Who is missing from the picture? The problem of inequality in the creative economy and what we can do about it.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art


Many constructions of the creative economy are celebratory. The creative economy is lauded as a provider of economic growth and good, well paid, jobs. This is alongside the role of the creative economy in a whole range of policy and practice areas, including education, regeneration, and diplomacy. However, as the research giving rise to this proposal has demonstrated, the creative economy is also the site for significant exclusions and inequalities. These include the gender, class and racial character of both production and consumption in the creative economy.
Who is missing? follows on from several AHRC funded research projects to consolidate work on the creative economy that has focused on the question of inequality. Moreover, the consolidation of this research will aim to offer approaches to challenge and change the structures of the creative economy that act to exclude. This follow on funding proposal aims to strengthen existing partnerships between academic experts on inequality and campaigning organisations; to disseminate the existing findings of research developed as part of several AHRC funded projects; to co-create new knowledge with organisations working to transform the unequal character of the creative economy; and to exploit existing research activities that will develop organisational, policy making, and practitioner capacity to respond to creative economy inequality. The project consists of three distinct, but complementary, work packages that address the dissemination, co-creation and research exploitation objectives detailed in this outline.
The roots of the project are based in two longstanding and successful partnerships between academic researchers working on AHRC funded projects and organisations within the Creative Economy. The first partnership, between the PI and Co-I and Create London, an arts development organisation, resulted in the Panic! Whatever Happened to Social Mobility in the Arts? Project. The second partnership is between the PI and Co-I and Arts Emergency, a charity that supports young people aged 16-19 from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers and education in the arts and then into the creative economy. This has been a four year working relationship informing Arts Emergency's use of academic research for media and public campaigning, as well as shaping their use of data and research in their practice.
The project starts by thinking through the needs of the partners for data and research. Work Package 1 (WP1) is focused on co-creating a set of approaches to disseminate the existing research findings in ways that are understandable to public, policy and, most crucially, practice audiences.
The second work package (WP2) responds directly to the needs of these organisations for data and research. WP2 will work with Arts Emergency to understand those aspiring to be part of the creative economy, along with re-interrogating existing research data to understand how current inequalities within the creative economy have changed over time. This latter point was the focus of the Panic! Project and Create London, alongside the academic team, are keen to develop and disseminate these findings more widely, particularly to audiences at Arts Council England and Creative Scotland (who have offered letters of support) and the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Work package 3 (WP3) takes up the dissemination activity for the project, with a PDF publication from Arts Emergency called Who is missing from the Picture: The problem of inequality and what we can do about it. This will be launched at a series of events, delivered by Create London, and produced by the young people working with Arts Emergency (paid as part of the research project), thus taking the research base beyond the academy whilst developing the skills, and the profile, of those aspiring to be part of the creative economy.

Planned Impact

Impact is at the heart, and is the purpose, of Who is missing from the picture: The problem of inequality and what we can do about it. The project is framed through co-production as an evolution of knowledge exchange. The eventual impact will be to change the terms of debate around the creative economy, giving pause for thought to those celebratory discourses, whilst enabling more critically engaged voices. At the same time, there will be a practical impact on the lives of young people engaged in delivering the project. The pathway for these impacts, broad and narrow, public and personal is as follows. WP1 creates the impact between the academics and the organisations, strengthening the existing partnership. These conversations, alongside support from ACE and Creative Scotland (letters of support attached), will develop organisational research capacity and set out the plans for the subsequent events. Crucially, WP2 is designed around the co-production of new knowledge based on existing, AHRC project funded, data, in the form of a summary report. In keeping with both Create and Arts Emergency's experience of campaigning on traditional and social media, the form of the report will focus on short, easy to access and easy to replicate sections, subsections and visuals, with the outcome of a viral impact across public debates over inequality in the creative economy. Here the production of an easily accessible report (hosted on the partners, as well as the two academic's websites) will set the stage for the engagement plans in WP3. This will be a series of public events, taking place, for example, during the Edinburgh Festival and at The Barbican (letter of support attached from The Barbican), along with other locations chosen as part of developing the programme. The programme will also reflect the approach to co-creation, whereby the programme has not been totally designed in advance and the interactions between organisations, participants and academics will shape the outcome and impact. The requested budget reflects the expertise of the partners in delivering major public engagement campaigns, including press, photography, social media, video and web materials, and posters, alongside the usual costs of speaker fees and venue booking. The delivery of the events and report will engage Arts Emergency's participants, all of whom will be paid and will develop skills, experience, and networks that research has shown are essential to getting in and getting on in the creative economy. This will be an important individual impact, whilst the paid labour from the participants will deliver the more public facing elements with Create London. Here the participants will have access to training workshops, as well as more hands on roles in design, production and delivery. There will also be the opportunity to develop social media skills with both the academics and the organisations as training, events and the report come to fruition.

