Belfast Telegraph

Maxine Peake and Julie Hesmondhalgh hit out at lack of opportunities for working-class actors

The pair feature in a new documentary about the fight for more diversity across TV and film.

Former Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh has warned Britain faces creating an “apartheid between the rich and poor” unless it addresses a lack of inclusivity in the arts.

She joined fellow actors Maxine Peake and Christopher Eccleston in speaking out on class inequality in their profession as part of a new documentary, The Acting Class.

In a preview clip for the film, Hesmondhalgh said: “If those people can’t get the access to the jobs that enable them to write or act in those stories then we’re going to have a future which has stories only about the elite and that is a major problem for our society.”

She added: “Because what it will do is it will create even more of an apartheid. An apartheid between the rich and the poor, the people who have access to things and the people who don’t.”

Peake hit out at the “dim view” people took of the working class, adding: “I think we need to tell stories to progress, to move forward, but to understand each other.”

The film, which will premiere in the autumn, follows the story of budding actor Tom Stocks and his development of Actor Awareness – a campaign fighting for equality and working-class talent in the arts.

Eccleston dubs ITV’s Downton Abbey “Downturd Abbey” in a teaser clip as he accuses the arts of being a “boys’ club”.

He said: “If you’re a producer or a director trying to enter the industry and if you say I want to do a six-part series about Salford you’re not going to get it. But if you say you’re going to do Poldark or Downturd Abbey you’re in.”

:: The Acting Class is directed by Mike Wayne and Deirdre O’Neill and produced by Inside Film.

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