A MIXED BAG THIS MONTH
A mixed bag this month starting with music. Throughout the world, improvements in medicine, hygiene and nutrition have led to much longer life expectancies. However, it has placed greater strains than ever before on the social systems that support older people, particularly those living with dementia. However, help is at hand. In the form of music. Care homes that have embraced music have seen significant returns on their investment, leading to better living and working conditions for everyone. And this includes staff and relatives as well as the residents themselves. And relationships themselves have made working conditions so much better. All is summed up in this report:
And for something completely different, an unusual case but one which deserves a bit of reading time. Diversity and racism are words used, probably to excessiveness, frequently in the modern world. A scheme has recently been established whereby people who are victims of racial or discriminatory activities are able to receive help to further their careers so they are not disadvantaged. Ok so far. And one can presume that most discrimination and therefore disadvantage, comes as a result of one’s appearance. This was the case for Anthony Lennon whose parentage, by his own admission, is in fact, Irish. His appearance however is one of mixed race. His receipt of an award has now divided opinion. Should someone of Irish descent receive support reserved for people who are of ethnic minority or should it be for those who are disadvantaged because of their appearance?
Nearly 50 actors and writers including Michaela Coel, Clarke Peters, Lucian Msamati and Lennie James have signed a letter in solidarity with Anthony Ekundayo Lennon who argue that the theatre director has never misled anyone over his heritage and that criticising him takes energy away “from the real struggles that need to be fought”.
Lennon had been quoted as saying that despite having white Irish parents, he identifies as mixed-race and has experienced the struggles of a black man because of his appearance. Last week, Lennon said he had been made to feel like “a liar and a thief” because of the criticisms about his position. Now, in a letter published in the Guardian, a group of nearly 50 actors, writers, campaigners and producers voice their support for Lennon. It says: “The fact that a group of black and ethnic minority arts practitioners like ourselves are prepared to come out in support of Anthony should communicate to the wider community that this story is not the ‘black and white’ narrative being presented by the media. “The media narrative of a white man adopting a black identity to claim funding to which he was not entitled is not true and in no way does justice to the complexity of Anthony Ekundayo Lennon’s identity or the situation he was born into,” the letter argues, and warns there is a danger of people misunderstanding his background due to “inaccurate” and “narrowly researched” commentary on the situation.
And finally, further evidence of the “elitist practices” of the theatre, dance, TV and film industries have been revealed through major new research by the Sutton Trust on the prevalence of unpaid graduate internships. Young people looking to break into the arts are expected to undertake multiple internships – 86% of which are unpaid.
The research concludes that this failure to pay, alongside a tendency to offer internships as informal ‘favours’ to staff and their families, excludes many young people from low and moderate-income backgrounds, giving them no chance of accessing desirable jobs in the sector. Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust – which commissioned the research – described the situation as a “huge social mobility issue” that “prevents young people from getting a foot on the ladder”. Unpaid internships, which are becoming more common among graduates, cost someone living in London at least £1,100 per month. To support themselves during their internship, 26% used money from their parents, 27% worked a second job, and 46% lived for free with friends and family.
In addition, the report challenges the notion that internships are a route to higher pay. While graduates earned an average of £26,100 if they had completed a paid internship, this fell to £24,600 if they had done either one or two unpaid internships, and to £23,200 if they had done three or more. “This suggests that many young people in certain industries are being trapped in cycles of unpaid placements without significant benefits to their career,” it adds. The arts are confirmed to be among the disciplines with the lowest average graduate salary: graduates can expect to earn £22k, compared to £33k in financial services and £31.7k in law.
“The legal definition of a ‘worker’ is defined in the Employment Rights Act 1996 and the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 stipulates when someone needs to be paid. It isn’t the title of a role that determines whether it should be paid or not, it’s the conditions under which someone is hired and expected to operate that defines this.” Given the growing prominence of internships, the Sutton Trust is backing a parliamentary bill to ban unpaid internships over four weeks in length. It says it would like to see all internships longer than this paid “at least the National Minimum Wage of £7.05 for 21-24-year-olds, and ideally the Living Wage of £9 per hour (£10.55 in London)”. “Our sector fails to represent the make-up of our society, the very population it works to serve, inspire and engage – which makes one occasionally question the authenticity of its aspirations.”
Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year from all at Creative Business Solutions
Nursing Home image is from the report from the Sutton Trust which is linked to in this blog.
The Anthony Lennon image is courtesy of The Stage newspaper.
The Internship photo is courtesy of Commonwealth magazine.
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