Finally, reflecting both the PI and Co-I's experience on Connected Communities projects, there will be an academic paper reflecting on the experience of co-producing a public and policy engagement programme, and an academic paper summarising, if any, research findings on inequality in the creative economy. A final, additional, but often overlooked, impact will be on the academics themselves, who will learn from the project partners in the course of co-production. In particular the research assistant will gain valuable experience of working in partnership with non-academic arts organisations, how to engage different, non-academic audiences, and how to think through the interrogation of research findings from the point of view of those outside the academy. All of these are essential and important career development opportunities for an early career researcher.


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O'Brien D (2021) Class and the problem of inequality in theatre in Studies in Theatre and Performance

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O'Brien D (2019) The cultural policy puzzle in IPPR Progressive Review

Description The cultural sector is often lauded as the future of the British economy. It seems to offer well paid jobs, open to all who have the talent and drive to succeed. However, a longstanding academic tradition, driven primarily by British Arts and Humanities scholars, has questioned this assumption and demonstrated the relationship between the creative economy and broader social inequalities. Our project built on the excellent work of these academics. Along with Arts Emergency, Barbican, and Create London, we co-curated the Panic! It's an Arts Emergency programme, which included a public engagement programme and a report on inequality and culture. The report brought together eight of our published or working papers on inequality in cultural production and consumption. It demonstrated the exclusions of working class origin people and people of colour across almost all cultural occupations, along with significant gender inequalities in film, TV and radio. The class-based exclusions are longstanding, having existed since at least the 1980s, meaning there was no 'golden age' for social mobility into cultural jobs. Cultural consumption is marked by significant inequalities, with those working in cultural occupations having radically different levels of cultural engagement from the rest of the population. In England, for example, not attending most art forms is the norm. Along with differences in consumption, cultural workers are characterised as the most liberal, most left-wing, and most pro-welfare of any occupational group. These differences between the sector and the general population are underpinned by the best-paid in the sector believing their success is driven by talent and hard work, rather than some of the structural barriers to success such as the widespread prevalence of unpaid work in cultural occupations.
The report gathered widespread media coverage, including on BBC 2, Radio 4 and in the Guardian. The project also spoke to arts organisations, policy makers, and to arts and humanities students, showing the importance and currency of these issues. Raising awareness, however, is not enough. It is clear from the report we produced that fundamental change is needed across the cultural sector.
One approach to change can be found as part of our work with Arts Emergency. We used spatial data on young people, schools, the creative sector and social mobility to identify areas of need for their mentoring programme, using research support to help them to make the case for their approach to diversifying both arts education and the creative sector. In addition, there are a host of welcome proposals from campaigners across various art forms, including reducing or cutting fees for drama school auditions; campaigns to highlight sexism in the film and music industries; changes to taxation to promote diverse hiring in the film industry; more targeted support for individuals, specifically women, returning to the labour market after they have started a family; and much stricter regulation of internships as access routes to cultural occupations.
This is list not at all exhaustive, and the last point shows the more complex problems that academic research has demonstrated. Public policy, including Arts Council England, has sought to regulate internships and prohibit unpaid ones. However, our research, along with many other academic papers and thinktank reports, showed unpaid work was endemic across creative jobs. As a result we need to change the thinking, as much as the economics, of a cultural sector which assumes working for free is the norm. Moreover, the need for a change of consciousness across the cultural sector is directly connected to broader social issues. Addressing the housing crisis in London matters, because of the dominance of London in the British cultural production system. Who gets into Oxford and Cambridge matters, as this provides a direct route to the sorts of networks that dominate the cultural sector. The dominance of private schooling as an influence on the 'top' of cultural professions, such as acting or journalism, highlights how the deep inequalities in the education system affects not only professions such as law and medicine, but also shapes who get to be on stage, page and screen. Finally we need to reframe how we discuss the public role of culture, starting from an honest assessment of the relationship between our unequal society and the role culture plays. It is clear from a wealth of academic research that culture can have many benefits for thing like wellbeing, social cohesion, and education. However, those benefits will never be realised if we continue to ignore the clear relationship between Britain's cultural system and the unequal society in which it is located.
Exploitation Route We have a range of impacts, from helping British Film Institute, Arts Council England, Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries, and Young Vic address class inequalities in their workforces, to policy secondments to Parliamentary select committees and APPGs. The findings have contributed to public debates, and have been cited by organisations as important for changing their practices to address social inequality in the cultural sector.
Sectors Creative Economy



