It’s 50 years since Jennie Lee, the first Minister for the Arts, published the first White Paper on the arts. In it, she talked about the “drabness and joylessness of the social furniture” and the important role of the “living artist” in addressing that.
We’ve come a long way since then. Government’s role in supporting the arts and culture has grown and changed; responsibility for the arts, museums, libraries and heritage has been brought together in one Department; the National Lottery has transformed funding opportunities for the cultural sectors; and free access has helped open up our national museums to new audiences.
But the Government hasn’t taken an overview of the cultural sectors and the Government’s role in supporting them, and published an overall vision and agenda for the future, since Jennie Lee’s White Paper. It’s time we did.
Four broad themes
Our White Paper, that’s due to launch in the coming months, will explore four key themes:
The first of these is the role that culture plays in creating places that people want to live, work and visit. How can our culture and heritage contribute to vibrant, healthy communities across the country, and how can we in Government support them to do that.
The second theme will focus on building financial resilience in cultural organisations and institutions through new funding models, to enable them to survive and prosper in a tough economic and financial climate.
Our third theme is about people and how they engage with culture. How do we ensure that everyone can learn about and through culture, and get the right encouragement and opportunities to experience and participate in cultural activities throughout their lives.
And finally, theme four explores working with our cultural institutions to promote Britain abroad, in our relations with other countries and international organisations, and to support trade, exports, inward investment, inbound tourism and presentation of cultural artefacts.
Share your ideas
To support the upcoming White Paper, starting next week we’ll be launching a dedicated #OurCulture discussion platform, looking at each theme in turn over the coming months, to give you the chance to submit and discuss your ideas across each of the four topics. We’re seeking innovative proposals to drive discussion and I’m looking forward to seeing lots of lively debate that underlines our passion for the cultural sectors, and how we need to ensure they continue to adapt and thrive for future generations.
You can also join the conversation on your own social media channels, using the #OurCulture hashtag.
Engagement with the arts begins with children and young people and unless we continue to educate young people about the cultural importance of the arts then they will die. I understand that financial restrictions mean that priorities will always exist however a bit of joined up thinking is required here. If arts education is to survive at all the government needs to think carefully about initiatives that undermine arts subjects at every turn. The Arts in the UK are a massive part of the economy and create jobs and careers and contribute on every level, so to undermine the arts is to do damage to the economy as well as the cultural well being of the country. The arts in schools are being marginalised, subjects ain’t running due to lack of uptake and teachers are reduced to filling the gap with extra curricular activities. A part of the job which should be a very fulfilling add-on not the only source of arts education. Looking forward with anticipation of this white paper for some innovation and collaboration between government departments for a vision going forward for the arts in the UK.
A levy on all ticket sales to cultural events – e.g. 1% that goes back into supporting and seed funding arts programmes. Let the West End subsidise the talent base that feeds it, let the community pay back into itself.
Stricter legislation on unpaid internships and experience – it’s exploitation and keep opportunity only for those who can afford it. internships need to provide solid learning outcomes and be time limited with interns not ending up out of pocket. Distinguish between internships and voluntary work.
Bring creativity back into the schools agenda – Creative thinking is what sets us apart from automated jobs, and entrepreneurialism is an essential midnset for any creative practitioner. Students need to consume and create culture to own it. Creative Partnerships was a great programme that brought creative practitioners into schools – giving students access to professional knowledge and sustaining creative practitioners outside of their projects. This was a good thing and can be run more efficiently – e.g. thorugh existing arts council structure or british council for efficiency.
Minimum fee levels for creative roles such as producer or directors fees for theatre – a National standard.
Simplify cultural event licensing – there are so many incredible building and venues that can be appropriated for cultural use but it’s often up to individual councils whether you can put on an event or not. And lack of knowledge on both sides can prevent good ideas from taking place. An event producers toolkit setting out the regulations required and how to apply for permission – better still one single type of permission and fee level or fee structure for licensing events.
I’m sure I will have more…
I think it is important to differentiate between ‘ active ‘ and ‘ passive ‘ in respect of culture, and that the onus should be on nurturing the former.
I live in Edinburgh, which has just seen the conclusion of, cliche that it is, ‘ the world’s greatest arts festival ‘; but culture is far more, than passively wandering around, and passing judgement on things.
I would like to see therefore, at the forefront of a culture agenda, initiatives which nurture community engagement & participation, and celebrate local traditions.
Your four themes, seem to have such a perspective as a priority; and the commitment to free access ( where possible ) to museums & galleries is great.
Heritage and museum sites should have updated business strategies which outlines their plans to make a contribution towards both local and national economies as well as having a commitment to make active contributions towards cultural, societal and diverse populations.
Heritage and museum sites should use all resources available for communicating with different audiences which should not just include digital resources. Heritage and museum sites should also encourage the continuation of traditional and cost-effective methods of engagement to include all audience groups who may not be in positions to access technology or aren’t interested in digital technologies.
Heritage and museum sites should make a contribution towards increasing the numbers of paid employees from all ages and not just focus on a particular age group. Heritage and museum sites will need to be business-focussed upon creating financial models which can help people stay in paid employment.
Heritage and museum sites should form partnerships with international museums from developing countries to hep them create business models which will function in an international and national economy as well as invest in internet communications to support communications between visitor groups.
I welcome this opportunity to contribute to a national discussion on the development of a new cultural programme. As part of this discussion, I hope that there will be a chance to reflect on what is already working with the current arts provision in order to build on that success. I would also like to see specific reference in your four topics to the importance of schools and the curriculum as places where a lifelong love of the arts can be nurtured in order to enrich future generations, across all parts of British society, regardless of income or background.
With best wishes
Theme one:- Every Planning authority should have a local historian and a visual artist of repute sitting in on the discussions, to advise on relevance and visual quality of any development. Development plans must be able to be rejected on grounds of poor visual quality and lack of historical relevance.
Theme two:- Place an artist in residence in every street; the residents to chose the artform that suits them.
Theme three:- Require a 1% contribution from every planning development to local government, to be ring-fenced for support of local arts. Require Government to devolve 40% of current Cultural budget held centrally to local government, with a requirement that it be ring-fenced for Culture. Maintain arms-length policy to Arts Council.
Theme four:- Begin at home, by encouraging each Department of government to have an artist in residence. Once this is embedded, each Department will become more aware of the importance of the arts in their everyday life and in the overall culture of this country.
Thanks for all your comments so far. We’ve now launched our dedicated discussion platform for you to share and discuss your ideas on the first of our four themes, Places, which looks at the role culture plays in creating places that people want to live, work and visit: How can our culture and heritage contribute to vibrant, healthy communities across the country?
Take part now at: https://dcms.dialogue-app.com/
[…] The paper will explore four themes, including the importance of cultural institutions to promote Britain abroad and support relations with other countries and international organisations. This latter theme will be the subject of conversations due to start in December this year. More information can be found here. […]