Lords report warns theatre dominated by performers from affluent backgrounds

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The theatre industry is dominated by performers and directors from affluent backgrounds, peers have warned.

More still needs to be done to encourage ethnic minorities into the sector, a new report says, given those from private school and with financial help from their parents remain "disproportionately represented" in the industry.

The House of Lords Communications select committee was also critical of careers advice and cuts to funding for the arts after its inquiry into developing future talent for the theatre industry.

Committee chairman Lord Best said: "We heard our witnesses raise a number of concerns about the effects of changes in education policy, apprenticeships and training, and support for the publicly-funded theatre.

"We were told that, despite efforts by the theatres, those able to benefit from private education and financial support from parents are disproportionately represented in this industry.

"We hope that the Government - and all those concerned with the theatre - will give careful consideration to the issues raised with us and that this summary of evidence will contribute to maintaining and developing the flow of talent that has served the UK's theatre industry so well."

Last year, academics from the London School of Economics and Goldsmiths College found that only 27% of actors come from a working-class background and the profession is "heavily skewed towards the privileged".

Social mobility think tank the Sutton Trust also found 67% of British Oscar winners and 42% of Bafta winners went to a private school.

Peers found the theatre industry was committed to outreach work and boosting its diversity.

This had been undermined by a lack of resources, as well as a need to put funding into productions, the report said.

It added that most young people get their first taste of the arts at school, with major differences between the range of activities on offer at public and private schools.

This means the future pipeline of talent would become ever more dependent on the affluence of parents, it adds.

According to one survey in 2014, just one in 50 actors earns more than £20,000 per year.

Among the other issues raised in the committee's report was a growing focus on the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - in schools as well as poor careers advice about opportunities available in theatre.

Witnesses who gave evidence to the inquiry were especially concerned for the future funding of the theatre, particularly as a result of cuts by many local authorities, all of which was fuelling a "leaking pipeline of talent".