Who gets to speak on class issues? We spoke about how there are few forums for working-class (WC) arts professionals to talk about their own experiences. We also talked about how rare it is for WCs to be able to really lead the conversation and not have the agenda set / or conversation dominated by middle class (MC) voices. We would like to see more forums for WCs to lead the conversation.

One contributor to the session was from Japan and shared that they felt that there there are art forms that are very clearly associated with and attended by the MC / upper classes only and completely different art forms which have been adopted by the WC. They are interested in how more people from WC backgrounds can access art forms currently inaccessible to them, particularly because of ticket price (they said that average tickets for some art forms are equivalent of £130+).

Thinking about 'arts for people with money and arts for people who don't' got us talking about representation and access. We spoke about the need to make attending arts events more accessible, but also that representation is important too. It shouldn't just be one section of society making the work that gets watched. It's important to think about who is excluded from being in the audience, but we also need to be mindful of who is excluded from being part of the creation process too.

One contributor spoke about Bubble Theatre and their work taking live performance directly to where people live through a pop-up venue being an effective method. They also highlighted that methods developed by Augusto Boal can provide an effective way for providing marginalised people with a voice.

One of the D&D facilitators popped over to direct the group to the work that David Loumgair is doing with Common Theatre. This was a helpful intervention as not everyone in the group was familiar with this project which supports the UK Creative Industries to achieve greater socio-economic diversity.

Many of the contributors in the session have relocated to London to further their careers in the arts from places where there are less opportunities. We spoke about the economic challenges of doing this. I shared that I was unable to consider doing this until I was earning a salary which would make it possible to be able to afford London rents, others shared that luck or support had played a big role in their ability to be here. We talked about inequality re who can access support to live in / move to London (e.g free / cheap housing or financial support via family connections) and how this in turn can influence the direction / take-off rate of people's careers. One contributor shared how it had felt easier when they started out in London as there were more squats to live in then. The group also understands, anecdotally, that it was once easier to sign-on to the dole between jobs.

One contributor shared that although they are now living in London, having relocated from North Wales, that they have to spend a lot of time working part-time jobs to be able to live here and to pay their rent. They moved here to further their career but the burden of long hours working often means that they can't attend arts events / networking meetings which would otherwise further their careers.

We spoke about the challenge of fundraising when you do not have people with money in your networks.

We spoke about it not being helpful for MC people to talk about how ashamed they feel about their wealth / privilege and to go no further than that. There was a sense that yes, people should recognise their own privilege but then they must do something with it. We acknowledged that all of us have privilege in some areas of our lives but may not in others.

We also talked about it feeling important that MC people (and indeed everyone) recognises that not everyone in a conversation / room has shared the same experiences and being careful to never assume that this is the case. For example, it is not helpful in arts circles when someone addresses the room with 'middle-class people, like us!' We spoke about the value in recognising difference. People may be fearful of othering but only by recognising difference in experiences can we recognise and address associated barriers / inequality.

One contributor asked the group about how they feel about quotas to ensure there is more equal representation / participation. The general feeling was that this method should be explored, though some flagged that sometimes positive discrimination risks that people's right to be there is then questioned / undermined.

Following on from quotas, we then talked about the need for there to be audits too to check in on how we are currently performing (re both workforce and audience). We talked about the Panic! It's an Arts Emergency report being an important study to give capture data re people from WC backgrounds working in the creative industries. We would like for there to be more data collected and reviewed re workforce and audiences. We talked about people still being uncomfortable in talking about class and in turn not collating this information re audiences. We wondered if this could be related to class not being a protected characteristic and, if it was, would that make any difference?

One contributor is involved in university admissions process. They flagged that students being selected based on their portfolios and responses to questions such as 'what was the last arts event you attended?' can be unfair to applicants from WC backgrounds.

We spoke about Drama Schools feeling too expensive and elitist for WCs. Many of the WC contributors did not go down this route, ruling it out as an option not available to them, and found other ways into the arts.

We spoke about the fear of accumulating debt (and the challenges of then clearing it). With needing to earn an income being a necessity for many WC people, we spoke about how important it is for Further / Higher Education to allow for part-time working / fixed days. I shared that having a full-time course compressed into three days a week allowed me to work up to four days a week and that this income was essential, particularly when I found myself without somewhere to live.

We spoke about it being unfair for people's commitment / interests / ambitions to be called into question if they are not able to work on arts projects 24-7. No one should be shamed for needing to work on things that are not arts related but this is sadly so often the case.

There was an interesting conversation re some parents not seeing arts as a proper job or viable career path and therefore dissuading their children from pursuing this. This experience was not universal within the group - I shared that I was not encouraged OR dissuaded against any career and that advice on work or further education was just not something I got from parents and that, working in the arts, I now earn more money and have more stability than those I grew up with (and therefore no one is telling me to give up on arts as a career!)

We talked about being limited by other's expectations - both by parents and teachers. One MC contributor shared that he is disappointed that WC friend's daughter, who is studying performing arts, has been encouraged by parents to become a performer on cruise ships and that he feels it's a waste that other options are not known about or encouraged. Another contributor shared how at the end of a youth arts programme, participants were then told about all the 'academic' non-arts routes available to them, signalling that careers in the arts are not the expected pathways for them. A lack of advice and professional networks can hinder / stop WCs from pursuing careers in the arts. We also talked about reverse snobbery and shunning of arts / education / perceived pursuits of the rich by some and how that can influence people's life choices if there is no voice to counter these attitudes.

We talked about first exposure to the arts being important - particularly theatre shows touring to schools, arts being key part of the curriculum and, out of school, having access to seeing live performance. Many contributors felt that if they didn't have this exposure then there is no way they would have pursued careers in the arts. We spoke about this feeling obvious but also needing to be stated, to protect these opportunities for others. In particular we spoke about the challenges that schools now face with arts subjects being cut but also across all subjects there being lack of access to books and hard to manage class sizes.

We also spoke about the role of schools in nurturing young people. It was commented that perhaps it is intentional that arts subjects are being cut - to discourage free thinking and dissidence. We talked about access to arts being valuable for all students and how they can support the the delivery / absorption of other subjects.

Another thing that people agreed would make a difference to teenagers / adults too is access to cheap / free education. One contributor said that they had benefited from adult education institutes in the past.

In terms of exposure to arts, we talked about the value of people being able to see work which changes what they think theatre is or can be. One MC contributor shared an experience of taking a WC friend's daughter to see Still No Idea by Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence and her having her mind blown and becoming really excited about theatre as an artform.

We talked about what could really make a difference - such as Universal Basic Income. One problem this would solve is the challenge re paying people on benefits. We talked about some WC people on benefits having to turn down one off payments / short-term work in the arts because it is not worth it in terms of the impact on their benefits payments - for example all payments being stopping until they are reassessed. We spoke about the waste of time and money spent on continually checking if people are eligible for benefits instead of adopting a system like Universal Basic Income.