Actor Michael Sheen has called on the media industry to create options and opportunities for aspiring writers and journalists from working-class and under-represented backgrounds.
Michael Sheen, alongside the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has co-funded 'A Writing Chance'— a project which is designed to discover new talent, support new writers, and "prise open an industry which remains difficult to access".
Eleven writers were selected for 'A Writing Chance' from 750 applicants. They will each receive one-to-one mentoring with an established writer or journalist, a £1500 bursary, insight days with media partners, and publication or broadcast of their work.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Sheen said that it was important for people from traditionally working-class areas to see their background and experience represented.
He said: "I realised how fortunate I was that I come from a traditionally working-class area, south Wales, Port Talbot, but we had Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins. I grew up knowing that it was possible cause they were out there doing it, you know. And how important that is to be able to see your background, your experience represented out there to feel like, to have the confidence to go out there".
"I've watched my pathway kind of disappear behind me"
The Port Talbot-raised actor also said that the arts infrastructure that had allowed working-class people such as himself to become an actor had "all been cut".
Sheen said: "As I've got older, you know, I've started to realise more and more, it's become clearer to me more and more, what the factors were that led me to having the opportunities, and the life and the career that I've had. And when I was younger I liked to think that it was just because I was so amazingly talented, and it's become very clear to me that that's not what it was. That I came from a supportive family, which not every does, I came from a community that was very supportive of what I was doing, and then I came from a very well-funded, well-supported youth arts infrastructure that came through our local authorities.
"That's all been cut. So the money for that is not there. There are certain things that still exist, my youth theatre still is there, but it's partly because of people like myself helping to support it. [...] But I've watched my pathway kind of disappear behind me really. And so it's become clearer to me that not only, and I had a lot of things in my favour, so if people like myself now are not able to have the pathway that I had, what about all the other people who didn't have all those things in their favour as well."
Sheen also said that market forces should not be allowed to wholly dictate the arts. He said: "If everything is left to market forces, and everything is about what's going to make the most money, what's going to get the highest figures, you know if you look back at the history of our culture, it hasn't always been the most popular thing that has led us down the paths that, you know, that we've found ourselves going."