Policy, funding and big shoes

Sharon Heal, 18.02.2015
Why we need to campaign to survive
It seems that you can only get ahead in politics these days if you can out-austere the others. No sooner does there appear to be potential respite from the cuts than there is a triumphant denial.

In January the Tories alleged that Labour would cancel arts cuts. Within minutes Labour was rebutting this “outrageous” statement and proudly tweeting: “Tory dossier says Labour will cancel cuts to the arts budget. We won’t.”

Not that much to be proud of in my view. Especially not at the same time that fabulous local museums are facing potentially disastrous cuts, closure and even demolition.

People who work in the cultural sector have often talked about a tipping point – when the cuts become so harmful that all the public benefit and genuine joy and social good that museums can provide is negated.

For example, last month, John Kampfner, the head of the Creative Industries Federation said: “We are at an incredibly dangerous moment. We are at a dangerous moment for public funding, a dangerous moment for creative education at schools and universities and we are at a potentially dangerous moment for our commercial companies because if we fail to think long term, if we fail to invest in our public spaces and cultural education, the talent pool that has projected us on to this level of the past 10 or 20 years will dry up.”

Of course we must talk about the good that the arts, and culture and museums can do.

The MA is actively campaigning and advocating on this: our Museums Change Lives campaign provides ample evidence of the impact that museums can have and we are regularly gathering evidence and case studies in this area of work.

But the other tipping point that has arrived is that of a realisation that it is necessary to campaign to survive. It’s no longer enough to just talk about the benefits of museums and what they can provide to society. We must also say what happens if you take them away and what we might lose if they don’t exist.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first arts minister Jennie Lee’s white paper for the arts. It unapologetically argued the case for government investment in culture and for equality of access to the arts for all.

A government minister that changed the face of arts policy and how we think about entitlement and access and funding: big shoes to fill – will anyone step up?


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William Brown
MA Member
Network Manager: West, Lincolnshire County Council
19.02.2015, 01:19
No, they won't.