Politics, as Andrew Neil recently pointed out, has gone posh. The music scene has never been posher. So what about arts and culture? Have those years of New Labour investment in training, sectoral skills councils and cultural leadership programmes paid off? Do the backgrounds of our current young playwrights, actors, composers, dancers, novelists, poets, painters, reflect a wider class spectrum? Or are they, as the Independent indicated last year, mainly "well-connected, appear in Tatler and ... Oxbridge-educated"?
In these days of funding cuts and increased fees where do we place ourselves on the poshness gauge? Taking a look at the recent BAFTA awards it's difficult not to come to certain conclusions: the Daily Mail's also makes for interesting reading.
With unpaid internships, free labour and volunteer positions the main route into arts and cultural institutions it's hardly surprising that an elitocracy has arisen in the management and administration of our creative industries. But what about the Directors of our theatres, opera houses, museums, galleries and arts training institutions? Or, even more pertinently, the individuals who make up their Boards? It feels like entering a time warp to read how many of the (few) women on the Boards of our major national cultural institutions are identified by their husband's titles, wealth or roles in the City.
Perhaps we all long ago accepted that a career in the arts is only really an option for a confident minority who have emerged from our private education system? Is it just that it requires more of a sense of entitlement, or, as Douglas Hurd put it, speaking about his own Etonian roots and today's cabinet, is it simply that: “Doors were opened to you which were closed to others”?
A few years ago I was responsible for commissioning a series of interviews with ex-students from a leading Drama School. We wanted to know who was still "in the business" 10 years on and what were they doing. The interviewer was one of their contemporaries. Neither of us was particularly surprised to find how few were in work of any kind: the statistics bear that out. What we hadn't expected however was to be told by everyone who was working that it was mainly down to the fact that they had a cushion of inherited wealth or a partner with a well-paid job to rely on.
Of course there are, and will always be, exceptions to any rule and there are still plenty of roles for working class actors in the soaps. Although maybe we should we take it as a sign of the times that the BBC felt a "scrubbed down" Helena Bonham Carter was better casting for Nigel Slater's stepmother in "Toast" than say Maxine Peak?
John Holden, writing about Culture and Class, notes that we "live in a Britain where a growing part of the population is culturally and creatively disenfranchised." We also live in a climate where, as Matthew Taylor points out, we urgently need to re-make the case for the Arts. Are we going to continue to fight those same old battles about the value of instrumental art (art for the working classes) as opposed to intrinsic art (for the posh)? If the Arts Council really is committed to "Great Art for Everyone", might it also be prepared to grapple with what that might mean in terms of who's making, commissioning and governing the arts as well as who's in the audience?
Or have those of us working in the arts just got "too posh to push" on the class front?