Mea culpa, mea culpa! I thought back in September 2014 that our work may well be done and with the emergence of new agencies keen to promote culture and the UK Arts, and older more restrained agencies beginning to celebrate in a more voiciferous and enthusiastic manner it seemed we could simply slink away having got a bit of a ‘thing’ going. Now, it’s just me without the help of friends and twitter strangers in the creative UK stratosphere but it seems it’s not quite time to become “culturally in-active’ just yet. For instance my local Arts Centre; Salisbury Arts Centre, which has been going since the late seventies has just lost all its funding from the local authority.  As a society we still haven’t learnt that culture; the arts and crafts that communities create, invite, participate in and revere – should not be sidelined. It’s a balance and the arts should remain at the heart of public space, education and enlightenment.

The @cultureactive twitter account has linked us to artists, cultural organisations and agencies from around the world – we all celebrate the same thing our culture, our art.

Here in the UK we are about to see in a general election. The past five years have been about restraint, constraint, cuts, cuts and more cuts. It has been labelled as a time of austerity and as usual the arts have proved an easy target for budget cuts.

Kicking us off in 2010 came the pamphlet Arts Funding, Austerity and The Big Society, re-making the case for the arts by John Knell and Matthew Taylor

“Arts, Austerity and The Big Society”

In 2011 LSE (The London School of Economics and Political Science) warned :

The arts and cultural sector faces ‘apocalyptic’ cuts in austere Britain. But new ways of looking at economic value can help to make the case for culture

By 2012 The Guardian newspaper was asking

What can the arts offer in an age of austerity?

in April 2013 ex-Culture Secretary Maria Miller put forward her contention that the arts must make their case for public funding by focusing on its economic value not its artistic value

By May 2013 The FT (Financial Times newspaper) carried this article:

The value of arts in a time of austerity

It is time to find imaginative ways to boost cultural groups’ revenues, writes Peter Bazalgette…

and the old debate about the value of culture: the creative industry was once again a hot potato.

In 2013 Fin Kennedy launched ‘In Battalions‘ a rolling stone of an argument that gathered plenty of moss, created a stir and later resulted in a Delphi Study produced in 2014

Also in 2013 and far more broadly, The University of Warwick weighed in to the ring with the Warwick Commission

The Commission fully engaged with the more powerful concept of ‘culture’ as opposed to the arts (which can so often become compartmentalised into specific areas) and amassed some useful resources on cultural value which are worth perusing and culminated last month in a final report:

Enriching Britain, Culture, creativity and growth

which you can download here

In terms of the looming election there’s still time to shout it from the rooftops. Email In Battalions to your MP along with The Warwick Commission’s report – ask them to read it, tell them why it’s important to you.

Whether your personal mantra be “Culture, Leisure, Countryside” or “Family, Film, Creativity” or perhaps “Healthy, Happy and Community” if you unpick what is important to you culture will be there at it’s beating heart, often invisible because it’s sewn in to the fabric of our daily lives, it’s like the air we breathe.


It is amazing how much great social art grows out of confilict

The Jolly Good News

53ee005ff630991e04d93abdSarajevo’s film festival, founded as an act of defiance while the city was besieged during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, marks its 20th anniversary on Friday with its biggest line-up of movies.

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A few thoughts on politics, and why we should use it not lose it from CRPE – culturally speaking we need to be more politically savvy in the UK….

CPRE viewpoint

Last week’s elections were a triumph of anti-politics. In the European election, only a third of the UK electorate bothered to vote and a quarter of those who did supported UKIP, a party whose appeal rests partly on its being ‘none of the above’.   

Of course, European elections in Britain have always had a poor turnout. In the week of the 1999 election, when I stood, more people voted in the final of a TV talent show, Stars in their Eyes (and yes, that hurt). But the anti-political mood has grown since then and people are increasingly impatient of political argument and hostile to politicians.   

So this seems a good time to recall why politics should not be a dirty word. The case is made well by Matthew Flinders in Defending Politics: why democracy matters in the twenty-first century, an updating of Bernard Crick’s great In Defence of…

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Just discovered Artlark – poetically informative blog, you might like it too perchance?


51BHjBD01tLOn the 9th of May 1968, American cartoonist Harold Gray died in La Jolla, California. His death marked the end of a very prolific career, but the fame of his newspaper comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, outlived him for a very long time. The story of an innocent vagabond girl wandering through a world of misery and corruption was remarkable for many reasons but most of all for the fact that it was the first ever comic strip that employed serious political philosophy. “Such expression was unusual because… syndicates did not wish to involve themselves in politics – their newspapers represented various political persuasions.” (Moira Davison Reynolds, Comic Strip Artists in American Newspapers, 1945-1980). And with the growing popularity of comic strips in America, it became more evident that they had become an important tool in shaping public opinion; as noted by Reitberger and Fuchs: “Comics, together with…

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@fatblackcat writes about all sorts of crafty and cultural adventures in her delightful blog. this post mentioning the term ‘Lo-Fi’ reminded me that culture is as complex as you make it and for many of us it is a simple, easy enjoyment.


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Edinburgh LO-fi organised a photo walk to take pinhole photographs on International World Pinhole Day. Unfortunately the light levels were really low. All these taken with a digital camera !

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We should have posted on this much sooner but we’ve been in conference with our heads down and focused on where we’re going with cultureactive but it’s not too late to visit Finn Kennedy’s blog and see whether as a UK culture geek this is something you could get your teeth into. In the arts here in the UK, we feel that the government have become increasingly deaf to our approaches and so Finn is suggesting we meet them on their own terms talking to them in language and ways in which they feel less threatened – hence a *Delphi Study* As an idea it’s got ‘great legs’. Take a look, it’s well worth five minutes of your day!

