Entertainment & Arts

Sir Peter Bazalgette: Top schools 'too dominant' in acting

Dominic West at the Baftas Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dominic West, who went to Eton, won a Bafta for best actor in 2012

The British film and TV industries are too dominated by actors who went to private schools, according to the chairman of Arts Council England.

Meanwhile, state school pupils have too few opportunities to forge careers in the arts, Sir Peter Bazalgette said.

"I personally don't see why all the male actors getting Baftas should come from Eton," he told Sheffield Doc/Fest.

"Good for them, and great actors, but why should they all come from Eton?"

Eton has produced actors including Damian Lewis, Dominic West, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne and Harry Lloyd.

Other private school graduates include Benedict Cumberbatch, who went to Harrow; Hugh Bonneville, who attended Sherborne; and Rory Kinnear, who studied at St Paul's.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who won this year's best film actor Bafta for 12 Years A Slave, went to the fee-paying Dulwich College - some years after Sir Peter attended the school.

Arts 'marginalised'

Sir Peter made his name as a TV producer, is president of the Royal Television Society and became Arts Council England chairman last year.

"Seven per cent of the population go to private schools, and in those private schools they get an absolutely, crackingly good education in the performing and visual arts," Sir Peter said.

"Ninety-three per cent don't go to those private schools and, in some state schools, people get a wonderful education in visual and performing arts as well. But in quite a lot of them they don't.

"Visual performing arts have been marginalised in some areas in the curriculum as the curriculum becomes more instrumentalist and focused on what's known as the Stem agenda - science, technology, engineering and maths.

"If there is one message, we say Steam, not Stem - put the 'a' for arts in."

He pointed to British talents including London 2012 Olympic cauldron designer Thomas Hetherwick, Apple creative guru Jonathan Ive and vacuum pioneer James Dyson as proof that people need "a combination of creative flair and technological ability".

His comments follow concerns from Dame Helen Mirren, who recently warned that acting was becoming the "prerogative only of kids who have money".

And Shakespeare's Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole told the BBC last year: "It's becoming harder for children and young actors without means to get into drama school and I think that's an enormous shame."

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