This week gone by has been another big week for talking about the arts and where we are headed. I was unable to attend the RSA/Arts Council event on their proposal for a Cultural Contract. I did however watch the livestream (later) and follow the debate on twitter. I missed out on the table discussions but have provided my own artist/artistic response here, at the bottom of the page. It is a personal and visceral response and clearly more thought needs to be given to this. Also, one might question if it is even possible for a group of people to make a contract on behalf of the millions of people involved in the arts and culture sector as both individuals and organisations. From watching the event it seems others also had concerns – more work for us all to do!
Here’s the page on the RSA website with the info and hopefully they’ll post the video of the live stream here soon)
Yesterday I was proud to be part of the South East Region TUC conference on the future of arts and culture in the UK. In my role as a steering group member of the Artists’ Assembly Against Austerity I was part of the committee organising the conference and also facilitated the session on Public Ownership, Privatisation and Gentrification. There were so many good ideas and good thoughts going on I cannot capture them all here – hopefully I will be able to post here later a link to the report on proceedings. In our group one of the overriding things that came out was the need for us all to support each other, across the sector and across issues – artists can help with those campaigning for homes – union members can strike for the rights of the public in maintaining ownership of what is currently, but may not always be, ours – as well as for their own rights as workers. We all as individuals can do more than we think – just by giving our support and continuing to ask difficult questions of those ‘in charge’!
One thing that came out of both the plenary and our own session was a question around arts policy itself. Eleanora Bellfiore, who is an academic at Warwick University and has been part of the Warwick Commission, warned against complacency in the value of arts and culture. Our work is still mostly only consumed by the top 10% of society. No matter how hard we work, how many goals we set – we are not making art for all – not yet. We use the small success stories in this field – people like Immediate Theatre – working on estates in Hackney – to bolster the argument for larger institutions who are having much less impact. We have failed to create a progressive arts policy that achieves arts for all. In asking my workshop for suggestions of actions and pledges to take back to the final session of the conference someone suggested ‘create a progressive arts policy’. I presented this to the conference – because unless we, the people who are working as artists, as activists, at the grassroots level start working on this arts policy, it will never be the thing we want it to be. If arts policy continues to be driven and created by those who already benefit from the arts policy that exists, things will never change enough to make it work. I made a plea that all involved should start thinking, talking, writing and blogging about what a Progressive Arts Policy – an arts for all policy – would look like. How would we achieve it – what elements should it have? What are the questions we need ask and to answer to get to that policy? What are the aims and definitions we need to agree to make it happen? If you are reading this – then you are the person who can do this work.
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