Anderson: we need to talk about geographical inequity

Geraldine Kendall, 12.11.2013
MA president calls for debate about funding model
The Museums Association’s (MA) president David Anderson has used his first presidential address to call for a debate about the geographical inequity of current funding models.

Speaking at the MA conference in Liverpool yesterday, Anderson outlined the gulf between public and private funding for culture in London and the rest of the UK.

He cited research including the recent Rebalancing our Cultural Capital report, which showed that cultural organisations in London receive £49.05 of per capita of government funding compared to £1.06 in the rest of England, and attract 82% of all private giving.

Anderson criticised the UK’s centralised funding system, saying: “There is a lack of debate on the geographical funding models that we have… wealth attracts wealth, poverty begets poverty. This is a geographical inequity that we should be talking about.”

If the current trend continued, he said, "We are going to end up very probably with a large focus on a few metropolitan areas and a tiny distribution of resource elsewhere."

Anderson said museums should be clear about their wider social purpose and recognise the “ethical responsibility” they had to challenge inequality.

He called on funding bodies to “recognise the inequity and help us change it”.

Anderson also used his speech to highlight evidence of the huge impact that culture has on wellbeing and educational attainment.

Debunking the “myth” that there was a lack of evidence to support this, he cited an Arts Council Wales survey of teachers showing that participation in the arts improved learner engagement, developed emotional wellbeing and developed interpersonal skills in nearly 100% of children.

He said: “If we only listen to what others have to say, if we only respect their testimony, the evidence is there all around us. We must accept how significant our role can be… We must be stronger and clearer in defining our role to the public.”

Anderson said the museum sector had a vital part to play in providing an “alternative curriculum” for schools at a time when the arts and humanities are being demoted in education, particularly in England.

“It’s part of our job to make the voices of hope accessible,” he said.

Anderson ended his speech with a call for museum professionals to see their role as a vocation and take on a personal responsibility for the public impact of their work.

He said: "We have to develop the best possible case that our institutions can survive for the public good. I think that is our great challenge.”

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