Part 2: Why the Liberals Democrats should be the natural political home for Arts and Culture in the UK

Part Two – How We Can Support The Arts And Culture Industry In The UK [Part one is here]

The Arts and Culture industry is currently wrestling with a plethora of issues that we already hold high on our agenda.

Mental health still carries a stigma within the Arts, with performers and backstage workers, for example, knowing that were they to share their struggles with anxiety or depression, the chances of them being employed would be substantially reduced. Productions are run on a tight budget and timescale, and the risk of employing someone who may be in the eyes of a producer ‘potentially unreliable’ is much too high to take.

Sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace remain commonplace in many renowned creative buildings, where the rules of other industries seem not to apply, and young employees are treated as commodities, with management buoyed by the knowledge that the pool of people wanting to work in the industry far outweighs the number of jobs available.

Despite recent improvements, there remain great challenges with diversity, with the Arts still being dominated by white, middle class men, leaving women, who are further penalised should they have children, working class talent, those with disabilities, and minorities largely underrepresented.

There has been much publicity of male talent being paid more than female talent, yet no substantial action has been taken, and fair wages and employment rights for those who take the less glamorous work within the industry, are just starting out on their career path, or work as freelancers, need to be fought for.

Arts charities – including my own, The Theatrical Guild, have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people asking for support as the reality of austerity has taken hold. People living in poverty, struggling with rising living costs, increasing debt, zero hours contracts, cuts to the welfare state, and long NHS waiting lists for counselling services, etc.

The impact of Brexit on the Arts remains to be seen, but the reduction in freedom of movement and access to finance will inevitably have damaging effects. Small business and new start-ups will need our support to survive.

Arts companies are extremely innovative, they need to be to endure ever decreasing budgets, and there is great opportunity to work with them to develop new environmentally friendly ways of operating that could act as an example for other industries.

Jobs in the Arts and Culture sector are also future-proof with only 13% being at risk of being automated (compared to 32% in non-creative industries), suggesting that the sector will continue to grow.

Creatives are receptive to political engagement, most are active on social media, rightly keen to promote themselves in a competitive world, and the positive return for even a small level of input would be huge. A recent #YesorNo campaign calling for casting directors to let actors know if they have got a part following an audition gathered mass engagement in a short space of time. Imagine the positive response if we launched a campaign to tackle the stigma of mental health in theatre or campaigned for improved access to drama schools for those from lower income and under-represented backgrounds. There would be industry wide support for such policies and we would steal an immediate lead on the other parties.

I would like to see, at the very least, a Liberal Democrat working group for the Arts and Culture industry set up, I would be more than happy to organise it myself if permitted, so that we can begin to engage with what should be our natural audience.

* Adam has been a member of the Liberal Democrats for just over a year and is an active campaigner with his local party in Bromley, Kent. Having previously worked as a TV, film and theatre actor and director for over fourteen years, he now runs the Theatrical Guild, a small theatre charity based in Covent Garden, and is writing a book on mental health in the Arts.

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4 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Aug '18 - 2:04pm

    Adam

    See my comments on part one

    http://www.theliberalartscause.com

    This is an excellent level of comment, the working group an idea more than one of us has suggested, the party, as other ones, slow and sluggish.

    I have ideas as have others, you kind find articles of mine on here and online elsewhere but visit my website I have started and detail here and get in touch on facebook.

  • Martin Land 30th Aug '18 - 2:43pm

    Because we are not seen as being sufficiently elitist already?

  • David Walsh 30th Aug '18 - 6:47pm

    Adam,

    As a semi-retired events professional, who stepped back due to the access difficulties and attitudes of peers I’m really pleased to see that someone, anyone, is trying to improve the situation. Thank you for highlighting this.

    The perception of ‘reliability’ is something that needs to change but always ends up as a catch-22. Few who have disabilities are employed so hardly anyone in the industry has real world experiences of working alongside and as a result won’t take the chance. On the other side, for the disabled person, they quickly get large gaps on their CV, their skills depreciate and ultimately they become unemployable. All of which restricts the opportunities to change hearts and minds.

    Yes I have a vested interest but improving employment opportunities is always the right things to do. It’s certainly something that I’d be happy to help support if working groups etc were created.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Aug '18 - 9:52pm

    Martin Land

    There’s nothing elitist and middle class about arts and culture. It s a matter of taste, everybody has preferences so for what reason should you think that?!

    David Wlsh

    Please read my remarks on part one. I am particularly interested in your response. I have experience of arts relating to disability.

    Get in touch,

    http://www.theliberalartscause.com

    or Lorenzo Cherin on facebook

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