Bring kids to theatre at an early age: call
Every pupil should be brought to the theatre at least once during their school years, the Stormont inquiry into elitism in the arts has been told.
The Northern Ireland Theatre Association (NITA) said it would make the single biggest contribution to breaking down working-class barriers to the arts.
"If we could make one recommendation that would have a lasting impact on working-class inclusion in the arts, it would be for every child to be afforded the opportunity to attend a professional theatre performance during their primary and post-primary education," NITA spokesperson Emma Jordan told MLAs.
Ms Jordan told the Stormont arts committee that there can be a misconception in working-class communities that theatre or the performing arts are not for them.
"As a consequence, they may never engage in what is on offer in the first place," she said.
"When we dig a bit deeper in working-class communities, we find that there is a sense that theatre is not for them. We have to put in place everything that we can to ensure that access is given to them."
Among the measures she suggested to improve engagement with theatre and dance were bursaries and training that targeted working-class communities.
Ms Jordan also urged children to be introduced to theatre early.
"Through schools and play groups, we need to introduce the concept of theatre from the very start, thus exposing children and young people from a working-class background to the arts and creating a love for theatre," she said.
Ms Jordan said NITA believed that for venues in receipt of State funding, there should be more efforts to complement existing community engagement work.
"That would involve working-class communities in a pre-defined area forming a group to help to shape the activity and programming of the venues located in their community and ensuring access by providing a subsidised ticketing scheme," she said.