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Lords Committee reports on skills needed to maintain UK theatre

3 May 2017

The Communications Committee publishes its report Skills for theatre: Developing the pipeline of talent.


The Committee set out to investigate possible routes into the theatre industry for young people and the barriers they face, and to consider how the UK can nurture and develop the talent needed to maintain the success of this industry.

The Committee heard from a range of witnesses, but was unable to complete its inquiry in advance of the dissolution of Parliament and the General Election. In the absence of sufficient time to analyse the evidence and develop conclusions and recommendations, its report seeks to summarise the evidence received.

Despite the success of the industry, the Committee heard that there are concerns now that could lead to serious problems in the future if they are not addressed.

The report identifies five key issues which the evidence raised that merit further consideration:

  • Witnesses felt that the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) could be having a detrimental effect on the status of arts subjects in state schools.
  • Witnesses told that the Committee that better career advice was needed in schools to make children aware of opportunities in the theatre.
  • Witnesses maintained that there is little understanding of the full range of jobs in the theatre sector, with inadequate training routes in some technical areas like lighting, wardrobe and carpentry, and some administrative areas like theatre management, accountancy and fundraising.
  • Witnesses drew attention to the number of performers, directors and writers from more affluent backgrounds and the corresponding underrepresentation of those from BAME communities, despite impressive outreach work by the sector, particularly the publicly funded theatre.
  • Witnesses were especially concerned for the future funding for the theatre, particularly as a result of cuts by many local authorities.


Chairman of the Committee, Lord Best, said:

"The UK theatre is a hugely positive part of our social and cultural life, as well as contributing significantly to the nation's economy. It is rightly hailed as a great success story: it showcases the country's creative talent; it is often the starting point for careers in film and television; and it is an important element in the UK's soft power.

"However, although we were unable to complete our inquiry, 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."

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