Lisa Holdsworth

Breaking the Class Ceiling

The lack of working-class writers, performers and musicians was the focus of a Parliamentary inquiry, launched on Monday 26 November 2018, by the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group.

Speaking at the inquiry launch WGGB 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 were 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 gathered oral and written evidence, investigated the barriers that are faced by those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, reviewed current social diversity initiatives and scrutinised best practice from across the industry to identify practical action that could be taken by policy makers and others to effect change.

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

The first oral evidence session took place on Monday 11 March 2019, 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 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 in 2019 focussed 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.

Photo: Mark Thomas