A new blueprint for culture?

18 May 2016

News & Campaigns

I have been a member of the What Next? Young Vic group for a couple of years now and co-coordinator of What Next? Southwark since 2013. I find the discussions in both fora exciting and thought provoking, sometimes the thoughts that are provoked aren’t necessarily relevant to the job in hand and I know I have notebooks full of them – unacted upon.

Following the launch of the Culture Minister’s white paper in March I was struck by how much was left out, and also that the ideas and enthusiasm had somehow been squashed out of the final product, by the process, by the nature of ‘consultation’ rather than discussion and iteration and probably by other factors.

So I thought it would be great to create a completely different blueprint for culture in the UK using all that passion and enthusiasm I see in What Next? meetings and that I know exists with the arts community. So I have set up a project to create a ‘Counter Culture White Paper’ partly in response to the recent DCMS White Paper but also as a way of bringing together all the thinking and the ideas – and I’d like you to help me.

If we want an arts policy that really reaches out to community, to regions and grassroots, that really tackles issues of diversity and access then we cannot rely on Government to provide it – even a Government committed to such a thing (still waiting) would not have the means to produce it being advised and surrounded and drawing upon a history that is largely based in the experience of large and long-standing organisations. Therefore we as individuals must do this work. Whether you are an academic, a radical thinker, an activist, a worker in an arts or cultural organisation, an artist, a practitioner or a member of the public who is passionate about the arts then I’d like you to help me create a new blue-print for arts and culture in the UK.

I’d like this to be a group of individuals representing only themselves, rather than the organisations they work for, although clearly there will be relevance in the experiences of those organisations and case studies drawn from their work. I feel that every time an idea gets filtered through an organisational process it gathers ‘organisational’ thinking which means it drags with it the invisible structures of power and hierarchy no matter the worthiness and good intentions of the organisation.

I have set up a project on the Freedcamp project/campaign platform to allow people in groups to have online discussions, upload documents etc. In the project I have set up a separate discussion thread for each of the four areas as a starting point but I am keen that people should also come with their own ideas, come up challenges, aims/headings and to talk freely about how you would like to see the arts funded, how you would like to see them valued/validated/evaluated (if at all), whether you agree that arts can be used for political ends (eg soft power referenced at no. 3) and how you think we can genuinely make arts and culture for everyone and tackle issues of diversity and genuine access and participation – in the sense of sharing rather than instrumental provision of opportunities to take part. I hope that by having a collaborative discussions format, rather than a consultation format we might build consensus around ideas and solutions.

I’m aware that there have been a number of consultations recently and that organisations may be preparing formal responses to the White Paper. None of that work is wasted and if you think that your response is relevant to this project, then please do share it, but also put in all those great ideas you took out because they weren’t relevant to the consultation or to your organisation – because they will be relevant here!

If you would like more information or to sign up to take part in this project please email me at thetalentshop@hotmail.co.uk so that I can send you an invite to join the project platform on Freedcamp.

For reference the full Government paper can be found here