Tag Archives: creative industries

Why do the Working Class find it hard to break into the publishing industry?  

In a recent interview, author Kit De Waal made headlines when she asked the question “Where Have All the Working Class Writers gone?  “What I don’t see in bookstores are stories that speak about my life, my experiences and see something about someone who came from a working class background”[i]

Hadrian Garrard, director of the arts organisation Create, has also warned “that the UK is in danger of returning to a pre-1950’s era when the arts were considered to be largely the preserve of the rich”[ii]Movements that gave the working class a voice, such as the “Angry Young Men[iii]  in the 1950s, including writers such as Kingsley Amis, Colin Wilson and John Osborne, are hard to come to by today. While the “anger and disillusionment with conformity and the conservative values” from that period in time remain to this day, systematic problems have  led to a culture that does not give voice to the disillusioned and disadvantaged. A recent survey by the University of Goldsmiths and Create found that “three-quarters of creative industry workers came from a middle class background.” 

In the ’70s, Government benefits gave many working class writers the opportunity to kick-start their career. Author Alan Warner has said that his time on the dole “absolutely formed me as a person. It gave me a haphazard literary education and it made me appreciate the incredible value of free time.” [iv]  Similarly, writer Geoff Dyer described his time on the benefits system in the 1980s, as “idyllic”. Providing support for writers, musicians and other artists may have been an unintentional side effect of the benefits system, however there was not the feeling of ‘cheating the system’ that there is today. A culture of Scrounger stigma’, brought on by shows like Benefit Street, has put “poor people off applying for essential benefits”. [v]  There seems to be a resentment of the poor, and even more so for the unemployed. For a work driven culture with a need for instant results, long form writing is not seen as a resourceful field. Monetary cuts, and changing societal views has led to the total disbandment of the idea you can be on benefits and develop towards becoming a writer.

Like the working world, the current education system has also become increasingly results and measurement driven. It favours grade results in pursuit of higher league table placements, summed up by the OCR board as “Too many exams and not enough education” [vi]Creativity is said to become one of the most important “skills for workers by 2020” [vii] , with the “creative industries being the fastest growing sector within the UK” [viii] yet schools are basing their education system around  Ebacc, a government programme that measures school performances only on results of the traditional and more ‘academic’ subjects. This has been linked to a “28% drop in the number of children choosing creative subjects”.[ix]

We are not encouraging enough children to go into the creative world at a young age, “60% of jobs are hidden behind connections” [x] and the little work experience that people get at a school age heavily focuses on traditional 9-5 jobs. Freedom of career choice is being severely limited for those unaware of the opportunities around them. Perhaps there is the feeling that the middle class will cover the gap the working class cannot get into, but by losing that voice, publishers are losing potential stories, markets, and interest.

There are many problems facing writers from lower class backgrounds, a big one being the balance between pursuing creative endeavours, while having to maintain the necessity of a working life. For Kit De Waal, it was only when “she was 45 and had adopted her second child” that the opportunity to take “writing seriously”[xi] became available. Financial woes have restricted the amount of ‘free-time’ people have, with “12.7 % of Britain working 50 plus hours a week”[xii]  in order to survive in the current climate of housing crisis, and rising rent. For the middle and upper class, this is less of an issue. Having the financial support of parents, or a partner, provides a base of a stability to write that the working class cannot afford. The problem was big enough for Kit De Waal to take personal action, by setting up her own  scholarship for an MA Writing degree, as she was keen to back someone who would not ordinarily think about taking a creative writing coursebut, outside of sparse opportunities like this, there is a clear lack of options for working class people wanting to become published writers.

De Waal has also recently led the production of an anthology of working class writers. Too often, working class writers find that the hurdles they have to leap are higher and harder to cross than for writers from more affluent backgrounds. ‘Common People’ will see writers who have made that leap reach back to give a helping hand to those coming up behind.” [xiii] What this and the scholarship provide are an immediate direct solution, but the broader issues remain embedded societally.

It’s hard to get noticed as a writer, and even harder to get signed by a publisher, so it would seem that self-publishing could be a solution for the working class writers who don’t have the connections within the industry. Unfortunately, this again goes back to the issue of ‘free-time’. While it may seem easier, self-publishing requires the knowledge of editing, EBook formatting, print design, printing and all the other processes that publishers typically handle. In the case of self-publishing, these would either have to be self-taught, or out-sourced for a fee. Plus with “786,935 titles being issued to self-publishing in 2016” [xiv] alone, writers face an “uphill battle to gain the credibility for work” [xv] within an incredibly large market.

Working class writers need space to breath, to make mistakes, to take the kind of chances that the middle and upper classes can. As stated earlier, the arts continue to grow in importance for the British economy, writing is potentially a viable career, and, while from the economic point of view of those at the top it makes no immediate difference whether a writer is working class or not, choosing not to help the disenfranchised will have consequences in the long run. People want stories they can relate to, they will want working class stories, and while writers from the outside could do this, that genuine perspective will be lost. Kit De Waal is doing a great thing by providing a helping hand to working class writers, but it’s time for the government, and the rest of the publishing industry to follow suite. By choosing not to nurture the creativity of the young and the poor, we are setting up a narrow field within the arts.


[i]  “Where Are All the Working Class Writers? – BBC Radio 4.” n.d. BBC. . http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09fzmjt.

