Arts letting down minorities in workforce

Those working in the creative industries are still predominantly from the middle classes, excluding those from BAME and working class backgrounds.

The shock findings are in a new report, Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries, the first sociological study on social mobility in the cultural industries, released today by Create London and Arts Emergency

Based on a project launched in 2015 and led by academics from the universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield, the report finds that 2.7% of those working in galleries and museums, 4.8% of those who work in music and 4.2% of those who work in film are of BAME backgrounds, compared with just under 10% of the UK workforce overall. 12.6% of those who work in publishing are from working-class origins compared with 35% of the workforce overall.

The creative industries have also been slow to respond to changes in policy and practice designed to tackle inequality and exclusion, the report finds. Despite the establishment of the minimum wage and sector-led calls to restrict unpaid work, inequalities are reinforced by the continued and historical prevalence of unpaid work and low-paid labour within the industries, resulting in many entry-level jobs excluding all but the most privileged.

In the Panic! survey almost 90% of the 2,487 respondents reported working for free in some way, with just under half of respondents under 30 having done at least one unpaid internship. 

 “Social research has long sought to sound the alarm about who is making and consuming culture in the UK. As this report, which builds on extensive work by the scholarly community, shows the cultural sector is in need of radical action to tackle the inequalities in its workforce. In particular the issue of unpaid work, which we highlight, is closely linked to the more subtle barriers to entry in the form of tastes and values” said Dr David O’Brien of Edinburgh University and lead author of the report. “At the same time, our analysis suggests that arts and media workers need to better understand the role of privilege in the formation of cultural tastes and success in creative employment, so that their industries can become more in touch with the rest of the population”.

In partnership with Create London the Barbican is to hold an In Focusseminar to discuss social class within the creative and cultural sector on 27 June, using the Panic! report as a basis


 “By releasing this study, and cultural programme, including hosting a day of talks and activities, we hope to not discourage nor shed a bad light on our beloved industries, but to open up doors and possibilities to how we might make our industries more representative of and relevant to the population as a whole” saidHadrian Garrard, director of Create London.

“We are also creating Interchange, a new group comprised of 18-25 year olds, to help us develop new ideas that address these issues. We need to acknowledge the role that privilege plays and initiate ways to tackle it from the ground up, rather than attempt to tame the issue with schemes that do not work”.

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