New Statesman events at Lib Dem conference 2013

The New Statesman will be heading to Glasgow to host a series of events and discussions during the Liberal Democrats autumn conference 2013.

The New Statesman will be at the Liberal Democrats autumn conference this year in Glasgow to host a series of events and round table discussions. Highlights include an "In conversation" session with Minister of State for Care and Support, and Lib Dem MP, Normal Lamb at the Glasgow Science Centre tomorrow evening, a discussions on aid and advocacy between Menzies Campbell, Simon Hughes and Medical Aid for Palestinians Chief Executive Tony Laurance on Monday afternoon and a talk with David Laws, Minister for Cabinet Office and Schools on Monday evening. All events are free to attend and open to the public.

There will also be a session with Lib Dem president Tim Farron, a possible future leader of the party, whose comments on Ed Miliband in this week's New Statesman were widely regarded as proof that coalition with Labour rather than the Tories after 2015 remains a distinct possibility. (The correlative came from Jeremy Browne in the same issue, a Lib Dem with less polite things to say about the Labour leader). 

A full list of NS events at the Lib Dem conference can be found below:

Liberal Democrat Part Conference 2013

 

Sunday the 15th of September 

 

 

Integration in an era of competition: Is it possible? 

Speakers: Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP

                  Chris Hopskin, Chief Executive, Foundation Trust Network

                  Professor Clare Bambra, Durham University 

Location: Clyde Suite, Glasgow Science Centre  

Time: 13:30-14:30 

 

What next for the criminal justice system?

Speakers: Lord McNally, Minister of State for Justice,

                  Steve Gillan, General Secretary, POA

                  Jerry Petherick, Managing Director – Custodial & Detention

                  - Services, G4S 

                  Tania Bassett, Napo Press, Parliament and Campaigns Officer

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre      

Time: 13:00-14:00  

Smart Grids: Is this the way of selling low carbon policy to skeptics?

Speakers: Stephen Gilbert MP, PPS to Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP

                  - Secretary of State for Climate Change  

                  Jim Sutherland, Scottish Power Energy Networks 

                  Dr. Hongjain Sun, Lecturer in Smart Grids, Durham University 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre  

Time: 14:00-15:00

Norman Lamb MP in conversation with New Statesman

Speaker: Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre  

Time: 18:15-19:15  

Monday the 16th of September

 

Home Front: the battle for a sustainable housing Market

(invite only)

Speakers: Rt. Hon Don Foster MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the

                  - Department of Communities and Local Goverment         

                  Stephen Gilbert MP, PPS to the Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP,

                  - Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change      

                  Lord Shipley          

                  Annette Brooke MP          

                  Lord Newby, Deputy Chief Whip 

Location: Clyde Suite, Glasgow Science Centre   

Time: 8.30-10:00

Innovation, what does the NHS need to do?

Speakers: Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State for Care and Support  

                  David Worskett, Chief Executive, NHS Partners Network

                  Professor Clare Bambra, Durham University 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

Time: 10.30-11.30

Can aid be effective without advocacy? 

Speakers: Rt. Hon Sir Menzies Campbell MP

                  Rt. Hon Simon Hughes MP

                  Tony Laurance, Chief Executive, Medical Aid for Palestinians 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre   

Time: 13:00-14:00

Endgames: The Lib Dems in the final phase of the coalition  

Speakers: Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats  

                  Tavish Scott MSP      

                  Akash Paun, Fellow, Institute of Government  

                  Olly Grender, Deputy Chair, General Election Capmaign

Location:Clyde Suite, Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

Time: 18:00-19:00

David Laws MP in conversation with the New Statesman

Speaker: Rt Hon David Laws MP, Minister of State for Cabinet Office and Schools

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre     

Time: 19:00-20:00

Tuesday the 17th September

 

Will competition and choice open up the banking sector?

Speakers: Lord Newby, Government Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Chief

                  - Whip, Treasury Spokesperson in the House of Lords

                  Adrian Kamellard, Chief Executive, Payments Council

                  Jeff Salway, Freelance Journalist      

                  Richard Lloyd, Executive Director, Which?

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre 

Time: 13:00-14:00    

Why invest in UK life sciences?

Speakers: Dr Julian Huppert MP

                  Andrew Powrie-Smith, Director ABPI, Scotland 

                  Mike Farrar, Chief Executive, NHS Confederation 

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre   

Time: 13:00-14:00

Tim Farron MP in conversation with New Statesman

Speaker: Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats

Location: Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre 

Time: 18:15-19:15   

Is a cap on immigration a cap on growth?

Speakers: Rt. Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State, Business

                  - Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade  

                  Mr. Neil Stevenson, Brand Executive Director, ACCA       

                  Dr. Adam Marshall, British Chamber of Commerce        

                  Professor Christian Dustmann

Location: Clyde Suite, Science Show Theatre, Glasgow Science Centre        

Time: 19:00-20:00

Nick Clegg's speech will close the conference on Wednesday 18 September. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Britain's diversity crisis starts with its writers. Here's why

What happens on the casting couch draws the headline, but the problem starts on the page, says James Graham. 

I’m a playwright and screenwriter, which – pertinent to the issues we’ll be discussing in this enquiry – still feels weird to say. I get embarrassed, still, saying that, in a taxi or hairdressers. I don’t know why I still carry that insecurity about saying I’m a writer, but I do, because it sounds like I’m lying, even in my own head.

Obviously I’m completely biased, and probably overstating the influence and importance of my own profession, but I think so many of the problems surrounding lack of representation in the performing arts start with writers.

