Tracy Brabin MP

Labour’s Acting Up inquiry says it’s time to bring the curtain down on middle class dominance in the performing arts

Labour’s Acting Up inquiry led by Gloria De Piero MP and Tracy Brabin MP have today released its final report including policy recommendations to make the performing arts more accessible and diverse.

Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Culture Secretary commissioned the inquiry in response to increasing concern about poor diversity and access within the performing arts.

The inquiry found that although concern about access and diversity in the performing arts was widespread there was a ‘class shaped hole’ in the debate that needs to be addressed. Looking at protected characteristics is critical but so too is looking at socio-economic background, which strongly intersects with protected characteristics like race and disability.

A recent paper by academics from LSE and the University of Edinburgh found that just 16% of actors come from a working class background whereas 51% have a privileged background. This compares to 33% of the population who have a working class background and 29% from privileged backgrounds.

Key findings of the report:


Tracy Brabin MP said:

“Our performing arts are some of the best in the world and they should represent our whole nation, not just a privileged section of it.

“But the systematic eradication of arts education in schools, sky high drama school audition fees, chronic low pay and a lack of diversity behind the scenes are all contributing to a diversity crisis on our stages and screens.

“Cracking this crisis is political, we can’t just leave the industry to drive change. Things like poverty pay are the Government’s business and we need them to step into the void.”

Gloria De Piero MP, said:

“It’s not surprising that the focus has often been on who is on stage and screen, but we’ve got to look behind them to find the key to improving diversity in the industry. It’s not just about the Benedicts and Edwards on screen but the Hugos and Crispins behind the scenes too.

“Class ceilings are tough to smash but it is the responsibility of everyone in the industry to try. It’s time we brought the curtain down on white middle class dominance in the performing arts. These recommendations could help to do so.”

Rakie Ayola, Actor starring as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, said:

“It was a drama teacher at school in Wales that first spotted how much I loved the subject and encouraged me to go to drama club on a Saturday that cost me £1 a week. You’d never get that now.

“Too often schools discourage the arts, with the idea that if you stop kids doing music or drama they’ll all become bankers or doctors, it’s ridiculous. There are drama clubs on every corner where I live in Greenwich, but only if you can pay £25 a session.

“Maybe that’s why I so often look around a cast of 10 and realise I’m the only one that went to a state school. I’m not just a black woman, I’m a woman from a council estate in Cardiff. Class is important.

“This excellent report recognises that and raises the issues we need to talk about.

“If you ask everyone in the industry if they are for diversity they all put their hands up, but there comes a time when people need to say it out loud. That time is now.”