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"Get Your House Into Order": Statement From The Working Class Artist Group

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

by Working Class Artist Group

"This is a moment for monumental change in our sector - one that could protect jobs and not cut them."

The art sector has seen a wave of redundancies and closures sweep across the country as a result of the government's slow response to the needs of our industry - we’ve also noticed that those highest paid in our field seem to be the most protected.

As customer service, technical and operational roles are made redundant whilst commissioning is at a standstill, we’re seeing the workforce suffer, with many executives taking home six figure salaries. We want to recognise that despite us, working class folk, making up about 18.2% of the workforce we will be the most affected by confirmed and incoming redundancies.

Some people have said redundancies are necessary for organisations to survive but we believe they are the result of a sector that favors capitalism over community. We encourage you all to recognise the pay imbalance behind this decision making - the institutions where executive teams are earning upward of £200K+ are the same institutions that regularly ask artists to work for free or for low pay - this must be addressed.

In the past few days The Royal Opera House have been heavily scrutinised for announcing potential redundancies whilst the Musical Director receives a reported £750k salary. This disparity between the workforce and executive teams isn’t just in the London institutions - looking at the charity accounts of one regional theatre in the East of England - it’s CEO receives £200K+ salary. We believe the leaders of these organisations should not have willfully allowed themselves to be put on such financial pedestals. We believe this is a moment for monumental change in our sector - one that could protect jobs and not cut them should the wealth our work workforce generates be more evenly distributed.

We are a collective of 32 members from across the UK - we stand in solidarity with our peers and colleagues affected by the decision making of those in power and will begin to set out our own roadmap to a better, fairer sector. In light of the recent cuts to jobs we will be creating activisms over the next three years, leading up to next NPO round in 2023 to uncover what we consider to be a continual abuse of power and misuse of public money, we will begin to lobby funders, institutions and unions to endorse a wage cap on publicly owned and/or subsidised buildings and organisations and push for tangible accountability.

Many Artistic Directors have been in post so long their salaries have crept up to astronomical levels - we will be explicitly asking the top fifteen funded organisations across the UK what their succession plan is, how it will be actioned and when. There is precedent in ACE funded organisations for executive teams to be given a time limit, and we would like to see this become mandatory going forward.

We will also question the need for hierarchical pay structures - companies like SlungLow have demonstrated this with success - a flat pay structure where every worker is paid the national average salary for the UK. We will encourage our sector to follow suit.

We, as a consortium of working class artists and makers continually feel unsupported by our unions - Trade Unions were born out of a movement to ensure working-class people were not exploited for their labour, some of the creative unions seem to have forgotten these roots. We will be pressuring the unions to recommit to this movement and lobby against abuses of power in our sector.

It is time for transparency and radical honesty - we want organisations to face up to what they’ve built and take responsibility for changing it instead of hiding astronomical salaries, expense accounts and profit driving subsidiaries.

This statement and this thinking should have been done by people on the largest salaries but in their failure to do so we have done it for them, we now expect them to take this up and build a new sector that does not forget its work force in favor for self-preservation.

We, the Working Class Artist Group will advocate, activate and seek accountability for our working class siblings - onstage and off. Get your house into order, we’re watching you.

You know where to find us.


Working Class Artists are an art collective based in the UK.


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