There have been several articles in the media over the last few days about Kate Winslet and whether or not she is working class. Aside from the obvious cultural debates about the nature of class, the reasons as to why it is still so important and whether Kate is belittling those that are really suffering, what did interest me was her description of what she believed made her ‘working class’.
In an article that first appeared in Marie Claire, Kate Winslet, whose parents are actors, claims that she comes from a working class background because money was tight. She says
“we had these dreadful second-hand cars that would always die a death, or we’d go on holiday to Cornwall come back and it would have been nicked. It was like a Joe Orton farce, my family...Honestly, it was hand-me-down-shoes and 10p pocket money on a Saturday that didn’t go up until I was 11.”
What was interesting for me is that I too come from a theatrical family. My father ran a West End theatre and my mother was an actress, as were her parents and grand parents. The lifestyle that Kate describes is very similar to mine and yet I didn’t ascribe it to class or poverty, or for that matter being a ‘theatrical’; for me it was very much part of the way that most people lived in those days. It was a normal part of growing up. We all wore hand-me-downs, we all saved our weekly pittance to buy a special toy, and we all had second hand cars (if we were lucky enough to have a car at all).
This was the way of life for most of us back in the fifties, sixties and seventies, regardless of whether our parents were posh or poor. To define working class as being about wearing hand-me-downs and driving second hand cars is ludicrous.
Find out how Hilary Bruffell's actor mother and grandmother were real make and mend role models (despite the Royal Garden Parties and the very glamorous lifestyle) in this fascinating article. That's Hilary's parents in the picture.