Museums and Collections

URL http://createlondon.org/event/panic-paper/
Description The three areas of impact- organisational change, public engagement, and shaping the policy context- have intersecting but distinct details and evidence. Organisational change has two levels. There has been a material change in the practice of the British Film Institute, Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme (WJCB), the Young Vic theatre, Create London, and Arts Emergency. The former three reflect direct support and research assistance from the PI to operationalise his research findings. The latter two reflect a longer term co-productive relationship building on interest in this research project. During 2018 the PI worked with separately with British Film Institute, Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries scheme and the Young Vic theatre to shape their approach to changing the socio-economic origins of individuals taking part in their schemes and programmes. For the BFI and Young Vic Dr O'Brien designed a data collection scheme for capturing socio-economic origins, with a formal announcement of the new approach by the BFI during the London Film Festival. This has changed the way both organisations work, and has provided the basis for future targeted schemes. With WJCB, the PI advised them on rewriting their understanding and approach to social mobility as they reach their 10th anniversary, both in terms of capturing data and in terms of their approach to programming and engagement with marginalised groups. With Arts Emergency and Create London, the research was used to select Arts Emergency's next area for its mentorships programme, and to reshape how Create London makes artistic commissioning decisions as part of its House for Artists project. As part of this project the researchers published a public facing report on inequality in the creative sector, under the brand 'Panic! Its an arts emergency'. The Panic! report generated significant media interest, including a widely shared (37,000 shares) report in The Guardian, the art magazine Frieze, Arts Professional, The Stage, GQ, as well as being highlighted in two speeches, one from the Major of Manchester, the other from ACE's Executive Director for Public Policy and Communication, at the 2018 Creative and Cultural Skills conference. The report was also the basis of an April 2018 episode of BBC2's Front Row Late, which involved a section specifically discussing the report, as well as the report's findings providing the overall theme for the episode. The public event at Barbican in June 2018 attracted an audience of over 200 creative and cultural workers, with an evening event with Reni Eddo Lodge. The project was instrumental in 3 radio 4 documentaries, by Kit De Waal (Writers and social class exclusions), Danny Leigh (Film and class), and Sir Lenny Henry (Acting and inequality). There have also been several industry specific podcast episodes, interviewing the team about the research. The engagement of public and practitioner audiences has overlapped with work to shape the context for policy making. Specific analysis has been cited in the Mayor of London's cultural strategy as evidence of the need for the Mayor's office to have a policy response to labour market inequalities. The research was cited in and came to be instrumental in the Labour Party's policy inquiry on acting and the performing arts, Acting Up (2017). It was also made part of the House of Lords' Communications Committee Inquiry on Skills in the Theatre industry, as the PI was invited by the Committee to submit written evidence on patterns of inequality within acting, and more broadly in creative occupations. Drs O'Brien and Taylor have also given informal advice to Arts Council England on their approach to socio-economic class inequalities in the arts workforce. In addition, Dr O'Brien has been seconded to the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee to offer research support to their 'Changing Lives' Inquiry, and worked with two APPGs about the issues arising from this research. Dr Taylor has worked with UKIE on understanding the class and socio-economic makeup of the computer games industry.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural


Policy & public services