Claire Malcolm briefs MPs on improving social mobility in the arts

News - Publishing Thursday, 16 May 2019

Parliamentary enquiry into lack of social mobility advised by New Writing North chief on routes to open up the arts sector

Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, the writing development agency for the North of England, pointed MPs towards the experience of NWN's awards scheme, now twenty years old. Research into the effectiveness of the programme showed that 69% of authors said it had helped professionalise their working methods and output. "We create these networks for writers to travel through and they are now very efficient," said Malcolm. "It was news to the MPs, this sort of long-term approach."

NWN's model of sustained investment in seeking diverse talent from the regions that would otherwise slip through the net intrigued MPs, but Malcolm cautioned: "change will take a while, and will take a great deal of effort."

She pointed out to MPs recently-released research from ALCS (Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society) showing that 94% of writers are white and the majority live in the South-East. The MPs were also surprised to hear that, on some measures, only 2% of Arts Council funding goes to writing and literature.

In her evidence Malcom also raised the idea of tax breaks to help publishers, similiar to those already extended to theatre and arts exhibitions organisers.

Malcolm (pictured) was speaking at Oral Evidence Session 3 of the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)’s inquiry called ‘Breaking the class ceiling: an inquiry into social mobility in the creative sector', which began last November and aims to report in July. Members of the APPG present were Tracy Brabin MP (chairing), Giles Watling MP and Earl of (Nick) Clancarty.

The purpose of the session was to understand key barriers to breaking into a career as a writer in the industry, and 'to discuss and scrutinise different policy options for addressing these barriers.'

Also giving evidence were Lisa Holdsworth, writer for TV shows including Call the Midwife, Ackley Bridge, Midsomer Murders, New Tricks, Waterloo Road; Prof Katy Shaw, Northumbria University; Anne Edyvean, BBC Writers Room; and Mark Heholt, head of policy, ScreenSkills.

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