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Wales takes a lead as arts professionals across all the countries of the UK are urged to take part in research that will shed light on low pay and earnings in the cultural sector.

Two people sitting on the grass in front of a tent
Hay Festival in Wales

Photo credit: Mooganic on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Concerns about low levels of pay for arts workers have led the Arts Council of Wales (ACW) to extend its annual Creative Professionals survey to everyone working in the arts across Wales.

The survey, which aims to gather information that will help to develop a “more resilient and higher performing artist base” in Wales, has previously been targeted at individuals receiving Arts Council of Wales grant funding.

This research has revealed that those working in the sector find Wales to be a good place to live and are committed to developing their practice there. But while arts workers are generally satisfied with their income, many are living on an annual income below the national average, and in some instances, below living wage recommendations.

In line with ACW’s strategic goal of increasing the reach of the arts in Wales, the latest survey has been broadened to help the organisation understand the creative sector as a whole, and not just those it funds. For the first time it is also giving individuals the opportunity to take part in a five-year longitudinal study aiming to shed more light on “the journey of being a creative professional in Wales”.

UK-wide research

The latest ACW research coincides with ArtsProfessional’s UK-wide survey of pay in the arts, which hopes to flush out regional and national differences in earnings among employees, freelance workers and owner/managers of arts businesses.

Compared with England, relatively few people work in the arts and cultural sector in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For the survey findings to be robust enough to deliver key evidence about each of these countries requires as many people as possible to respond.

To support this, agencies across the UK are encouraging their members to complete the ArtsPay survey.

Margaret Henry, CEO of Northern Ireland’s audience development agency, Thrive, told AP: “It is often difficult to get NI data on salaries and fees specifically relating to the arts sector. We’ve been working with other resource organisations to encourage those who work in the sector, both in organisations but also freelancers, to avail of this opportunity and fill in the survey.

“If we get sufficient numbers from NI we will be able to see how we compare within the UK and what the implications of that comparison might be.”

The Federation of Scottish Theatre is also hoping for a good response. Director Jude Henderson said: “While a general overview of pay in the arts and cultural sector in the UK is important, the opportunity to collect and analyse this data at Scottish level will be invaluable to us.

“As well as providing a national baseline it will help us to spark further discussions about pay, funding and sustaining a healthy performing arts sector. We’re therefore encouraging our members, and as indeed as many arts professionals in Scotland as possible, to respond to this survey.”

Click here to take part in the ArtsPay survey. Arts workers in Wales can take part in ACW’s Creative Professionals survey here.

Liz Hill