I have set up a small 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 that has been happening in various groups and fora that I belong to about how to make arts and culture ‘work’. This blog constitutes an invitation to collaborate on this.
I was inspired by a session at the recent How To Do It conference on the Greater London Council of 81-85 that saw a radical new approach to arts and culture policy that supported grassroots and community project and prioritised funding to existing (and new projects) that came from under-represented groups (ethnic minorities, women, elderly, LGBT etc). I was also recently at the launch of the Culture Minister’s Culture White Paper and whilst there is little in that document to offend it certainly isn’t a blue print for a Progressive Arts Policy. If we want that 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 response to Ed Vaizey’s paper. I aim to follow his main headings and to provide an alternative response. The idea is not to pick apart or directly refute his suggestions but to work out alternative or additional solutions to the areas he has identified. We will also add in the things that were left out: arts education, the BBC, health and wellbeing, art and culture as a vector for social change, etc, etc.
The main headings are:
1. Everyone should enjoy the opportunities culture offers no matter where they start
2. The riches of our culture should benefit communities across the country
3. The power of culture can increase our international standing
4. Cultural investment, resilience and reform.
For reference the full Government paper can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509942/DCMS_The_Culture_White_Paper__1_.pdf
I have set up a project on this platform to allow people in groups to have online discussions, upload documents etc. In the notifications area you can uncheck yourself from particular discussions, or all discussions and just receive a daily update in a single email.
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.
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 the Culture Select Committee is also consulting at the moment and it may be that work that is done as formal submission to that, or formal responses to the DCMS White Paper might be starting points, or simply submissions towards this project as well. Whilst I’m keen to have individual voices and ideas in the discussions clearly where work and thought has already gone into these topics it would be crazy to ignore that or pretend it isn’t helpful!
If you would like to take part in this project please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can send you an invite to join the project platform on Freedcamp.