BY GARY MCGHEE
Mind your heads oiks, the Class Ceiling has lowered.
Some ‘Arts Report’ produced by research Sociologists at Edinburgh University looking into the under-representation of groups in the Arts/Media was knocked out recently and titled ‘Where are the working class people?’ (We’re where we’ve been for a long time, Ophelia darling, at the back of the queue for the plum jobs and opportunities.) The report reads like this is a conclusion they stumbled upon, like drunks groping in the dark for the light switch, given that its focus was on the under-representation of ‘minority groups’, which is not the same thing at all, because the working classes are not in the minority in society, we are just massively and increasingly under-represented in the Arts/Media… apparently. Well, cor blimey, Tarquin, who’da thunk it?
There are a set of straightforward and blindingly obvious reasons for this. Well, for those of us with the lights switched on, that is. The focus and priorities of state Arts/Media funding organisations has almost entirely favoured Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) applicant groups, women, LGBTQI, and the disabled. Now, it might be assumed that this means that lots of disadvantaged people have benefited and received the old leg up the first rungs of the ladder to a career in the Arts/Media, but au contraire, maestro, it appears not. You see it has now been confirmed that this state largesse has benefited middle-class BAME, women, LGBTQI and disabled people, and not us actual oiks. Ya know, like the people who mainly buy the lottery (funding) tickets in the first place. It’s a total liberty, innit Fenella?
I was in the audience at a talk recently where the problem was illustrated perfectly. A top honcho of one of these Gatekeeper Arts organisations was asked about how much of a priority the promotion and support of working class talent was and this was answered thus. That it is more complicated to get statistics on it (meaning it doesn’t lend itself to their tick box exercises handed down as a condition of lottery funding), and that things like having ‘access to free school meals’ (I’m quoting) is difficult to quantify etc. Aah, bless, so that’s what springs to mind when they think about the working classes, that we’re all really poor and downtrodden, living in penury, with our hand-to-mouth existence, and can’t even afford to feed our barefooted urchins… Gawd ‘elp us.
Err, no, Sebastian, that’s not what’s what. What is what is that in your zeal to get those identity politics boxes ticked (and without one marked ‘oiks’) you are reinforcing and exacerbating middle-class privilege, and excluding working class talent. There is one very simple question to ask of those applicants with their authentic working class art and voices, and skills… do they have any money, time, connections, networks and access to resources? If the answer is NO, then they should be prioritised for funding, regardless of colour, gender, sexuality or disability. See, that isn’t too complicated, now is it, Jemima? No need to pour over some tedious ’statistics’ or have sociologists do research which inadvertently uncovers the bleedin’ obvious. This is all part of what has been happening across government and organisations since Blair, and that is the systematic exclusion and abandonment of working class people from the public discourse and resources, as exemplified perniciously with the educational disadvantage experienced in particular by white working class boys in our schools. In the Arts of course white working class boys are deemed to be ‘problematic’ and are likely to be seen as unreconstructed xenophobes/racist/ homophobic/Islamophobic etc by default, and thus too dangerous to be allowed expression. (The last great eruption of white working class expression was punk circa 1976/77… a very long time ago.) The Labour party has gone backwards on this, despite publishing a similar report (see link), and is now more middle class than it’s ever been, and pursuing policies that favour middle-class people, whilst bleating about the plight of the poor, who’s position will be made far worse by a Corbyn government bankrupting the country.
The Class Ceiling is a damn sight lower than the Glass one, despite the pathetic whining of middle-class feminist women about the so-called ‘gender pay gap’. They don’t give a toss about working class women, (apart from patronising them about doing jobs that require women to be attractive,) they only really care about shoring up their own already privileged position.
What all of this also demonstrates is that identity politics suits the middle-class Liberal/Left establishments. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t have imposed it. It offers no threat. On the contrary, they are able to maintain their position by promoting black people etc OF THEIR CLASS, (the exception being the lionisation of the most black stereotyped elements of Grime Rap for instance) whilst simultaneously pretending to represent and champion ‘progressive’ causes and cultures, and present themselves as anti-establishment. It’s a mistake to think of this as a delusion. Seeing themselves this way is deliberately designed to deflect from the reality that they ARE the establishment, the Gatekeepers, the elites. This is also the reason why rampant nepotism is one of the great unmentionables, the elephant in the meritocracy room.
Keeping the oiks in our place is vital in this project. They can’t have us muscling in on their lovely Arts/Media careers, they might be exposed as the well-connected mediocrities that so many are.
The shift in the political landscape that we are seeing with working class people sticking two fingers up at the establishment with Brexit etc, is going to be impacting the Arts/Media and many other areas of public organisation, with an increasing demand for working class representation and the smashing of the Class Ceiling.. The Gatekeepers better get up to speed, or ship out…
‘If there is hope, it lies with the Proles.’ (1984)
Guest Writer Gary McGhee is a semi-retired screenwriter, loving the outdoor life with his partner in the Norfolk countryside. Gary was ‘red-pilled’ before it became fashionable, and believes in liberty, freedom, modernism, and defying herd-mentalities.