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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 kamella.hopkins@parliament.uk 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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Bonnie Greer agrees with Maria Miller “I agree with your fellow Tories” she says, in the Huffington Post,  “Let’s Commodify Culture” … or does she?

See for yourself here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bonnie-greer/maria-miller-culture-commodification_b_3164017.html

A well crafted piece from Bonnie Greer that succinctly presents the argument for being unafraid to recognise the true value of culture, far better than the arts councils recent report on the economic contribution of arts and culture here: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/arts-council-news/economic-contribution-arts-and-culture-report-publ/

What Next 2013 Delegates gather

What Next 2013
Delegates gather

Afternoon guest speakers and provocateurs at #WhatNext2013

Afternoon guest speakers and provocateurs at #WhatNext2013

Emerging into the sunlight full of further debate and thoght

Emerging into the sunlight full of further debate and thought

WN2013_022

What Next ? began in the shadow of massive cuts to the arts and cultural organisations as the recession became a reality here in the UK. It was a gathering of people, who came together because they felt isolated and threatened by impending doom. They gave themselves an hour but it wasn’t enough and so it continued on – weekly meetings around London that shared the news,  sought to come up with ways to challenge the landslide of negativity and have a positive impact on the current governments divisive statements about all things arts and culture.  No-one took charge, it was a collaborative approach. What Next? is open to anyone who wants to champion the arts and culture, anyone who is involved in it and who wants to become a part of a whole.  It is a movement (although it is still struggling to recognize this) and hasn’t defined its objectives beyond its common purpose but it must be doing something right because it is drawing Arts Champions and senior public figures in to its meetings to debate and discuss how we remind ourselves, and those who have forgotten, and those who don’t understand just why the arts and culture are the lifeblood of the UK and just what the impact of mismanaging the cultural future of our children would be.

What Next 2013 held twenty meetings across London (although it is spreading across the UK as we speak). An open invitation was issued via social media platforms and there was a diverse crowd of people who responded to the call, 650 people came.  A small but broad group of people from a variety of cultural sectors and arts organisations and groups.  We came from all over the UK to come together, to find some common ground for some common actions that would have strength and impact alongside all our individual voices and individual actions.

What Next isn’t about re-hashing the arguments and it’s not about waving a magic wand or having the answers.  It is about cultural activism, forming a cohesive body, about bringing together as many of the disperate parts of the arts and cultural sector as want to be involved and finding some platforms from which to fight our corner.

Those who were at the event and those who managed to overcome the live streaming glitches, heard from a plethora of voices in the afternoon see here http://www.whatnextculture.co.uk   We heard from the young, the old, the experienced, the new and upcoming. Old adversaries and competitors stood in the same room and put their egos to one side in order to focus on this important task. We’re not just saving the Arts here – we’re saving the future of our country.  We have to help those blind to the consequences of their actions to understand that it’s NOT about which is more important – Save the NHS or save our Arts?   It’s about keeping the essence of what makes our country good and not allowing it to be destroyed, it’s about balance and vision and purpose.

My grandfather could draw, but he went down the mine and worked in a steel factory to help his older brother feed the family rather than going to college, two things fed his soul: football and art. Although he never formally recognised the latter, it was in every letter he penned and every drawing he made and he instilled that love in his children, they made costumes, put together plays, learnt to play the piano and they sang, he filled his family life with as much colour as his own childhood had lacked. He fought for that. I fight for it also because I see it slipping away under a tide of short-sighted, weak-willed governance.

see my storify of tweets and comments on the day and on reflection of the day here: http://www.storify.com/Artsmonkey1/what-next-2013

and some action stirring already in response to arts Champion Sam Wests (@exitthelemming) gauntlet that he threw down to those assembled :  http://storify.com/Artsmonkey1/what-next-2013-the-debate-continues-actions-stir

Collection of pictures from the day here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artsmonkey/sets/72157633372904389/

Resources from the day here:

http://www.whatnextculture.co.uk/resources/

Response here on the Arts Pro blog http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/blog/juliet-brain/togetherness

Kwong Lee’s response here on the A-N Artists site http://new.a-n.co.uk/news/single/conference-report-what-next-a-movement-in-the-making/1

Where the wild things are 1.

The Domino effect of 100% arts cuts:
mismanagement, mismanagement, mismanagement…

link to original blog:  http://marcusromer.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/artsfunding-and-understanding-touring-brewhouse/

Marcus Romer's Blog

What happened at the Brewhouse was clearly a terrible blow for the town, the staff and their audiences.

But also for the whole wider arts ecology and infrastructure. There are companies and artists who are owed thousands of pounds – and some who date back to early October last year who have not been paid.

It is highly unlikely that any of these individuals and organisations will see any of their money as they now all count as unsecured creditors.

At Pilot Theatre we know this only too well, as this is the second time this has happened to us.

