The performing arts industry in the UK is “increasingly dominated by a narrow set of people from well-off backgrounds” and is facing a diversity crisis, according to a new report.
A lack of support for subjects such as art and drama in schools, costly audition fees and projects that pay performers “poverty wages” of as little as £100 a week were identified as major causes of what is now a “class-shaped hole” in the industry, the Labour Party’s Acting Up report found.
It recommended that funding for schools to take students to the theatre should be increased and called on HMRC to enforce the living wage across the arts.
MPs Tracy Brabin and Gloria De Piero, who put together the report, said “we’ll all be poorer” if progress is not made and argued that performing arts were a “mirror to the nation”.
“As women from northern working class backgrounds who went on to work in TV, we know what it’s like to have people sneer at your accent, and struggle to pay your way,” they said.
Ms Brabin is a former Coronation Street actress while Ms De Piero worked as a journalist at ITV.
Rakie Ayola, who plays Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play, praised the recommendations of the report.
“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,” she said. “That time is now.”
A Government spokesman said it was committed to ensuring everyone had access to arts and culture.
He said there was no evidence for some the report’s criticism that the EBacc performance measure, tied to GCSEs in subjects such as English, maths and science, had led to a “systematic marginalisation of arts subjects”.
The report follows a release of BBC salaries, which exposed a pay gap affecting the top salaries of women and black, Asian and ethnic minority employees.
A report carried out by the Arts Council in 2016 found that ethnic minority, low income and disabled people continued to be underrepresented among groups participating in the arts.