U.K. Film Exhibition Sector Has Ethnic, Economic and Geographical Inequalities, Survey Reveals

There are considerable ethnic, economic and geographical inequalities across the U.K. cinema exhibition workforce, a new survey has revealed.

The survey was conducted by the Independent Cinema Office (ICO), the U.K.’s national body that supports independent cinemas through programming, training, consultancy and cultural distribution and the Bridge Group, a non-profit consultancy that uses research to promote social equality. The survey was conducted in April and had from 602 people including professionals, freelancers, volunteers and anyone who helps audiences access cinema.

The survey reveals that the cinema exhibition sector does not reflect the ethnic diversity of the U.K., especially as a greater proportion of the respondents are from London and the Southeast and found that at all levels of the business, people who are Black, Asian or ethnically diverse are underrepresented. 89% of survey respondents were white.

More than half the sector — 56% — come from a more privileged background, the survey found, with 15% having attended an independent school and 77% achieving a degree or higher level of education. Film exhibition has a greater proportion of people from a high socio-economic background than other creative industries (52%) and in the general population (37%).

The number of jobs in the sector are heavily weighted towards London and the Southeast with 36% of respondents being from there and only 15% across the north of England and 14% in Scotland.

Half of survey respondents have never had professional training; 26% received training funded by their employer or another agency, 17% have had training funded through a mix of sources (some from employer, another agency and self-funded) and 7% have undertaken fully self-funded training. Over a third of respondents indicated that costs and funding were a barrier to training. Among the frequently listed barriers were workload, access to and the availability of training courses, and a lack of employer or wider support.

Respondents were most keen to receive more professional development in: audience development (32%), diversity and inclusion including accessibility, disability awareness, sign language (25%), and program creation (23%). Environmental sustainability and the climate crisis were also of significant concern (20%), the survey found.

ICO director Catharine Des Forges said: “The ICO has spent nearly 20 years endeavouring to support and diversify the sector by developing meaningful training and developmental opportunities. This survey, the biggest of its kind ever undertaken, illuminates very clearly how much work there is to do in order that we ensure long term strategic results in a more vibrant, flourishing sector which genuinely reflects modern Britain and can therefore speak to audiences confidently, championing the best of national and international cinema.”

Nik Miller, chief executive, The Bridge Group, said: “There are some encouraging results in the survey – for example the most significant area of training undertaken by respondents was in diversity and inclusion. However, there are also some more sobering findings: the results reveal a population skewed towards those from higher socio-economic backgrounds; and 40% of respondents have undertaken unpaid work experience to accelerate their career. We commend the sector for its response to the survey, and look forward to actions arising from the results.”

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