Culture Club: Social mobility in the creative and cultural industries


This report has outlined the barriers to accessing creative and cultural production for some young people. Many of these barriers have their roots in structural socio-economic inequalities that are difficult to address (and in the case of social and economic capital, would likely apply to other sectors too). However, Chapter 6 has shown emerging measures taken by employers and educational/cultural institutions to address this, focusing on areas where they can have an impact. The following recommendations follow this trajectory.

Some cultural businesses and institutions are leading change in recruitment practices, but these measures need to be scaled up for both small and large organisations for them to become more representative.

Recommendation 1

The creative and cultural industries should amend recruitment practices to focus on creative talent, potential, and measurable skills such as team playing, rather than focusing on academic achievement. This applies to both employers and universities/colleges. Employers should also avoid giving preference to overqualified candidates.

Recommendation 2

Unpaid internships create a gap between those that can afford to do them and those that can’t. All internships in the creative and cultural industries should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage, and subject to The Mayor’s “Good Work Standard”; larger cultural employers should offer at least the London Living Wage for internships and entry-level roles.

Recommendation 3

Employers, especially larger employers, should take part in the Social Mobility Foundation Index and encourage their employees to take a voluntary employee survey. The Top 50 employers receive recognition: however, all participating employers receive a report with recommendations of areas for improvement, which could be valuable in a sector where social class plays an important role.

Recommendation 4

Educational institutions and employers should work together to develop and implement a formal mentoring programme, with specific targets for take-up from young people belonging to underrepresented groups. Though some initatives currently exist in different pockets of the city, these need to be met London-wide. Additionally, employers should engage more systematically with educational institutions, charities and networks that seek to improve representation.

Recommendation 5

In light of the recent government funding announcement for apprenticeships, the creative and cultural industries should work with the Institute for Apprenticeships and National Apprenticeship Service to address gaps in provision and standards, as well as increasing the the diversity and number of adult learners in the sector.

Recommendation 6

The Mayor has committed to supporting culture and creativity outside of the school curriculum in order to grow new talent and provide a window of opportunity for young people to explore options in the creative sector. The Mayor should outline success stories and champion the creative and cultural industries as a place of opportunity, as many parents are sceptical about their children’s chances of success in this sector. The London Curriculum should have an explicit aim of increasing cultural participation, with regular surveys to monitor this.

Recommendation 7

The Mayor should use his convening role to encourage creative businesses in London to take a long-term view of the creative workforce pipeline needed to keep London’s creative economy thriving. Better representation is fairer, but also allows for a more diverse cultural offer, broadening the nature of cultural knowledge (and therefore cultural capital) in line with London’s global city status.

These measures are important to ensure that young people from all backgrounds can benefit from the opportunities in London’s creative and cultural industries. As a focus group participant put it: “There need to be opportunities for young people to get in, get good experience, [get] paid work.”

On the other side of the Atlantic, Beyoncé Knowles recently wrote that “if people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighbourhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose.” 48 If London’s creative and cultural industries are to keep thriving, those in power in the sector should heed this advice.

  • 48 Hope, C. (2018, August 6). Beyoncé in Her Own Words: Her Life, Her Body, Her Heritage. Vogue. Retrieved from: https://