If we aren’t encouraging and generating writers from certain communities, classes or backgrounds to tell their stories, to write those roles, then there’s not going to be a demand for actors from those communities to play them. For casting agents or drama schools to prioritise getting diverse actors on stage. We need to create those plays and TV dramas –like the ones that I grew up with. I didn’t have any access to much theatre until I was fifteen, but I did have Boys From the Black Stuff, and I did have Cracker, and I did have Band of Gold. I think the loss of those regional producing bodies – Central, Granada – now all completely centralised into London, means that we just tell less of those stories. I remember a TV show called Boon – anyone? – which was set in Nottingham, and I would see on the TV streets I’d walked down, and think, Oh my God, that actor is walking down a street I’ve walked down. That sounds like it’s insignificant. If you’re from a town that is deprived, that feels ignored, it isn’t.

I was very lucky that at my school (which was, at the time, the largest comprehensive school in the country), from the headmaster down to the drama teachers, everyone just believed that working class kids should do plays. Be in plays, read plays, perform plays to the community. Both inside the curriculum of the school day, and outside it – drama teachers dedicating their time to staying behind. Our head of drama identified a group of us who clearly had a passion for it. We weren’t likely thesps. One lad’s entire family were made unemployed when the pit closed. Many lived on the big council estate. My parents and step-parents worked respectively in warehouses, the local council, or as the local window cleaner (incidentally, my first real job. Which I was terrible at).

Our drama teacher was encouraged and determined enough to launch the first ever Drama A-Level in our school. Based on that, about 10 or 12 of us got the confidence – or arrogance – to take our own show to the Edinburgh Festival. We were 16 or 17, and the first people in our community to ever go to visit the festival. We did a play up there, and after that, a psychological unlocking happened, where I thought: maybe I could do a degree in drama (it was the first time I had ever thought to do so) at university (the first in my family to go. Well, joint-first. My twin sister went on the same day, but I walked into my digs first).

I enrolled in drama at Hull University. A high proportion of my peers were middle class. A higher proportion from London or the South East. They talked often about institutions I had never heard of. They were talking about the National Theatre: I didn’t know we had a national theatre that my parents had been paying tax for that I had never been to. Many had performed with the (again, apparently) ‘National’ Youth Theatre, also in London. Paul Roseby, also on this panel, has made such leaps forward in getting the NYT producing in regional venues, and making auditions possible for people across the UK, but unfortunately, at the time, that wasn’t the case for me – and I was the ideal candidate to be in the National Youth Theatre.

I started writing because I had the confidence after I read texts by people like Jim Cartwright, Alan Bennett, John Godber, Alan Ayckbourn: Northern writers, working class writers that made me think it wasn’t just something that other people do.

After returning home, and working at local theatres, I moved down to London. I had to. The major new writing producers are there. All the TV companies are there. The agents are there. I was lucky to find support in a pub fringe theatre – though the economics meant there was no money to commission, so I wrote plays for free for about four years, that would get produced, and reviewed in the national press, while I worked various jobs in the day and slept for a time on a mate's floor. The first person to ever pay to commission me to write a play was Paul Roseby of the National Youth Theatre. I’m now very lucky to be earning a living doing something I love. In a way, compared to actors, or directors, it’s easier for writers who don’t come from a background that can sustain them, financially, in those early years. Your hours can be more flexible. Yes, it was annoying to miss rehearsals because I had a shift in a call centre, but it was still possible to do it. If you’re an actor or director, you’re fully committed. And if you’re doing that for nothing, there starts to be cut-off point for those from backgrounds who can’t.

I’m sure that local and regional theatres are the key to drawing in talent from less privileged backgrounds. But the range of national arts journalism that cover work outside London has been so significantly reduced. In our little echo chamber a few weeks ago, we theatre types talked about Lyn Gardner at the Guardian. Her coverage has been cut, which is very directly going to affect her ability to cover theatre shows outside of London – and so the self-fulfilling cycle of artists leaving their communities to work exclusively in London takes another, inevitable, turn.

I am culpable in this cycle. I have never done a play at the Nottingham Playhouse, my local producing house growing up – why? Because I’ve never submitted one, because I know that it will get less national press attention. So I just open it in London instead. That’s terrible of me. And I should just bite the bullet and say it doesn’t matter about the attention it gets, I should just go and do a story for my community. And if I, and others, started doing that more, maybe they will come.

I also want to blame myself for not contributing back to the state schools that I come from. I really really enjoy going to do writing workshops with kids in schools, but I would say 90 per cent of those that I get invited to are private schools, or boarding schools, or in the South of England. Either because they’re the ones that ask me, because they’re the ones who come and see my shows in London and see me afterwards backstage, or because they have the confidence to email my agent, or they have the budget to pay for my train ticket. Either way, I should do more. It would have helped the younger me so much to meet a real person, from my background, doing what I wanted to do.

I don’t know how to facilitate that. I take inspiration from Act for Change, creating a grassroots organisation. I know that there is a wealth of industry professionals like me who would, if there was a joined-up structure in place that got us out there into less privileged communities, we would on a regular basis go to schools who don’t get to meet industry professionals and don’t unlock that cultural and psychological block that working class kids have that says, that is not for me, that is something that other people do, I would dedicate so much of my time to it. That’s just one idea of hopefully better ones from other people that might come out of this enquiry.

James Graham is a playwright and screenwriter. This piece is adapted from evidence given by James Graham at an inquiry, Acting Up – Breaking the Class Ceiling in the Performing Arts, looking into the problem of a lack of diversity and a class divide in acting in the UK, led by MPs Gloria De Piero and Tracy Brabin.