Class divide in the arts – are they just for the toffs?

Charley's War: Top-flight comic-book drama that wouldn't be seen today - too working-class.

Charley’s War: Top-flight comic-book drama that wouldn’t be seen today – too working-class.

How many of you were on James Blunt’s side in his very public spat with Chris Bryant MP?

And now that Julie Walters has weighed in, saying Mr Bryant was right? What do you think now?

The Labour MP had claimed British culture was dominated by stars like Blunt and Eddie Redmayne, who benefited from a privileged background. Blunt took offence and they had a highly-publicised row about it.

But top actress Julie Walters agrees. Quoted in The Guardian‘s Weekend magazine, she said: “People like me wouldn’t have been able to go to college today. I could because I got a full grant. I don’t know how you get into it now. Kids write to me all the time and I think: I don’t know what to tell you.”

She said the problem extends to writers as well: “Working-class kids aren’t represented. Working-class life is not referred to. It’s really sad. I think it means we’re going to get loads more middle-class drama. It will be middle-class people playing working-class people, like it used to be.”

With Downton Abbey, written by the extremely plummy Julian Fellowes – otherwise known as Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, winning a National Television Award for Best Drama last week, she has a point.

The prejudice also seems to extend to all areas of the arts – even comics, as veteran writer Pat Mills explained in his own blog.

“Many people in our industry regard Charley’s War – featuring a working class hero, produced by working class-oriented creators with a strong anti-establishment agenda – as the greatest British comic strip. Middle Class comic aficionados would be far happier if it was a strip more oriented to their tastes, and – sadly – I have come across plenty of evidence to bear this out.

“Thus today it would be hard for a new Charley’s War to be originated in any format. The middle classes now dominate all media.

“But it’s some comfort to me that it secretly chokes them that a working class, not very bright, and very British hero, comes out way ahead of the icons they prefer. It’s a victory for mainstream comics, and mainstream readers, which I know many of them secretly despise.”

When the working classes are even prohibited from comics, you know there’s a problem. What are you going to do about it?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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9 thoughts on “Class divide in the arts – are they just for the toffs?

  1. Les Wilkins

    I read your comment about clicking on your ads, but I’ve never seen any on your blog otherwise I would have clicked on them. The reason I don’t see them is because I use a tracker / advertising blocker, as many others do, so this might explain the low proportion of clicks you have been receiving. I’ve now white-listed (many blockers allow this) your blog, and can now see the ads, so will do some clicking in future! Maybe you could mention this to your readers.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The first ‘Word about our sponsors’ mentioned ad-blockers. It seems people respond more readily if there’s a message about the ads alongside them, which is interesting.

  2. Andrew

    The whole arts industry in the UK is ballsed up. When I was at uni doing my degree the the main lecturers would bend over backwards to get favour from the parents of the rich kids. Or those whos parents had high profile jobs.

    When this favouritism was bought up they became quiet paniced and kept on claming it was against uni principles.

    However at college the tutors would encourage all of us. There is alot of art based graduates out there that get stepped over by the rich kids.

    I could ramble on about things however I will save that rant

  3. creatorsnotconsumers

    I didn’t know or understand at the time that I was one of the last university intakes on a full grant, the first in my family to have a university education. I was a fish out of water and it was terrifying and yet the most incredible and life changing experience. I was 33 and a mature student. University was the can opener that opened the closed tin can of my life, It opened me up to my own potential and encouraged me in every way, even providing therapy to help get me through. It was a doorway to a liberation that I had no idea existed.

    Today I have no interest in any kind of level playing field, I want unleashed potential to have the opportunity to be unleashed and let rip. As I see it, it’s the Tories who want level playing fields (note the all important ‘s’), them and us, poverty and power, class division, legislated and written in stone. As a socialist I still rail against those divisions which, in my view, is all Cameron and his kind stand for. I want to tear it apart and open up the potential of life to find itself.Sanctioning lives is a hideous crime. We have the ability to support, uplift, sustain and encourage and the national wealth to do so, if it was directed that way. The big question is – why isn’t it? Trident more important than the National Health Service? I don’t think so.

  4. Guy Ropes

    Whilst reading your offerings on a mobile last night, did I notice an advert for private health insurance at 59 pence per day? Just asking.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Possibly. I don’t have any say on the ads that are served to readers.
      If so – as I mentioned to Paul Rutherford the other day – we can all enjoy the fact that they are financially supporting a site that speaks out against private health as part of the NHS.
      You’ll have seen the ‘Word about our sponsors’ notices I’ve been putting up recently, so you’ll know that clicking on the ads means advertisers pay me more money, with no cost to the reader (unless they actually want to buy something).
      It’s a win-win situation for the site and the reader, no doubt about it.

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