I want to place our story in context. As you will be aware we have been very active on issues of artsfunding

I set up the artsfunding.ning.com site almost 3 years ago, when I could see the shifts that were looming and happening.

So when Somerset announced its 100% cut…

View original post 478 more words

I was interested to read playwright and tutor, Fin Kennedy’s blog article on a meeting this week with UK Culture Minster Ed Vaizey see here (click on link text below)

http://finkennedy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/calling-all-theatre-makers.html

Actually Ed Vaizey’s full title is Minister for Culture, Communications and The Creative Industries, broadly his role is to protect the country’s national heritage,  and to promote cultural expression and our UK Cultural Industries I’m not going into the communication part it’s *complicated* but obviously inextricably linked to *culture*.

Fin Kennedy concludes that the culture minister is ignorant of what’s going on in the outside world in terms of the impact of government cuts on Arts Funding and describes the discussion as a ‘gauntlet being thrown” and I imagine a small, peevishly thrown thing –  but no matter how small, here is an opportunity. Fin Kennedy urges theatre makers, theatres, venues and writers to submit evidence of the damaging impact of funding cuts on new play writing and development.  Evidence can be damming indeed but the more powerful part of Fin Kennedy’s ‘call to arms’ is the idea of gathering a body of people, organisations and artists to collate, consider and submit a body of evidence. Fin is offering to do this alone, but he shouldn’t have to – we are always stronger together. It’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of overall impact but very much an arts ‘cornerstone’ ; from film and animation, radio, TV,  games creation to theatre, our creative industries are rooted in ‘new writing’ and the nurturing of this.

Do read his blog if you think you can help Fin to educate and enlighten our culture minister, the gauntlett has been thrown, it shouldn’t be difficult to pick it up and throw it back.

London and Singapore based Artist Nicola Anthony sets out her case for culture (click on link below to see article in Nicola’s Blog)

A Case For Culture – England loses 30% of its arts council budget #CaseForCulture.

The key element across all the ‘Arts’ spectrum is ‘creativity’. By celebrating, valuing and maintaining prominent use of the Arts, as individuals, communities and societies we are allowing our cultures to develop and grow, to blossom. Sound too poetic? Why is creativity so important then?

Here are some answers from academics and business gurus acround the world:

Michael S. Brockman, University of California, Davis  and Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., University of Arizona summarize the importance of creativity and their project Building Partnerships for Youth here:

http://cals-cf.calsnet.arizona.edu/fcs/bpy/content.cfm?content=creativity

Sir Ken Robinson

Creativity: It’s been maligned, neglected, and misunderstood… Here, creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for creativity as the crucial 21st century skill we’ll need to solve today’s pressing problems. Sir Ken led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His book, The Element (Viking Adult, 2009), looks at human creativity and education. He is also the author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative (Capstone Publishing Limited, 2001). In the UK Ken articulated what many artists and creatives had been trying to express about why the Arts was so important, he’s a regular at arts and cultural conferences because what he says makes absolute sense to so many people. I like this particular interview with Amy M. Azzam here: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept09/vol67/num01/Why-Creativity-Now%C2%A2-A-Conversation-with-Sir-Ken-Robinson.aspx

Why is Creativity more important than Capitalism? by Haydn Shaughnessy

When I first came across this via twitter I laughed and expected this to be an academic paper, over alliterated with anocronyms and given a sexy title just to make sure people at least read the first paragraph but Haydn is a contributor to Forbes Magazine and started his writing career in broadcasting and then got involved in the EU’s attempt to create an ARPA-type unit, managing downstream satellite application pilots, at just the time commercial satellite services entered the market (I cant pretend to know what an ARPA unit is). He also wrote policy, pre the Web, on broadband applications, 3G (before it was invented), and Wired Cities. Haydn has written for the Wall St Journal, Times, HBR, and GigaOm, as well as producing TV for the BBC, Channel 4 and RTE. has written a paper on the Evolution of The Innovation Landscape and is a research fellow at the Center For Digital Transformation at UC Irvine.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/haydnshaughnessy/2012/02/20/why-is-creativity-more-important-than-capitalism/

In Asia Doug Pierce thinks the world needs to embrace creativity so the robots can get on with it:  http://www.dougunplugged.com/2012/03/03/why-is-creativity-important-in-todays-world/

and last but by no means least here’s a little thought from TED fellow Francisco Garcia:

The first question I am going to ask you:
What are you wearing?
Creativity is a discipline on it’s own. Like any other discipline it requires work.
To begin with “There are no rules.”
That’s the beauty of it. Creativity is Imagination, & with Imagination comes work. The true gold behind it is that it breaks down all walls, & dissolves fear. To be A Creative your first, & foremost important rule is “There is no errors. Only learning.”I am going to give you an example of the intended idea of what it means to be creative through two disciplines.
Writing & Music.
In writing we build words through the use of letters. In music we build chords through notes.

