New survey reveals the death of social mobility in the arts and cultural sector

Panic!, a survey of working life in the cultural and creative industries by arts organisation Create in association with Goldsmiths, University of London, University of Sheffield, and LSE, reveals that the arts are now virtually a closed shop where most people are middle class. The survey comes at a crucial time for the arts sector, with further cuts to funding expected in the government’s spending review on November 25.

In total 2,539 people working in all core areas of the cultural industries contributed to the survey by way of an open call on the Guardian’s website in September and October 2015. Although the survey found significant discrepancies in the way people working in the arts view the sector, it showed overwhelmingly that the arts can be a precarious industry where support structures from families are essential to allowing those working in the industry to succeed.

The results will come as no surprise to those working in the arts, where, especially in expensive cities like London, it can feel increasingly difficult to make a living in the cultural sector.

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Create is hosting ‘Panic! What Happened to Social Mobility in the Arts?’, a ten-day season of music, film, art and debate in a number of venues across London and Leeds, starting on November 26. Topics addressed by the programme will include the impact of rising higher education fees on those entering the arts, reduced arts provision in schools, and unpaid internships. On this latter note, the survey found that 88% of respondents working in the cultural industries have worked for free at some point in their careers.

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The Panic! programme is being promoted by a series of posters, shown here, designed by Peter Saville. They feature well-known figures in the UK arts and cultural sector with the occupation of the principal earner in their families when they were growing up tagged across them. The posters aim to raise the question of whether these cultural players would have had any chance of success in the industry in 2015.

Panic! will not just debate the issues surrounding social mobility in the arts but actively contribute to helping young people from diverse backgrounds find employment in the sector. The Creativity Works: Panic! employability programme will see Create’s partners, The Barbican, Goldsmiths and The Guardian offer work placements to 20 young people from diverse backgrounds.

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Info and tickets for the Panic! programme can be found at createlondon.org/panic.

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