12.4%: The number of people who come from a working-class background working in Film, TV or Radio. In These Streets, the new film from Underscore Studios, the issue of classism within the arts is brought to the forefront. We caught up with writer, Jordan John, to find out more about the project, the issues facing working class writers, and how we can help to promote equality in the arts.
Tell us about These Streets…
These Streets is a nostalgic, exhilarating, and dynamic short film that follows a young working-class woman, navigating her culture and her place in the arts. It blends movement, theatre and spoken word to ask – What can we do about classism in the arts?
How did you come up with the idea?
Back in December 2018, Theatre 503 gave me the opportunity to put on a short play. With the free reign they had permitted me, for the first time and at the age of 25 I was able to explore something I truly cared about. A while later, that play turned into a short poetic film. It was one of the easiest things I’d ever written, and I don’t mean that to sound arrogant but to highlight the fact that the foundations had been laid for years. These Streets was built upon frustration, unfairness, and this sense of being cheated out of something.
What would you like to achieve through this project?
These Streets is here to inspire working-class people to take up space in the industry. To know that there is a seat for them at the table and to give them to tools to construct their own narrative. I feel that These Streets is the first step in a long plan to put more working-class people front and centre.
We know that art can inspire but often in times of crisis, the role of art seems to take a back seat. I believe that art can challenge prejudice and be a force for good and I fear that this pandemic has made it harder for those from a lower-socio economic background to tell the stories that need to be told.
Have you encountered or witnessed any problems for working class artists because of their background?
It’s often anecdotal which makes any “problems” easy to dispute and hard to prove. But there is no smoke without fire and when you hear tons of stories about discrimination towards our accents, gestures, or our backgrounds and what our parents do – the class ceiling is overwhelmingly clear to see. Those anecdotes are given further credence however when you start to see the same kind of people on screen/stage with the same kind of education and background. And then you just have to look at the stats.
Why do you think there is such a disparity with the number of working class people working in arts and the media (just 12%), and do you think this has a negative impact on the industry as a whole?
The Arts is often something that we all ingest on a daily basis. During lockdown it was something that we all turned to to just get us through the day. It’s a mode of entertainment but also a really powerful tool that influences how we view the world. If a majority of storytelling is being told by the few then we are certainly getting a singular view and one that isn’t necessarily representative of Britain.
I think the disparity begins from an early age. Theatre for instance is often financially inaccessible and not a norm whereas in middle- and upper-class culture, it often is. Our working-class kids need to have art introduced to them from an early age. Art needs to be held in higher regard in our education system and be seen as a viable option for a career. We need to give them the choice rather than have them be taught that art is a plaything.
What can we do as artists to help close the gap?
Don’t wait for permission. Find each other. Become your own best resource and be aware that you ARE going to face imposter syndrome. Accepting that and doing it all anyway is actually quite liberating.
On a personal and practical level, if I am ever approaching an individual or organisation, I always like to keep a few alternative options open so that I am not putting all my eggs in one basket and handing over all the power. Obviously don’t be arrogant about it but going into the room knowing that you can take or leave this opportunity is very empowering.
As theatre makers and playwrights, if you care about class, bring it to the surface. Class not being in the Equality Act 2010 is an example of Class being this ugly thing that we’ve all agreed not to talk about, and that benefits some people. You’ve got to ask, who?
Have you faced any challenges getting this project off the ground?
It’s often easy to go to the gatekeepers and ask for help, there’s nothing wrong with that, I’ve done it. But sometimes the difficult choices lead to the most fruitful experiences. This journey has introduced me to amazing people doing their part. Strangers offering up their own experiences and motivating me and my team to keep going.
Crowdfunding has never been done in this kind of climate before. Coupled with the fact that this is our first ever crowdfunder, we knew it was going to be tough and the difficulties here were often mentally. Knowing that people are investing their time, money, and energy into something they believe in is a huge responsibility.
In the writing of These Streets, I was acutely aware that the text should serve the people. That the text should highlight the issue, the reality and embolden the people to take their own necessary steps. I knew the writing had to be art married with a declaration.
Is there anything our readers can do to support you in this project?
We could really do with your support. We know times are tough, but a fiver goes further than you may think! We’ve also just released an exciting raffle on our crowdfunder for one of our backers to win a place on a Screenwriting course at Raindance! We’re really excited to partner with Raindance on this one and the 5-week course looks incredibly insightful!
You can support this project by getting involved with their crowdfunding campaign.
Raindance is a partner of the project and there is a chance to win a FREE place on their 5 week screenwriting course when you support the crowdfunding campaign. Find out more here.
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