POLITICS

Lack Of Working Class Actors Shows Privilege Is More Important Than Talent, Warns Labour's Gloria De Piero

Labour is holding an investigation into access to the arts

22/03/2017 08:01 | Updated 22 March 2017
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Working-class actors and playwrights will today warn MPs of the difficulties they faced making it in the arts world compared to privileged stars such as Tom Hiddlestone and Damian Lewis.

Former EastEnders and Coronation Street actress Michelle Collins and political playwright James Graham will give evidence to Labour’s investigation into access to the performing arts in Parliament this afternoon.

The inquiry, instigated by Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson, will look into what the barriers are preventing working class people from entering the arts world.

Research by the Sutton Trust has shown that 42 per cent of all British BAFTA winners went to a private school, compared to just 25 per cent who went to a comprehensive school.

In a blog on The Huffington Post UK, Labour’s Gloria De Piero – one of the MPs leading on the inquiry – said: “The shortage of working class actors is an indicator of a bigger problem - that inequality, class and privilege, not talent, determine whether or not you can make it in a great career like acting.

“The creative industries are too important to Britain to just stand by and ignore this problem. So what can we do about it? It’s about more than just economics, although low or no pay in the acting world has a huge impact and needs to be tackled.”

The perceived dominance of privileged people in the arts world has flared up in recent years.

In 2014, EastEnder’s actor Danny Dyer hit out at suggestions he had a limited range, claiming that Oscar-nominated Benedict Cumberbatch was not judged by the same standards.

He said: ‘There’s definitely some snobbery. You’ve got actors like Cumberbatch, a great actor, but he’s a posh boy playing posh boys.

“He does it well and doesn’t get mocked for that. I play working-class people and I get mocked for it.” 

In 2015, Labour MP Chris Bryant waded into the class in the arts row after Eton-educated Eddie Redmayne won a Golden Globe award.

Bryant said: “I am delighted that Eddie Redmayne won but we can’t just have a culture dominated by Eddie Redmayne and James Blunt and their ilk.”

His comments prompted a furious response from Blunt, who described the Labour MP as a “classist gimp.”

“I happened to go to a boarding school. No one helped me at boarding school to get into the music business. I bought my first guitar with money I saved from holiday jobs (sandwich packing!). I was taught the only four chords I know by a friend. No one at school had ANY knowledge or contacts in the music business, and I was expected to become a soldier or a lawyer or perhaps a stockbroker. So alien was it, that people laughed at the idea of me going into the music business, and certainly no one was of any use.”

He added: “It is your populist, envy-based, vote-hunting ideas which make our country crap, far more than me and my shit songs, and my plummy accent.”

In her HuffPost UK blog, De Piero said: “Labour won’t rest until all great jobs are accessible to working class people from ordinary backgrounds and acting is no different.

“It’s this inquiry’s mission to take those barriers on and contribute to the drive to make sure creativity doesn’t hit a class ceiling.”

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