oral evidence session took place on Monday 11th March, where APPG members Tracy Brabin MP, Ed Vaizey MP and Lord Tim Clement-Jones CBE heard evidence from witnesses including Dr Sam Friedman, Associate Professor at LSE, and co-author of the recently published ‘The Class Ceiling: why it pays to be privileged’.

More evidence was given at a session in May 2019, where witnesses from the WGGB included: WGGB deputy co-chair Lisa Holdsworth, Anne Edyvean (BBC Writers Room), Mark Heholt, (Head of Policy, ScreenSkills), Prof Katy Shaw (Northumbria University) and Claire Malcolm, (New Writing North). Click here to read a report from this session.

A dedicated session later this year 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.

Tracy Brabin MP has stated that the inquiry is 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 lesley@writersguild.org.uk

Organisations wanting to submit evidence should contact Chloe Alexander: PerformersAllianceAPPG@outlook.com

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.

Regular updates are available via the the Performers Alliance APPG Facebook page, and you can read the full inquiry outline here

Photo: Mark Thomas