‘Culture for All’?

Well, there’s no doubt that Sajid Javid has made an enthusiastic start as Culture Secretary. It’s so refreshing to have a Culture Secretary who is actually enthusiastic about it, and is engaging with the sector both through visibly supporting events and now delivering an eye- catching keynote speech ‘Culture For All’ last week in Bristol.

Here’s the Bristol speech in full

Mr Javid made some good, well-informed points. I’m sure the location (outside London) was a deliberate choice but was well-planned due to his Bristol experience growing up, and being able to genuinely talk with some local knowledge.

To pick up a couple of points. “In 2014, too many Britons are culturally disenfranchised. This isn’t a problem that will be solved simply by throwing money at it. You need to use your imaginations, explore fresh ways of looking at old issues. You already do this every day to create new works, so why not apply the same thinking to capturing new audiences and nurturing new talents?” – my experience is that most arts organisations are already doing this. And the suggestion that at the moment ‘money is being thrown’ at arts organisations seems way off the mark. Most I know have been cut so far they are unable to properly meet their potential and therefore cannot reach more ‘disenfranchised Britons’.

Also “Attract enough small donors and it all adds up over time. The National Trust has been doing so for years. Each of its members contributes a relatively small amount to supporting our heritage, but together they generate tens of millions of pounds.” Yes, but this is a vast organisation with a large staff, huge resources and a considerable marketing budget. This model is simply not replicable with small organisations, especially those community-based organisations who don’t work on high-profile ‘sexy’ projects/activities but do reach out to those ‘disenfranchised Britons’.

Let’s see what happens on 1 July when the ACE funding decisions for 2015-18 are announced. How many organisations will themselves become ‘disenfranchised’?…