Danny Dyer brands lack of working class people in the arts "disgusting" and I couldn't agree more

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Former EastEnders actor, Danny Dyer, may not always come across as a political maestro but his observations of the “disgusting” lack of working-class people in the arts are right on the money.

Forcing my way through his exaggerated ‘cockney geezer’ persona, I yet again find myself agreeing with Danny Dyer. Yes, many of us find his difficult-to-believe ‘hard-man’ caricature, at times, almost impossible to bear, but he’s more switched on than he would have you believe and he speaks for the working class people with an understanding lacking in many of today’s politicians.

His latest call to action revolves around working class people in the arts - or more specifically, the lack thereof. A situation he has branded “disgusting”, and who could disagree? I have previously written about how classical music is the preserve of the rich, but it applies to the arts in general.

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Growing up on an east London council estate, 46-year-old Dyer said the “classism” is what spurred him on when he was starting out as an actor. The former EastEnders star also said he is hoping the new Labour Government will create change for young people from poorer backgrounds looking to enter the industry.

Speaking to the Radio Times, he said: “There aren’t many working-class people in the arts – it’s disgusting. The classism of the theatre world when I started out spurred me on.

“I wasn’t the most articulate, and I hadn’t studied (Anton) Chekhov, but I knew I had something. All great actors are weird. You’ve got to have a bit of trauma in your life – that’s your toolbox.

“It seems to have got worse since then – we need to get more working-class kids in the arts, but I haven’t heard any politicians talk about giving them anything to aim for. You don’t need to be that educated – it’s about being creative and expressing yourself. I’m hoping that’ll change with a new government.”

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Danny Dyer has branded the lack of working class people in the arts "disgusting". Picture: Getty ImagesDanny Dyer has branded the lack of working class people in the arts "disgusting". Picture: Getty Images
Danny Dyer has branded the lack of working class people in the arts "disgusting". Picture: Getty Images | Getty Images

Ahead of the election, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Thangam Debbonaire, set out Labour's plan for the sector. Speaking about the "intrinsic value" arts and culture has, she referenced the "enormous economic value to the UK" of creative industries, which are worth "£125bn to our economy". She said: "For Labour this means: enabling the creative industries to grow; ensuring that every child has access to high-quality creative education; getting people from every background the skills they need for good jobs in the creative industries."

However, one of the few Labour casualties on election night, Ms Debbonaire lost her Bristol Central seat to Green Party co-leader, Carla Denyer. Sir Keir Starmer went on to appoint Lisa Nandy as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who has said she will do everything in her power to “change lives for the better”. 

Upon joining the Cabinet, the 44-year-old said: “Its industries give meaning to millions of lives and bring communities in our towns, villages and cities together. As Culture Secretary, I will do everything I can to harness the limitless potential of the extraordinary people in these amazing sectors to drive economic growth, unlock opportunities for everyone and change lives for the better.”

The hard work begins today, she added. And it will be hard work to turn around a state education system which now ignores the arts almost entirely, leaving such opportunities just for those rich enough to be able to pay for the privilege.

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Time will tell if the promises Labour has made to ensure “every child has access to high quality creative education” come to fruition, but I’m with Danny, it is “disgusting” that the class you were born into determines your prospects in the arts - and the sector is currently much poorer for its exclusion of working class people.

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