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Despite numerous attempts by academic, media and policy to highlight issues associated with class in contemporary culture, progress in tackling inequality consumption or production has been uneven and haphazard.

Whilst much of the literature and policy response has looked at institutional or structural factors, this paper focuses on the complicated place of class in individuals’ narratives of themselves and their jobs. 

To understand the role of the cultural, creative and media worker, the paper uses the case study of acting (47 fieldwork interviews), supplemented by an initial analysis of fieldwork from the Panic! project (193 fieldwork interviews). The Panic! Whatever Happened to Social Mobility in the Arts? project combined a survey of over 2500 cultural, creative and media workers with a set of follow up interviews.

The paper uses this data to show how class is at once distant and at the same time central to their own understanding – the embrace, and also the refusal, of class is an important element of these workers’ identities. The analysis allows for a reflection on the intersection of narratives of class as a desire for ordinariness, the disavowal of privilege and also as a vitally important category for understanding both the identities and working practices of the ‘creative class’, interviewed as part of the study.

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Dave O’Brien is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Policy at ICCE, Goldsmiths and will shortly be taking up the role of Chancellor’s Fellow in Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Edinburgh. His books includeCultural Policy andAfter Urban Regeneration and the forthcomingRoutledge Handbook of Global Cultural Policy.

He is currently working on a major project exploring cultural and creative work in the UK. 

David O'Brien Teaching