Ten policy principles for the future of the arts and heritage – Sept 23

29 September 2023

News & Campaigns

What Next? Ten policy principles for the future of the arts and heritage Sept 23

This paper has been drafted by Elizabeth Crump, Co-Director and UK Strategic Lead of What Next? and is based on consultation and conversation with the sector and with the What Next? Leadership Group.


  • The arts and culture are a part of the fabric of our national life, and therefore have a place in, and relationship to, the development and delivery of a wide-range of different policy areas: from education and skills to climate justice. They have economic and social value, and are important in their own right.
  • This is a particularly difficult moment for both freelancers (which can make-up up to 70% of our workforce), and for organisations: with ongoing recovery from COVID-19, cost of living, energy costs, long-term underfunding (including significant reduction from local authorities over the last decade), and a crumbling infrastructure: all contributing to a very challenging landscape.

We are asking all parties:

  • To commit to ensuring that the arts, culture and creative industries will have a meaningful place at the table when creating policy and strategy for education and skills, local government and place-making, soft power, international trade, technology, the future of work, and climate justice.
  • That governments and political parties work in partnership with the sector, creating ways of governing based on listening and collaboration – particularly with those whose voices are not traditionally heard in this process.

To develop a policy agenda for the future that is built on the following principles:

  1. Decisions on arts funding to be taken at arms-length and be removed from centralpolitical ideology.
  2. To work with the arts and cultural sector, with local authorities and with funders and partners, to think through a sustainable, effective funding ecology in the future; one which enables the full social, artistic, and economic potential of the sector to be realised. This will need to explore a new deal for the arts which enables hyper-local investment.
  3. To commit to finding effective, practical solutions which enable the culture and creative industries to work, partner and engage across Europe and internationally, and to develop trade and a strong soft-power strategy.
  4. To recognise that all children and young people have a right to high-quality arts and culture in their lives, that reflects their lived-experience and their heritage, and to commit to putting strategies in place to ensure this.
  5. To recognise the part that the arts and culture can play in highlighting the climate crisis and working towards mitigations and climate justice. This will include a sustainable strategy for our capital infrastructure.
  6. To recognise the central role of freelancers in the creative and cultural ecology, and to commit to working across government to ensure fair and sustainable pay, safe working conditions, and pensions for this workforce.
  7. To commit to ensuring that the principles enshrined within the Equalities Act are effectively enacted within the systems and operation of the creative and cultural industries, and to work to ensure that leadership, workforce, participants, and audiences reflect the lived-experience and heritage of the entire country.
  8. Develop a comprehensive industrial strategy for the cultural and creative industries to support their role in international trade and accelerate their already important contribution to the UK economy. This should include a particular recognition of both the challenges and opportunities of the place of Artificial Intelligence within our sector.
  9. Recognise the importance of art and culture to all of the UK’s communities, towns, regions, and nations, in addition to the existing centres of excellence in our major cities.
  10. To commit to working across other key departments in government, from the DWP, DSIT, DESNZ and MHCLG, to the DfE, DoH and the Foreign and Commonwealth office to progressed joined up thinking, policy and delivery for the arts, culture and creative industries in the UK.


About What Next?

What Next? is a UK wide free-to-access movement that brings together both freelancers, and small and large organisations. We bring people together to debate and shape the future of the arts and culture.

Our vision is for arts and culture to play a vital role in creating an equitable society.

We believe this will be achieved when:

  • Our sector works together to take ownership of the civic role of arts & culture
  • Sector leadership reflects the full diversity of our communities
  • Everyone is able to access the full benefits of arts & culture