It’s already at phase two and needs your input – well? what are you waiting for?! get over there…

Maurice is a retired progamme (or ‘program’ in the vernacular) development specialist who blogs really well written, insightful pieces from his home in Newfoundland, Canada. When we talk of culture we usually mean the arts, and forget sometimes that culture is also a word that describes the way we live which is why you will sometimes find us re-blogging some of Maurice’s wonderful posts here on ‘cultureactiveuk’.


Matt Cornell in Contemporary Dance work "...

Matt Cornell in Contemporary Dance work “Remember Me” by DanceNorth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This month the Arts Council contacted @Article19 an online Contemporary Dance magazine started in 1999,  the response was a short pithy piece that echoes the thoughts of many people working at grass roots and with young talent in the arts and cultural sector:

Article19™ | The EvilImp™: No More Spreadsheets.

via Article19™ | The EvilImp™: No More Spreadsheets.

Here in the UK our chancellor of the exchequer, George Osbourne (now also known as Geoffrey, following a slip of the tongue by US President Barack Obama which has greatly tickled the funny bone of UK society) has announced his 2013 comprehensive spending review (CSR) 11.6 billion pounds worth of yet more funding cuts did little to warm the cockles of the nations heart. The cut of 7% to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, felt like a joyless, gloomy picture painted by a lacklustre artist whose eye was tainted by myopia.

Meanwhile the passionate, the cultured, the creative and the positive all fight on to preserve the treasures of the UK that make our nation great. These treasures are reflected both in and by, our art, our heritage and our creative industries that globally touch the lives of people around the world; whether it be through film, theatre, history, our gaming industry or our music, or even our eccentric propensity to take something absurd or quirky and make something of it. Culture is barrier breaking. Even for people who think their lives are not touched by it, it is there in their psyche. Perhaps because it is so intrinsic in our lives we underestimate its worth to ourselves, individually and as communities. But as culture and the arts come under fire; an easy target for cutting corners and saving money across the world, some interesting discussions have been had. We are not alone, on twitter the likes of @catalanmuseums and @simonbrault (président de Culture Montréal) to name but two,  have joined the debate showing that universally ‘culture matters’.

At the beginning of the year, writer and presenter Melvyn Braggs explored the history of the idea of culture and its value today on Radio 4 .  Sameer Rahmin, assistant books Editor at the Telegraph offers his insight here and you might also enjoy an academic response here from Jeremy Gilbert   But perhaps no-one in government listens to Radio 4 or if they do, their ears, minds and hearts are closed to the truth.  It seems that in their dogged determination to save the nation from economic disaster they drag their trail blazing battle wagons over the gardens of the nation that nurture and grow all our cultural talent and heritage, and fail to look back and see the irreparable damage done.

A debate was held this week in the House of Commons  led by Harriet Harman shadow secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, and responded to by Culture Secretary, Maria Miller on behalf of the Government.  It followed an early day motion launched by Dame Joan Ruddock on the importance of the arts and creative industries. It demonstrated that there is still much work to be done to enable those in power to articulate the importance of culture in terms of value.

Next week Dan Jarvis MP hosts a debate in Bristol on the future of Britain’s Arts & Culture Policy

If you haven’t read enough articles by following all the links above you could do worse than read these three:

one:  a paper on the Value of Culture (on the relationship between economics and arts)  edited by Arjo Klamer published by Amsterdam Press in 1996  (google *the value of culture, arjo* to discover a free download of the paper)

two:  a paper entitled The economics of Art and Culture produced by the Cambridge University Press and written by James Heilbrun and Charles M. Gray in 2001

and finally a recent article by Susan Jones for the Guardian’s Professional Culture blog:  Funding Friction and the Future of Art

It would seem that for all the knowledge we possess the wheels of progress are slow to turn.

The future of Britain’s arts and culture policy

Wednesday 3rd July, 1500 – 1800, The Station, Silver Street, Bristol BS1 2AG

I would like to invite you to join Labour’s Shadow Arts team for a discussion about challenges facing the arts and the future of Britain’s arts and culture policy.

The arts are central to our lives, and to the human spirit. They make a huge difference to our lives as individuals, help shape our communities and are a powerful engine of growth in our economy.

But this is a dangerous time for the arts. Arts organisations across the country are facing huge pressures. Many are facing an uncertain future because:
• the Arts Council’s budget has already been reduced by 35%;
• local councils, so important to funding the arts, have had deep cuts made to their budgets;
• Regional Development Agencies, which helped draw investment into our regions, have been abolished;
• the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been weakened – with another £34m cut over two years announced in the autumn statement; and even though the Government argued for a greater role for philanthropy, over 70% of philanthropic giving goes to London.

There is a real danger that the effect of this will be to turn back the clock on all the progress made by Labour in supporting the arts since 1997.

As well as setting out my concerns for the future of arts and culture, I also want to start the discussion with you in Bristol and the South West.

After an introduction and speeches by Harriet Harman MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) and me (Shadow Culture Minister), we will be joined by others for discussions on:
• What arts and culture provide for Britain
• Opportunities for young people
• Arts and culture in the regions.

Spaces are limited but we are keen for as many people to attend as possible. Please do feel free to forward this email on to any colleagues you think may be interested. In order to attend, please RSVP to Kamella Hopkins at by Friday 28 June.

You might also be interested in last week’s House of Commons debate on the importance of the arts and creative industries, the first in over five years, led by Labour. You can read the whole debate on the Parliament website.

I look forward to seeing you at the event.

Very best wishes

Dan Jarvis MP
Shadow Culture Minister

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