The findings of the Panic! survey published by Create this week painted a bleak picture as they confirmed what has already been suspected – that the arts are dominated by the middle class, as people from working class backgrounds aren’t given the same opportunities to work in cultural industries.
The survey revealed some shocking statistics: on average men working in cultural industries earn 32% more than women working in the sector and nearly 90% of respondents have worked for free at some point in their career. This suggests that it is essential to have parents who are able to lend financial support, just to get a foot in the door of the arts industry.
So how can the arts sector broaden the diversity of its workforce? Schools could play a pivotal role in encouraging and educating children in culture. Many parents don’t have the time or inclination to do so themselves and arts organisations and classes outside of school are expensive.
Indeed, all children should have the right to an education in the arts. Not only can it bring happiness, but music, drama and art classes are also linked to emotional and social development, as well as academic achievement. Apart from this, if state educated children are never offered an education in the arts, they may never be able to consider employment in cultural industries. Surely diversity is essential for the arts to progress?
There are organisations which do a fantastic job promoting diversity and exposing less privileged people to culture. JazzUK, focuses on learning and participation, and aims to reach out to young people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, particularly those who are disadvantaged. Opera North sets a great example; it believes in giving all young people access to opera and always ensures children from poorer areas have priority. James Rhodes’ Instrument for every child initiative has put over 7000 instruments into the hands of Britain’s children. If schools can’t afford to offer such opportunities, such initiatives are vital.
At a later stage in our education, universities play an important role in encouraging young people to explore the arts industry; internships in the cultural sector can be organised and funded by universities during summer holidays. All too often students are unaware of opportunities in the arts, as universities focus almost purely on promoting careers in non-arts sectors, such as law and accounting.
A career in the arts should not just be for those who can afford it. Talent is everywhere so the opportunities to use it, should be everywhere too. Not only does everyone deserve to benefit from and experience the joy of working in the cultural sector, diversity in the workforce is essential to the future of originality in the arts.