[ii] Ellis-Petersen, Hannah. 2015. “Middle Class People Dominate Arts, Survey Finds.” The Guardian. November 23, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/23/middle-class-people-dominate-arts-survey-finds.

[iii] “The 1950s: English Literature’s Angry Decade.” n.d. The British Library. Accessed March 2, 2018. https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/the-1950s-english-literatures-angry-decade.

[iv] Dyer, Geoff, A. L. Kennedy, Kerry Hudson, Alan Warner, Lemn Sissay, and Chris Killen. 2015. “Gissa Job! Writers on the Dole.” The Guardian. August 1, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/01/writers-recall-time-dole-unemployment-benefits.

[v] Ramesh, Randeep. 2012. “‘Scrounger’ Stigma Puts Poor People off Applying for Essential Benefits.” The Guardian. November 20, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/20/scrounger-stigma-poor-people-benefits.

[vi] “[No Title].” n.d. Accessed March 2, 2018. http://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/Images/140057-achieve-autumn-11.pdf.

[vii] “Website.” n.d. Accessed March 13, 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/.

[viii] Kampfner, John. 2017. “Creative Industries Are Key to UK Economy.” The Guardian. January 1, 2017. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/01/creative-industries-key-to-uk-economy.

[ix] “GCSE Results Announced Today See a Continuing Free Fall in Arts Subject Entries.” 2017. Cultural Learning Alliance. August 24, 2017. https://culturallearningalliance.org.uk/gcse-results-announced-today-see-a-continuing-free-fall-in-arts-subject-entries/.

[x] “How to Find Unadvertised Jobs.” 2012. The Guardian. November 23, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/careers/careers-blog/how-to-find-unadvertised-jobs.

[xi] Foster, Dawn. 2016. “Kit de Waal: ‘Working-Class Stories Need to Be Told’ | Dawn Foster.” The Guardian. February 3, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/03/kit-de-waal-working-class-stories-need-to-be-told.

[xii] Cary, Peter. 2017. “A Landmark Report Just Made It Clear How Bad British People Have It.” The Independent. November 15, 2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/british-workers-longer-hours-lower-pay-expensive-housing-oecd-developed-nations-uk-comparisons-a8055736.html.

[xiii] (“Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers by Kit de Waal (editor) on Unbound” n.d.)

[xiv] “Self-Published ISBNs Hit 786,935 in 2016.” n.d. PublishersWeekly.com. Accessed March 2, 2018. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/manufacturing/article/75139-self-published-isbns-hit-786-935-in-2016.html.

[xv] “The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing.” n.d. Accessed March 2, 2018. http://bookmarketingtools.com/blog/the-pros-and-cons-of-self-publishing/.

Screentest Festival: Freelance Panel

March 10th & 11th 2017 saw the UK’s national student film festival; Screentest host a weekend of film screenings, panels and workshops at the University of Greenwich Stockwell Street building. For students wanting to get into the film festival circuit Screentest is a valuable event.

During the weekend, Screentest hosted a Freelance panel which involved four young freelancers from various aspects of filmmaking discussing their personal experiences as freelancers in today’s film industry.

Taz Fairbanks (@tazfairbanks) Freelance Location Sound Recordist and Boom Operator
Zak Harney (@zakharney) Freelance Director and Assistant Director
Ciaran Obrien (@ciaranobrien) Freelance Director of Photography
Zoe Alker (@zoealker) Freelance Director and Writer

Top Tips for Being Freelance:
Although the following tips revolve around freelancing in the film and television industries, the advice can be applied to other professions in the creative industries.

  • As a freelancer you need to be a person who isn’t satisfied with a nine-to-five job. The hours will be long and you won’t get typical holidays or a specific amount of working hours a week. You will be flexible, able to work early mornings, late nights and weekends.
  • Don’t be afraid to try your luck when it comes to making contacts and working on a particular project. Make sure you call [a production company etc.] and talk to the person you want to work with. It is better than letting your email get stuck in an unread inbox.
  • It takes sacrifice and determination to be a freelancer but there is a potential to have a very rewarding career.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself as a service. Make sure to tell people what is great about you and specifically say what you can provide if you work for them.
  • Figure out your day rate and stick to it. When you are studying, it is a great time to get work experience and learn technical skills. However once you have graduated and possibly have begun to invest in your own kit, it is time to figure out how much you are worth so you don’t get exploited! If you are using your own kit for a shoot, make sure you are charging for the use of your kit on top of charging for your working hours you will be putting in. Remember that kit would cost a certain amount from a kit hire facility so look into their rates and bare this in mind when working out your day rate.
  • Face to face interaction is very important as busy working professionals don’t get time to look at their emails all of the time, so ensure you make an impression on people when you can. A way to do this could be by supporting fellow filmmakers at industry events or getting involved with local events and projects. If you go out of your way to support people, it won’t go unnoticed. Supporting projects, events and people is a great way of networking too. You are more likely to be remembered if you meet and talk to people rather than emailing or calling.
  • Value your own work. Enjoy what you do and take pride in your work.
  • Don’t let people expect you to work for free. Working for passion projects may be an exception but consider how much time you can allow to give up for free before making commitments.
  • Don’t underestimate yourself. Respect your own technical skills and talent. Use your instinct when making business decisions.