The arts are how we see ourselves reflected in culture, so...
🔹The unrepresented go unseen.
🔹The over-represented. assume their experience is 'universal;
If you ask culture industry workers how they got where they are today. They'll say it was talent and hard work.
The idea that the arts are a meritocracy is deeply-held. People want to believe they earned their position.
It shows a strong belief that talent, hard work and ambition are more important than wealth, gender, religion, class or ethnic grouping.
The people most likely to believe you're rewarded for hard work & ambition are white.
So the next time a senior white person says "I don't see colour/gender" show them the receipts.
In the arts the playing field is only level for people who have the social polish of the white middle classes.
Why? Because it makes the inexperienced, shy or unconnnected look less competent.
This graph shows what the social networks of cultural workers look like. It answers @KitdeWaal's question of why culture stifles working-class voices.
The people who *produce* culture don't know them.
The cultural sector believes in the idea of merit, but not in structural privilege.
On to part 2...
This quote speaks to me. I've often been accused of 'chippiness' because I objected to some Toby in red trousers failing upwards because his penis went to Harrow.
We get default white male middle-class culture because the people who decide what we read and watch are white, male and middle-class.
Read these graphs and weep.
Only 11% of people in publishing come from a working-class background.
People of working class origins get paid less.
London cultural orgs & businesses employ more BAME workers than those in the rest of the UK, but they're still substantially under-represented.
This research dismantles an important prevailing myth: that there was a golden age of social mobility in the arts.
Someone at the back is going to mention grammar schools and I will...
The blunt numbers tell a forceful (BUT INACCURATE) story. That opportunities for working class people have decreased in the last 40 years.
40 years of stasis is nothing to be proud of.
Look at these numbers though.
Unpaid internships are a recent development. People in leadership positions now probably didn't have to do one.
The only people who can afford to participate are the people who don't need to make a living.
(TL;DR because the industries operate as an 'elite' they exhibit elitist behaviours.)
But cliches also have the nasty habit of being true.
People working in the arts express the most left-wing worldview of any sector.
People in the arts say they're left-wing. And YET they...
🔹Work & socialise in homogenous groups
🔹Mistake structural privilege for individual merit
🔹Believe unpaid work is an inevitable 1st step on the professional ladder
Despite being full of people who are 'all for equality' the arts can never seem to solve its racist, sexist and classist problems.
Because it can't acknowledge them. Because working in the arts makes you ipso facto a good person.
To effect change you have to...
But what impact does this have on our culture? It's important because these are the people who *decide* what our culture looks like.
Let's look at national arts participation.
Culture may be the stuff of life for people in the know. Yet for many people it's a literal unicorn.
Have the smallest audiences.
You know that elite that works in the arts, gatekeeping who works in them and what they produce?
You know who consumes the vast quantity of that production.
It isn't just because I like a moan. It's because I love the arts, but I see them losing cultural relevance, because they hold up a mirror to an unreal world.
Narcissus was so in love with his own reflection that he forgot to eat, or drink, or move. So he died.
This report is a warning. I hope people in the right places hear that warning and act on it.
Thanks for reading.