A teenager at work in the Wellcome Collection's youth studio

Audiences for publicly-funded culture lack diversity

Gareth Harris, 23.02.2015
Warwick Commission report calls for publicly-funded organisations to deliver social value
A recent report published by the University of Warwick on the role and future of the culture and creative industries in the UK found that publicly-funded culture and heritage organisations are accessed by “an unnecessarily narrow social, economic, ethnic and educated demographic” and must attract more diverse audiences.

The Warwick Commission, the organisation behind the report, was launched in November 2013. Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, and Peter Bazalgette, the chairman of Arts Council England (ACE), were amongst the 16 contributors from the arts sector to the Future of Cultural Value document.

The report put forward five goals aimed at boosting the development of the creative and culture industries which are described as a “mainspring” of the UK economy.

These included the creation of a new, cross-party plan to support the creative industries; promoting greater diversity; broadening the education curriculum to ensure that creative subjects are not squeezed out; exploiting the opportunities offered by digital media; and addressing the imbalance in cultural provision in regions across Britain.

Measures such as the introduction of free entry to national museums have failed to make Britain’s flagship museums more inclusive, the report said. “The higher social groups accounted for 87% of all museum visits, the lower social groups for only 13%,” the report said, citing a 2013 study by the independent cultural consultant Sara Selwood.

The report recommended that cultural organisations in receipt of public funding, including those supported by ACE, should provide “a triple bottom line account” of their economic viability, creative quality and their delivery of social value.

Crucially, an arts or media subject must be included in the English Baccalaureate, said the report, which stated that the number of arts teachers in schools has fallen by 10% since 2010. The government, and the cultural and creative industries, must adopt a coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to “a rich cultural education”, said the commission chair, Vikki Heywood.

There needs to be joined-up policy making to maximise investment and ideas, the document stated, with the proposal that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Department for Education, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills produce a national plan for the culture and heritage sector.

The report warned further reductions in state funding would create a “downward spiral in which fewer creative risks are taken, resulting in less talent development, declining returns and therefore further cuts in investment”.

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