“Blocks that form a whole.”

We learn these basics in school. Now this is where Creativity kicks in. What does it mean to be Creative? Being Creative means bringing A Unique Perspective. “Individuality.” So let me transpose my creative imagination in between these two disciplines.
The word “Creative.”
Creative.
CREATivE.
Notice how I bring life, & emphasis into the word Creative by simply highlighting CREATE in Creative. Thus adding color to my wording. It’s important to know that no rules were broken simply bent. Now we transpose this CREATivE Theory to Music.
On A Guitar whether you’re playing a C chord, A Chord, or Em Chord. Notice all the single notes make up that particular chord. The Colors of each single note producing the overall Sound. Now I ask you to use your imagination of what I just showed you in my example in the word CREATivE.
Apply that to the chords, & you get what we know as Creativity.
Now do you see what I see?
Do you know realize why Art is Powerful?
& why Imagination, & Creativity will Reign.
So the next time you see Clouds.
I say “Let your Imagination Run Wild!”

Learning through the arts and culture

We’ve been here before. In the eighties we saw the demise of Theatre-in-education companies and drama, art and music departments in state run schools as the Tory-led government tried to focus education on the 3 ‘R’s (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic – hmmm). Needless to say the result was a generation of young people who came out of school in the nineties with poor literacy skills, low self-esteem and feeling generally disengaged from their local communities. The terms ‘At-Risk’ and ‘vulnerable’ became buzz-words. There followed a rise of young people entering the youth justice system, and a raft of both sports and ‘arts-based’ projects being rolled out nationwide in an attempt to stem the tide.

There is a lot of talk and research into the terms and meaning of the phrase *cultural value* and now there exists a growing body of international evidence into both the impact and value of the arts, most notably in well-being, mental health, learning and education. And yet, number crunchers and policy makers in today’s education system still don’t understand (or perhaps care, maybe their children are no longer in the education system and their grandchildren will be going into private school education?) that the presence of the arts in education is vital to a childs ability to access, process and make the most of their learning experience. By marginalising the arts, teachers and head-teachers are then forced to compete for budget to deliver and employ the arts within the curriculum. If forced to argue and justify their use of the arts within their schools and classrooms, the inference becomes that the arts are therefore of less value than other subjects that are classed as ‘core’ and need little or no such justification.

It shocks me both as a parent and someone who has worked for over twenty years with young people, in the youth sectors of both the arts and education . I have both formal and informal teaching experience, I was educated in a highly academic orientated grammar school, I understand that learning has to have structure and I also know that in order for learning to be possible the most vital aspects of education aren’t just the curriculum; they are also food, safety, and tolerance. Education in terms of challenging young people to achieve and strive is not about discipline alone, just as it can never be simplified to a curriculum that deals with only academic goals. The world is changing and we must indeed change with it. It’s been hard to be in the schools sector for over thirty years now and there is no doubt, particularly in light of economic fiscal belt-tightening that changes are still needed. I quote, (just in case Tory readers think I’m just blaming Tories!) the Chair of my daughter’s Primary School Board of Governors when I commented on the amount of emails detailing changes to policy and law being sent out from the Local Authority “As you can see, a minefield of ever-changing policies that tie up time and resources! (Labour introduced or revised over 900 education policies in their 10-year tenure – yes, nearly 2 per week)”. 

However, at the heart of all the politics and the rights and wrongs are ‘children and young people’. There is no doubt in my mind, the presence of the arts is vital at the heart of all curriculum topics, ‘creativity’ is the glue that takes the mundane and transfoms it. ‘Creativity’ is when learning times tables, for instance,  becomes possible because someone who understands about learning has turned ‘times tables’ from repetitive rote that slips out of the mind minutes after it went in, into objects, a visual feast a ‘lightbulb’ moment where a connection is made and the learning ‘sticks’. Across the board in education, learning is not just repetition or remembering the written word it is exploration, touch, connection, it is very different things to different people and cannot be achieved in any one way but a combination of ways, (ask an actor how they learn their lines and you will get ten different answers). Read here the London School of Economics and Political Sciences blog post by Greg Tate on the impact of culture on science and social science in the mid-ninteenth century http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2012/11/05/tate-impact-poetry-psychology/. It nicely encapsulates for me how the arts impacts on all other topics when valued and placed centrally within the curriculum. Learning through the arts and culture improves attainment in all subjects,  take it away, as was attempted in the 80s and you have no glue.

Further reading:

The Cultural Learning Alliance:http://www.culturallearningalliance.org.uk/news.aspx?id=93

The Independent:

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/09/07/does-michael-gove-really-know-what-he-is-doing/

The guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/nov/02/arts-leaders-concerns-ebacc-schools

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