One in six arts workers say they’ve been given gagging orders ‘to curb dissent’


One in six arts workers say they’ve been given gagging orders ‘to curb dissent’ and can’t express views on subjects like Brexit for fear of upsetting ‘politically correct’ and ‘intolerant’ bosses

  • Survey found 80% felt sharing controversial opinions ‘risked being ostracised’  
  • Respondent said: ‘I often feel pressure to self-censor for fear of being bullied’
  • Brexit and politics were areas where staff felt most opinions must be repressed

Contrary to the sector’s reputation for openness, risk and rebellion, one in six art workers say they’ve been given gagging orders to ‘curb dissent’. 

The anonymous survey of 500 workers in the arts and cultural sector, conducted by ArtsProfessional, revealed a whopping 80 per cent felt that those who share controversial opinions ‘risk being professionally ostracised’. 

One respondent said: ‘I often feel pressure to self-censor for fear of being ”cancelled” or bullied for not conforming to the orthodoxy.’

The anonymous survey of 500 UK workers in the arts and cultural sector, revealed a whopping 80 per cent felt that those who share controversial opinions ‘risk being professionally ostracised’

The company’s director, Amanda Parker, said: ‘Our survey shines a damning light on the coercion, bullying, intimidation and intolerance that is active among a community that thinks of itself as liberal, open minded and equitable.’ 

Brexit and politics in general were the areas where most workers felt they had to hold back opinions.   

Owning up to having voted for Brexit or even expressing sympathy with Brexit was also widely felt to be frowned upon in the sector.

One person said: ‘17.4million voted for Brexit. Most of the opinions of these people, on many subjects, would lose them employment in the publicly funded arts sector in the UK’.

Owning up to having voted for Brexit or even expressing sympathy with Brexit was also widely felt to be frowned upon in the sector

Owning up to having voted for Brexit or even expressing sympathy with Brexit was also widely felt to be frowned upon in the sector

Owning up to having voted for Brexit or even expressing sympathy with Brexit was also widely felt to be frowned upon in the sector

Another respondent, who voted Leave, revealed that that they have ‘received emails containing petitions to stop Brexit from the CEO despite half the office voting to leave’. 

A vivid example was given by a respondent who reported being ‘reprimanded, threatened, screamed at, shouted at, bullied by my ex-boss because of my public online, published writings, media interviews and comments in support of Brexit’,

According to one respondent, non disclosure agreements – often used by organisations to ensure silence in return for a financial settlement – are sometimes included in contracts issued to artists by England’s National Portfolio Organisations.

Other topics which caused individuals to fear self-censoring include fear of attack from trans activists, fear of being accused of racism for holding right-wing views, and fear of losing funding if criticising funding bodies.

The report states: ‘These findings cast serious doubts over any moral high ground that the sector may claim around tolerance and respect.’ 

Ms Parker continued: ‘What’s most important is for us as a community is to find a way to heal the hurt and develop strong and lasting ways for us to accept different viewpoints without risking personal safety or livelihood. 

‘We’ve already started that conversation with the sector and look forward to it bearing fruit’.