What is What Next?

(top) Bourgeois & Maurice – Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2014. Photo: Chris Taylor. (bottom) City Textures, Abby McFaul and Stef Kalife, 2015. Photo: Gorm Ashurst

What Next? is a free-to-access movement that brings together small and large organisations and freelancers to debate and shape arts & culture in the UK.

Our Vision:

We want to see a situation in the UK in which arts & culture are playing a vital contribution to creating an equitable society, improving quality of life for all.

This will be achieved when our sector:

  1. Works together to take ownership of the civic role of arts & culture
  2. When sector leadership reflects the full diversity of our communities
  3. When everyone is able to access the full benefits of arts & culture.

Our Mission: 

Through regional What Next? Chapters and regular UK wide meetings, we convene a space to bring together the breadth of leadership within the arts and culture sector, where challenge and possibility can lead to shared priorities and collective responses.

We advocate and create conditions for ‘systems leadership’: an understanding of leadership that values the potential of a wide range of actors working together to achieve more than we can do alone or in silos.

We bring the arts & culture sector together as a ‘system’ by:

  • Bringing freelancers together with leaders of small & large organisations, to strengthen links across the arts & culture
  • Operating throughout the UK, helping to connect up local & UK-wide agendas & initiatives
  • Being free to access, with no membership fees or complex or exclusive recruitment processes 
  • Being voluntary in nature, providing opportunities for people to exercise their own agency

Our Shared Values: 

Our movement is guided by the following values which form a touchstone for our work:

  • Democracy: creating models for open & purposeful conversation
  • Equity: creating conditions for an equitable movement & society
  • Leadership: building the conditions for everyone in our movement to make change
  • Creativity: embedding & celebrating creativity across our movement
  • Generosity: sharing our skills, expertise & resources with each other
  • Trust: building relationships & a more resilient sector

Everyone is encouraged to get involved with What Next? by joining your local chapter, setting up a new chapter or following the movement on social media.

  • Art is as complex as we are. It is hard for any one of us, artist or not, to understand who we are and what we genuinely do and art, which comes out of this creative chaos, reflects our situation and helps us recognise its variations, how we connect and disconnect with other people, places and ideas.
    Siobhan davies, artist and choreographer


The arts and culture enhance every aspect of our lives: the vibrancy of our cities, the identity of our rural communities, the future prospects of our children, the quality of our democracy, the sustainability of our environment, the employability of our workforce, our ability to make sense of our own experience and to empathise with others.

We need to make these connections through new kinds of convening, advocacy and of collaboration.

We argue for the contribution that the arts and culture make in strengthening every aspect of the national economy, as we do for the contribution to our social wellbeing and cohesion.

We all speak for ourselves but as a national movement, we believe that if we act together, we can maximise the effectiveness of our resources, our arguments, our ideas.

Turning a Little Further community production. Photo: Helen Murray