Culture and poverty report launched - Museums Association

Culture and poverty report launched

Wales report on how arts can promote social justice recommends creating a social inclusion board and making museums more community friendly. By Patrick Steel
Patrick Steel
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A report commissioned by the Welsh government looking at how social justice can be promoted through arts, culture and heritage has recommended the establishment of a cultural and social inclusion board to connect cultural policy across government and inform thinking across the sector.

Among the other recommendations made by Culture and Poverty, by Kay Andrews, are establishing a government group to identify ways to get people from disadvantaged areas to cultural sites; making museums more community and child friendly; exploring co-location with other community services to transform museums into community hubs; reinforcing cultural activity inside and outside the classroom; and developing consistent key performance indicators for the sector.

Incentives

The report also recommends a learning network for cultural organisations to share knowledge and good practice, and an information network for funders to identify shared strategic priorities and incentivise joint working through conditional funding.

The Museums Association submission to the report suggested that to “stimulate action in this area, the government would need a defined stream of funding”.

It won’t be clear if there is any additional funding until the Welsh government publishes its response in July, but a government spokesman says “closer collaboration, pooling of expertise and resources, and aligning existing funding schemes” will achieve many of the report’s recommendations.

Gavin Evans, curator of Carmarthenshire County Museum, says funding is key in an atmosphere of “big cutbacks and loss of staff”.

Different priorities

Evans believes it is important that the cultural and social inclusion board includes local authority representation because “priorities for local authority museums and the national museum are very different”, which often makes partnership work tricky.

This tallies with one of the report’s criticisms that many Cardiff-based national bodies focus their outreach work in limited locations and left swathes of the country untouched. The report also notes that there is little alignment by these bodies in co-delivery of programmes in the same location.

Rachael Rogers, president of the Welsh Museums Federation, welcomes the report but says a survey of federation committee members had found there was not as much partnership working with national bodies and local museums as there could be.

David Anderson, director of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (NMW), says the organisation has several structured partnerships across Wales, but he recognises that some areas receive more attention than others. 

NMW’s own report, Cultural Participation for Children and Young People Experiencing Poverty, will be launched this month.

Common goals

The two reports share several recommendations around joining-up thinking and strengthening the evidence of work carried out by the sector by supporting in-depth collaborative research – something that the Welsh Museums Federation has also flagged up as a priority.

All eyes will be on the Welsh government’s response in July and, beyond that, the new museum strategy from Cymal: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales.

The strategy is being developed for implementation from 2016, with a focus on how culture can help narrow the poverty gap in Wales.


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