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AHRC to set up £2.5m Centre for Cultural Value

Alex Stevens, 15.08.18
Centre aims to explore the societal benefits of arts and culture
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is to establish a national Centre for Cultural Value, which will bring together research and activities “to advance understanding of the value of arts and culture in the UK and abroad, to present how this value is being captured and to encourage organisations to act on that knowledge”.

An open call for institutions to help set up the centre is due to go out on 30 September. When the idea was first suggested in a 2016 AHRC report, Understanding the Value of Arts and Culture, it was expected that the centre “would be located in a university”, but further details will be released when the call goes out.

The project will be funded with a five-year, £2.5m investment by the AHRC, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England (ACE). 

The announcement is accompanied by a five-chapter report, the Cultural Value Scoping Project, which sets out the history of research into cultural value in the UK, US and Europe, the character of academic and public discourse around the issue, and what might be required for such a centre to “work to a long-term agenda, while at the same time being useful and relevant”.

After consultations with more than 100 professionals from the arts, culture, funding, academia, voluntary and policy sectors, the scoping report identifies three likely challenges for the proposed centre: cultural value and social justice; innovation, risk-taking and the creative economy; and “bringing the micro (individual-level outputs) and the macro (society-level outputs) together”. 

The report identifies two broad functions for the centre: as custodian and communicator, “drawing attention to key findings and contextualising them”; and as broker and facilitator, aiming to build “cross-sector communities of understanding and practice around shared problems and concerns”. 

Jane Steele, the director of evidence and learning at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said of the initiative: “The collaborative approach is a key feature of the proposed centre. It will help to foster networks, communities of interest and greater mutual understanding between people working in different sectors, art forms and academic disciplines. 

“It will develop a programme of events and conversations, encouraging, for example, arts and cultural practitioners to work with academic and non-academic researchers and evaluators to use evidence in their practice and to develop new approaches to evaluation and organisational learning.”

Darren Henley, the chief executive of ACE, said: “Establishing a Centre for Cultural Value offers a new opportunity to increase our understanding of the contribution of arts and culture on life in the UK. The centre will help us to examine the impact of artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries on individuals, communities and society as a whole.”

Full details of the call for the Centre for Cultural Value will be published on the AHRC website in September. The deadline for applications is expected to be in November.

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