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Towards Plan A: A New Political Economy for Arts and Culture?

Arts Council England and the RSA are collaborating on a series of seminars, publications and events to develop and articulate a new case for investment in the Arts.  These will focus upon the importance of the cultural industries in stimulating economic and social growth, and provide the sector with the confidence and information to influence politicians, opinion-formers and investors.  The aim is to lay the foundations of a new political economy for the Arts in England, supported by hard-edged recommendations and deliverable interventions.

A series of four seminars will be underpinned by commissioned papers, citing different, but connected arguments for investment.  Key stakeholders from the world of policy and politics will be invited to attend the seminars, and respond to the papers.  This questions and insights provoked by these exchanges will provide the sector with a clear set of challenges and objectives moving forward.

Peter Bazalgette, the newly-appointed Chair of Art Council England, recently gave his inaugural lecture at the RSA, launching the programme and outlining the challenges faced by, and the case he wants to make for the Arts.  Watch the lecture now.

Seminar 1:  Rebalancing the Economy – the role of arts and culture

New rationales are required to promote the value of and stimulate investment in arts and culture during shifting social, political and economic times.  Consolidation and growth are dependent on strategies and funding that reach beyond the ideological and unimaginative remits of the past.   

There has been little robust analysis of the assets, competitiveness or demand side of the UK’s cultural economy, leading to disconnect between the financial and creative sectors.  Innovation, risk and return on investment are headlines in both.  Thinking, policy and infrastructure are required to realise the mutual benefits of collaboration, exchange and investment, and establish a coherent and vibrant mixed economy.  Overcoming the barriers to, and unlocking the potential in building bridges between the financial and creative sectors, and the role of Government and policy-makers in facilitating these arrangements, will form the basis of the first seminar.

Seminar 2:  Creative Talent, Innovation and Growth

The creative industries perform a distinct and growing economic function across all segments of the economy, and creative talent is at the heart of innovation, development, differentiation, risk-taking and cultural output.  On the one hand, the importance of the creative industries in term of GDP and job growth has been established, whilst on the other, their role as drivers for growth and innovation remains largely unsubstantiated.  Accordingly, there are far louder calls for investment in the scientific and engineering, than the cultural and creative sectors.  These sectors continue to work in isolation, despite John Maeda’s assertion that superior innovation results from bringing divergent (the arts and designers) and convergent (science and engineering) together.

So, how can the value of creative sector and talent be evaluated and articulated?    How can creative talents drive innovation at the intersection of art and science?  How can collaboration between the sectors foster economic growth and sustainability? All these questions are critical to the future of job markets, economic recovery and growth.  Creative talents need to be at the forefront of development, confident of their value and working in collaboration with other sectors.

Seminar 3:  Arts, Culture and Social Productivity

Arts funding competes with other services for public investment, and in the current climate of austerity, faces enormous challenges in asserting value and importance.  The recognition that a rich cultural life contributes to social and economic goals must be underpinned by evidence demonstrating benefit and value of investment; indicators could include health and well-being, community identity and cohesion, public sector effectiveness and productivity.

The RSA promotes a ‘social productivity’ approach, connecting public investment and intervention to the empowerment of which people and communities to meet their own needs and foster the wider well-being.  Are the arts the most effective ‘ignition’ strategy for active citizenship, and effective collaborations between citizens and public services?  And, to what extent, can evidence of social productivity be employed to highlight social benefit, and leverage further investment?

Seminar 4:  City Arts Strategies in a Cold Climate

The role of the Arts in many cities has become a ‘hot potato’ with many local authorities, such as Newcastle and Westminster, abandoning their commitment to funding, whilst others, such as Bristol, have retained and embedded ACHL at the heart of economic and social strategy.  Consequently, cultural offers are becoming increasingly disparate and dependant upon prevailing local conditions, a trend that is set to magnify as austerity continues to bite.

What are the short- and long-term impacts of scaling back or abandoning support for ACHL?  How can we convince public sector leaders and politicians to continue support and investment in ACHL?  What delivery models can best contribute to these investment cases?  Can the arts play a distinctive role in ‘cold spot’ animation, triggering community activation and entrepreneurship?

Arts Council England

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in cultural experiences that enrich people's lives.   We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries, and believes great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us.

How the public might engage

The seminars are taking place in the next few months and are invite only. Papers, blogs and video recording of the seminars will be made available through the RSA and Arts Council England websites.



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