Catharine Des Forges

Source: Independent Cinema Office

Catharine Des Forges

UK support organisation, the Independent Cinema Office (ICO), has identified a series of ethnic, economic and geographical inequalities across the UK cinema exhibition workforce in its survey of the UK cinema exhibition sector, published today (July 6).

Key findings include: half of the survey respondents had never received any training, over half of respondents come from a more privileged background, a lack of representation of the UK’s ethnic make-up and a weighting towards jobs in London and the southeast.

The UK Film Exhibition Sector Workforce Survey is billed by the ICO as “the most comprehensive survey undertaken of the UK cinema exhibition sector” and was carried out in partnership with The Bridge Group, a non-profit consultancy that uses research to promote social equality.

The last sector survey happened nearly a decade ago, and surveyed less than a fifth of respondents in comparison to this data set. 

In April of this year, the ICO canvassed for survey responses across the cinema exhibition industry, looking to hear from professionals, freelancers, volunteers and anyone who helps audiences access cinema, and received contributions from 602 respondents. This is about 3% of the total number employed in the sector, according to 2021 Office for National Statistics data. 

Out of the respondents, half had never had professional training, with a third saying costs and funding were a barrier to accessing training. Respondents were most keen to receive more professional development in audience development, diversity and inclusion, and programme curation.

Based on parental occupation, 56% of respondents were deemed as coming from a higher socio-economic background, compared to 37% of the general population, while 15% attended an independent school – nearly twice as much as the current UK population.

For senior leadership, there was an 8% pay gap between men and women, favouring men. 

Unpaid work experience had been undertaken by 40% of respondents. A larger proportion of people who identified as Black, Asian or ethnically diverse (90%) had a degree-level education, compared to their white counterparts (72%).

The number of jobs is weighted towards London and the southeast, with 36% of jobs in these areas, only 15% across the north of England and 14% in Scotland.

The survey respondents were 89% white, with the UK working-age population as a whole standing at 86% white (according to 2011’s census). However, the gap is greater given the greater weighting of jobs in London, where 60% of people are white (according to 2011 statistics).

Catharine Des Forges, director of the ICO, 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.”