THE BLOG
27/02/2015 12:43 GMT | Updated 29/04/2015 06:59 BST

Inequality: Let's Get Creative

Inequality is everywhere at the moment. Scarcely a day goes by without a new take on an age-old story. Inevitably, much of this has focused around money - the super rich, multinationals, bonuses, the wage gap, housing, Swiss bank accounts, tax - all have been under the media spotlight in articles that generate anger and jealousy in equal measure.

Inequality is everywhere at the moment. Scarcely a day goes by without a new take on an age-old story. Inevitably, much of this has focused around money - the super rich, multinationals, bonuses, the wage gap, housing, Swiss bank accounts, tax - all have been under the media spotlight in articles that generate anger and jealousy in equal measure.

In this vein, the arts have also been tarred with the inequality brush in a creative world apparently dominated by the privately educated. From silver spooned thespians to posh boy bands, they and their ilk are increasingly dominating the arts in our unequal society. Yet whilst this is true of a certain group, they cannot be held responsible for the fact that our creative industries contribute 6% of GDP, employ two million people and contribute £16billion in exports. The arts in the UK are a vital part of this and such figures would make even this gilded elite seem superhuman.

It is of course easier to have a career in the arts if you have financial support and backup. Training is expensive and a long-term investment. Jobs are highly competitive and the opportunities you get define what you end up doing. There are glass ceilings everywhere and at all levels. Many have to play the long game: it takes time and many setbacks on the route to becoming established - time where financial backup and support undoubtedly helps. You need confidence and determination in bucket loads. Some will always have the advantage and that has always been the case. Yet despite this, people do break through from diverse backgrounds in all artistic disciplines.

There are powerful arguments for the arts as a key part of our economy but more importantly for their impact on wellbeing, social cohesion and personal fulfilment - areas that are fundamentally overlooked in a society focused on money.

Where the inequality begins is at a grass roots level and this is what needs to be addressed if our society is to move on and embrace the arts for their proven long-term benefits.

The grass roots are our nurseries and primary schools where millions of children come full of energy, ideas, imagination and innate curiosity. This has to be nurtured and developed and the creative arts are fantastic for this. At present, there is incredibly patchy provision and a lack of joined up thinking at this level but this is not the fault of the nurseries and schools. Where the school is situated plays its part, as do budgets, parental support, the availability of specialist teachers and the curriculum: a curriculum that increasingly marginalises the arts with its emphasis on academic achievement and its inbuilt disincentive to allow teachers to be creative with what they teach.

The change has to come from outside and be embraced by every nursery and primary school. Every arts practitioner and artistic organisation across the country should be engaged at this level in some way as part of a concerted national plan, to inspire creativity and empower children with the learning possibilities of the arts. There are thousands of examples: an hour with a top artist transforming the artwork of a class; a morning with a brilliant flute player experimenting with sound as a starting point from which children and teachers can develop their own music; a day with a leading choreographer creating dance for a school assembly; a class sitting amongst an opera cast on stage during a rehearsal.

Inspiring children by providing access to top arts practitioners should help develop new ways of teaching core subjects such as literacy and numeracy and make the learning environment creative. Quality is the key to equality and access to this has to start early and universally. The benefits are life long.

The government should use incentives to make this happen: finding intelligent ways of increasing engagement without wheeling out the mantra of cuts, yet without spending vast sums of money. There should be no differentiation between private and state schools and the plans should be long-term.

Our country is a world-class centre for the arts and has all the right ingredients to achieve this. Using creativity as a resource at a grass roots level would be a step forward and would go a long way to break down the traditional perception of the arts as elitist. Whilst such a plan might be less intoxicating than the heady dialectic of anger and jealousy that has dominated the inequality debate, it would be good news and something for us all to celebrate: posh or not.