Where are all the working class artists?

Over the past 6 months I've been writing a report for the AHRC on what it means to be working class and work within the creative industries.

I've been up and down the Country interviewing people from young people, artists, activists, mps, creatives and educators. Asking them about their connection with art, who they thought art was for and finding out if anyone could become an artist regardless of social class. My mission to build a picture of how people are currently feeling in the UK.

This all started a year ago when I was on the Clore Fellowship. What that meant was that I spent a year learning about cultural leadership. Over the year we were introduced to so many different leaders from politicians, directors, publishers, the head of MI5. It was mad.


What struck me over this year was how little of these people came from backgrounds like mine.  Out of around 60 people I would say only a handful were educated in a state school. This bothered me.


I wanted to write this report to capture the essence of what it means to be a working class artist working in an industry that is dominated and run by those that come from wealthier background.

It's been a mad exploration, I've been questioning myself, my identity and the society I live in -  a lot. 

I go through stages of big questioning - thinking does any of this even matter. But of course it matters.

It matters because people don't see themselves on stage, in politics, in leadership roles. 

It matters because people feel like they can't step into a place that doesn't feel like it belongs to them

It matters because people feel like to do well they have to be middle class, to be better

It matters because we're missing out on a whole section of society that feel unable to enter the arts

It matters because the people who have power are the ones who have money.

It matters because the politicians haven't got a clue beyond the Westminster bubble. They make choices like we all live in Kensington and Chelsea

It matters because until we see somebody who's been on free school meals, who's never been on holiday, never been anywhere, who wouldn't know how to walk around a gallery, until we seen them get into a leadership role then how can we believe that social responsibility and diversifying the arts is something that is meant. 

I'll be sharing some of my findings tomorrow at Experimentica from 3:30pm with the support of Abbie Miola and Ali Goolyad. 

We'd love to see you there!!



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Comment by Christina Handke on April 4, 2017 at 22:18

Sounds great. Hope it went well!

Comment by jo munton-vagabondi puppets on April 4, 2017 at 19:45
totally agree- but at every level classism creeps in to the organising structures of our own arts world. We are continually being asked to fit in to a middle class world of nice tight polite meetings and over requirement for high levels of a particular kind of literacy. and they don't even know the chasms of difference between the way that have been taught to see the world and what many others have experienced it. I don't see it as an us and them. Cos I don't think we, working class artists are hardly seen, even when in full view. Unless they are speaking in a language the privilege understand.
For example I managed to pull the biggest audience a particular welsh art gallery, dropped into the heart of chavs ville, had ever seen. But when I read their yearly review the excellent dance company that had unfortunately only got a audience of two get a full write up and we were not even mentioned. Cos as a chav artist I understand what a chac
Those concentrating on engagement over production values are considered low art at best and poor quality at worst. But whose quality? Chav is still used a diss but we have to realise we have a unique cultural perspective.
Comment by rachael boulton on March 30, 2017 at 20:16
I'm here! And I'll be there tomorrow! Just spent a day writing about this exact problem and was so good to see this pop up in my inbox

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