Thursday, June 08, 2017

Cultural development post election - the promises and who decides who gets what

The Art Newspaper seems to think that the outcome of the UK election could trigger a cultural bonanza based on the notion that
Both the major political parties make big promises about new money for the arts
When I started reading the article it occurred to me maybe there was another perspective based on timelines that it may have missed and the sort of lobbying that goes on behind the scenes in terms of what gets into any political party's manifesto.

First here are the promises - it's worth making a record of what they aim to do. I've abbreviated and bullet pointed where appropriate.

Then I reflect on how it might all work - and who might decide who gets what.

If there is a Conservative Government

This is what the Conservative Manifesto says - albeit I had to find most of this by plugging in words to the find command while viewing the pdf file. It's not very accessible!

Prosperous towns and cities across Britain - page

Our towns and cities excel when they have vibrant cultural life. Britain’s arts and culture are world-beating and are at the heart of the regeneration of much of modern Britain. 

We will 
  • continue our strong support for the arts, and ensure more of that support is based outside London.
  • maintain free entry to the permanent collections of our major national museums and galleries. 
  • introduce a new cultural development fund to use cultural investment to turn around communities. 
  • hold a Great Exhibition of the North in 2018, to celebrate amazing achievements in innovation, the arts and engineering. 
  • support a UK city in making a bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. 
  • in this 70th Anniversary Year of the Edinburgh Festival we will support the development of the new Edinburgh Concert Hall, reaffirming Edinburgh as the UK’s leading festival city and a cultural beacon around the globe.

A Knowledge Rich Curriculum - page 50-51

We will 
  • ensure all children have access to an academic, knowledge-rich curriculum. 
  • introduce a curriculum fund to encourage Britain’s leading cultural and scientific institutions, like the British Museum and others to help develop knowledge-rich materials for our schools, 

Shared institutions of Union - page 34-45

For too long, power in Britain has been centred in London. This means opportunity has centred in London too. It is time major cities around Britain shared in the government of the United Kingdom. 

We will 
  • proceed on the same basis with the arts and cultural organisations that give our United Kingdom such strength. 
  • Channel 4 will remain publicly owned and will be relocated out of London
  • work with the nation’s most eminent museums and galleries to ensure their works and expertise are shared across the country

If there is a Labour Government

Labour have a LOT more to say about Culture and the arts

They have a section of their Manifesto (available as a pdf file on its own - which is nice!) which is about A Creative Future for All and Item 1 is about Building Britain's Cultural Capital.

It says an awful lot and a lot of it is good. On the other hand, some respected experts have characterised the manifesto generally as a wishlist while others (eg the IFS) have cast serious doubts on how deliverable the funding is.

Building Britain's Cultural Capital - page 6-7

Public investment in arts and culture enriches public life and generates a return for the public purse. Research from Arts Council England has shown that every pound of public money invested in Art Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations returns £5 in tax contributions to the treasury. 

Labour’s plans for infrastructure investment provide an unprecedented opportunity to regenerate our country’s galleries and museums, theatres and concert halls, arts centres and studios – and to build new ones where demand exists.
  • Labour will introduce a £1 billion Cultural Capital Fund (the fund) 
    • to upgrade our existing cultural and creative infrastructure to be ready for the digital age and 
    • invest in creative clusters across the country, based on a similar model to enterprise zones. 
    • The fund will be available over a five-year period and will be among the biggest arts infrastructure funds ever, transforming the country’s cultural landscape. 
  • We will maintain free museums and invest in our museums and heritage sector to 
    • ensure it can thrive and become more resilient. Funding cuts from the Tory government to the Arts Council and local authorities have created a very tough financial climate for museums. Museums and heritage sites are very important parts of local communities and we cannot afford to lose them. 
    • Labour will work to secure the sector going forward and make investment available as part of the fund, with particular focus on projects that could increase museums’ and galleries’ earned income by investing in things like shops, cafĂ© and private hire facilities.
  • (plus support for music)

Culture for the many not the few - page 

Labour will 
  • put access and inclusion at the heart of our arts policy. 
  • use the fund to build new museums, galleries and other cultural infrastructure in areas where the cultural offering is low and where there is local demand. 
  • recognise that a major barrier to people from working class backgrounds entering professions like acting is the culture of low and no pay. 
  • improve diversity on and off screen, working with the film industry and public service and commercial broadcasters to find rapid solutions to improve diversity. 
  • extend the rights of employees to all workers – including extending Shared Parental Pay and Shared Parental Leave to self-employed couples who are currently excluded from this right. 
  • exempt self–employed people from costly plans to introduce quarterly tax reporting. 
  • take steps to widen the reach of the Government Art Collection so that more people can enjoy it.
Somebody is going to have to explain to me how shared parental pay being extended as a right to the self-employed works!

Creativity at the heart of the Curriculum (Page 10)

Labour will 
  • introduce an arts pupil premium to every primary school in England, a £160m per year boost for schools, based on the PE pupil premium model, to invest in projects that will support cultural activities for schools over the longer-term. 
  • put creativity back at the heart of the curriculum, reviewing the EBacc performance measure and make sure arts are not sidelined from secondary education. 
  • launch a creative careers advice campaign in schools to demonstrate the range of careers and opportunities available and the skills required in the creative industries, from the tech sector to theatre production. 
  • use the fund to invest in arts facilities in our state schools to match the level found in many private schools.

The Creative Industries and Brexit - page 11 

Labour understands the serious concerns that the creative industries have about Brexit
  • the potential loss of EU funding streams, 
  • to the ability of artists to travel and perform, 
  • to the impact on intellectual property rights. 
As Britain leaves the EU Labour will 
  • put our world-class creative sector at the heart of our negotiations and future industrial strategy. 
  • get the right deal on issues like intellectual property, customs, access to investment, regulation, workforce and data protection to ensure our creative industries aren’t shackled by Brexit. 
  • make sure the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is represented on the Brexit cabinet committee

Note I'm not looking at any of the other manifestos because the reality is none of them are going to be running the next government - even if MPs might be influential at a local level.

But who will really be in charge?

What struck me as very interesting was the fact there was such a high profile for culture within each of the manifestos.

I don't remember either of them being quite so articulate before.

Sir Nicholas Serota
(credit: Arts Council Press)
However, when you factor into the equation that Sir Nicholas Serota CH took up the part-time role of Chairman of the Arts Council on 1 February 2017 and left the Tate after three decades in charge at the end of May it all began to make a bit more sense to me.

After all - who is going to be the arbiter of who gets what?

If both are going to introduce some sort of Cultural Development Fund I can only think of one organisation that's going to decide who gets the funds....

It struck me quite forcibly that Sir Nick may have been lobbying hard for the Arts Council playing a bigger and more important role in how the arts can contribute to the wellbeing of the economy and communities.

Plus a lot of the Labour Manifesto looks rather like the Tate Museum strategy writ large

His term of appointment is 1 February 2017 – 31 January 2021

Just a thought....

Mind you we need to await the outcome of the vote first! (I've voted - have you?)

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