A BAFTA and Emmy award winning actor swapped the glitz and glamour of Hollywood for Westminster after being welcomed to speak at an event hosted by Ellesmere Port & Neston MP, Justin Madders.
Michael Sheen, star of a host of hit films including Frost/Nixon, The Queen and The Damned United, addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Mobility, chaired by Justin Madders as part of an inquiry into access into leading professions for young people from less advantaged backgrounds.
Sheen warned that cuts to arts budgets mean pathways into acting are now closed for many young people. He had benefited from drama classes at his comprehensive school in Port Talbot, before joining a youth theatre and then going on to receive a grant to attend drama school, but warned that these opportunities no longer exist for young people in his area.
The MP also welcomed Stuart Worden, Principal of the BRIT school, which was attended by stars including Adele, Jessie J, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis and Rizzle Kicks. Mr Worden spoke about the importance of making sure all young people have access to a good arts education at school. He warned that curriculum changes have led to a dangerous devaluing of arts subjects in state schools and highlighted that 46,000 fewer students will take a creative subject at GCSE this year.
These sentiments echoed other guests including Andy Cairns of Sky Sports News, Megan Bramall of BBC Breakfast, Helena Carter of ITV News, Carys Nelkon of the Charity Arts Emergancy and Joanne Butcher of the National Council for the Training of Journalists. Also speaking, Sir Peter Bazelgette, Chair of the Arts Council and ITV, described unpaid internships as ‘the curse of the arts industry.’
The meeting concluded the evidence sessions of the APPG’s Inquiry, with earlier sessions hearing from leading figures in finance, law, politics, the civil services and health. A full report, including recommendations to Government is due to be published before the end of the year.
Commenting, Chair of the APPG on Social Mobility and MP for Ellesmere Port & Neston, Justin Madders said:
“I was delighted to welcome Michael Sheen to Parliament. I was hugely impressed by the passion that he displayed and by his commitment to ensure that other young people can follow his journey from a working class background to the top of his profession.
“While the panel at this session was made up of big names from across the world of entertainment and the arts, their views echoed much of what we had heard about the issues in other major professions.
“The sad fact is that although there has been some improvement in recent years, young people from Ellesmere Port & Neston are still much less likely to be given a fair chance of making it in the country’s top professions than those from more affluent areas. I’m absolutely determined to change this and I hope that the proposals to government and industry coming out of this Inquiry will play a part in this.”