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Policy Advocacy

The following initiatives focus on cultural policy and advocacy in the UK:

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The Cultural Institute at King's College London
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The Cultural Learning Alliance
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Devoted and Disgruntled
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In Battalions
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The League of Culture
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National Campaign for the Arts
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What Next?
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What Next? Generation

The Cultural Institute at King's College London

The Cultural Institute at King's College London is directed by Commissioner Deborah Bull. From their website:

The first Cultural Enquiry emerging from the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, supported by Legacy Trust UK, calls for the creation of a consortium body to lead, direct and deliver the legacy. Drawing representatives from stakeholders across art, sport, government and universities, the consortium would access a network of people with skills and first-hand experience in the delivery of arts and cultural programmes in the context of major event.

The Enquiry included engagement with over 70 leaders across arts and culture, sport, national and local government, business and funding bodies. It also included a research element as, in preparation for the report, an independent survey of 2000 UK adults was carried out by Legacy Trust UK in order to understand the public’s views on sports and culture events.

It has resulted in the publication of a report, entitled ‘Beyond Performance: A cultural enquiry into major events and culture’, with ‘recommendations on how the expertise developed over seven years of planning what was widely regarded as the most successful Cultural Olympiad of modern times might most effectively be harnessed and made available as a resource for the nation’.


Cultural Learning Alliance

The Cultural Learning Alliance is a collective advocacy group that promotes access to culture for young people, particularly when faced with budgetary restraints. According to their website:

The CLA aims to use our collective skills and voice to

  • Develop and advocate for a coherent national strategy for cultural learning
  • Unite the education, youth and cultural sectors
  • Showcase excellent projects and practice
  • Demonstrate why cultural learning is so important

The CLA achieves this by promoting and facilitating collaboration between the arts sector directly (including museums, film, libraries, heritage, dance, literature, new media arts, theatre, visual arts and music) and young people, schools, youth groups and parents. They also produce research and evidence that supports advocacy for the arts.


Devoted and Disgruntled

The theatre community is especially active on the policy advocacy front, and another recent initiative comes from Devoted & Disgruntled, a group that aims to create a national conversation about theatre using open space tools. The group has published a short report of the discussions that member are having about effective advocacy the 24th January 2014 entitled '"Living By Bread Alone?" - How Can We Lobby Politicians More Effectively About Arts Funding?'.


In Battalions

In Battalions is a report that playwright Fin Kennedy wrote in early 2013 (website here) to chart the effects of Arts Council cuts on English theatres' capacity to develop new theatre and work with new playwrights. To do this, Kennedy has conducted a survey involving 70 theatres, which provided information on how they had to adjust (and in many cases reduce) their level of activities in the areas of R&D for new writing as a result of the cuts. In his report, Kennedy is open about the fact that his research is not ‘scientific’ (in the sense of living up to academic standards) and was carried out through the goodwill of himself, a collaborator and his respondents who also contributed personal testimonies.

This is how Kennedy explains the motivation for the study and the report:

The project was born out of a conversation I had with Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, in which he said to me that he thought that Arts Council cuts made since April 2012 were having 'no effect'. I knew this to be untrue, but there was very little evidence available to make my point - so I set out to find some.

This is further info on the empirical research he conducted:

The companies taking part ranged in scale from tiny companies touring village halls in Yorkshire, to large established city playhouses, and ranged in geographical location from Merseyside to London to Cornwall. All in all I spoke to 33 artistic directors, 14 playwrights, 2 literary managers, 2 writer development agencies, 1 development director, 1 producer and 1 play publisher.

The data and testimonies gathered show funding cuts seriously affecting both new writing production and new writer development opportunities, with regional theatres, small scale touring and young people's theatre particularly badly affected.

The publication of the report was widely publicized by the media, and has prompted a response from Ed Vaizey. Details of the campaign, the media coverage it received, Vaizey’s response and the ensuing debate are all recorded on Fin Kennedy’s website.

The In Battalions Delphi study is a follow-up to the original In Battalions report, and was launched on the 29th of January at the House of Commons. The event was sponsored by Kerry McCarthy MP, chair of the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group, which is supported by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, Equity and the Musicians’ Union. Speakers included playwright and former President of the Writers’ Guild David Edgar.


The League of Culture

This is a recent advocacy initiative, which was launched in late January 2014. Its mission, according to its website, is as follows:

The League of Culture is a UK wide advocacy body for the culture sector.
We have two aims:

  1. to connect grassroots campaigners with decision makers in cultural policy
  2. to explore ways in which creative activities can be used to aid a non-creative issue

The League is led by Vicky Prior, who worked a research officer at cultural consultancy International Intelligence on Culture and was the chair of the Young Fabians Creative Industries Network in 2013. The initiative confirms that there is a growing level of interest and activism in this area.


National Campaign for the Arts

The National Campaign for the Arts is a collective advocacy group that has been supports the arts in the UK since 1985. It aims to lobby the government on the arts in order to bring about a fair understanding and support of the arts. The NCA works with and for of every art form (unlike any other lobbying organisation). It is a non-profit, membership organisation.

The NCA run the 'UK Arts Index Project' which produces an annual report on funding to organisations, based on surveys. The aims of the project are to produce open and fair data that allows for informed policy decisions, as per their website:

The NCA publishes the Arts Index as a health check of the arts in the UK. Of course, art can never simply be reduced to a set of figures; assessing the health of any organism is a complex business. But policy-makers need to know what's happening. They need independent and objective information. The NCA's hope is that the Arts Index provides it.

The most recent index is available via the Guardian Cultural Professionals website, and their website has some further analysis and information on the findings.


What Next?

From their website:

What Next? is a movement bringing together arts and cultural organisations from across the UK, to articulate and strengthen the role of culture in our society. We want to engage the public in new and different conversations about how and why the arts are important, and become a catalyst for fresh thinking and new policy ideas.

Following a successful national conference, a number of local What Next? groups have been formed across the country (a list of current regional groups is here).

A number of initiatives to raise awareness among the public and elected politicians of the benefits that a small investment in arts and culture generate have been promoted by the group. More recently, the group is focus on tacking imbalances in funding distribution between London and the region, as this has emerged as a key policy issue.

Regional groups also launch their own strategies and activities (for instance, the West Midlands chapter is currently looking to resource a 24 hour cultural life survey of the public in the West Midlands as a way to bring to light less visible forms of cultural engagement and consumption.


What Next? Generation

“What Next? Generation are a group of people who are still in the early to mid-stage of their career. We concern ourselves with the need to take responsibility to secure the future of our industry. We aim to do this while supporting the next generation of artists, creative professionals and consumers by encouraging awareness of the impact culture has in the UK, by ensuring there are opportunities to engage with culture and by becoming the change we want to see in the professional sphere. Many of us are mentors to students, many of us campaign for the arts and we all discuss the importance of culture with our friends, colleagues and peers.

A sub-group of the What Next? initiative listed above, What Next? Generation is concerned with the future of culture in the UK. Made up of early to mid-career artists, the group addresses the need to take responsibility now to secure the future of our cultural landscape.

Building on What Next?'s engagment with policy makers, What Next? Generation has met with David Clark, Deputy Chief Executive of the British Youth Council, to address ways in which we can better involve young people with the debates around the arts. They are also actively pursuing other such organisations to continue this discussion.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can read articles written by their members in ArtsProfessional and Theatre Bubble or follow the group on Twitter: @WhatNextGen.