Too many people are excluded from culture, says Javid - Museums Association

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Too many people are excluded from culture, says Javid

Tories and Labour put social inclusion on the agenda
England’s new culture secretary Sajid Javid has used his first keynote speech to call on cultural institutions to do more to engage with ethnic minorities and people from low income backgrounds. 

Speaking in Bristol last week, Javid said: “There are still far too many people in our country who are effectively excluded from what should be our shared cultural life… 

“A lot of people who are paying to support culture through their taxes and lottery tickets seem to think that consuming it is simply not for them.” 

Javid added that “huge hurdles” remained for working-class people looking to pursue a career in culture, and questioned whether the sector was making enough effort to reach out to ethnic minorities. 

“For a sector that receives so much public subsidy, that’s unacceptable,” he said. 

Javid urged cultural institutions to think more imaginatively about ways of “capturing new audiences and nurturing new talents”. 

The culture secretary also used the speech to reiterate his government’s commitment to encouraging greater philanthropy.

While he acknowledged the difficulty of raising funds at smaller, regional organisations, Javid said: “Remember that support doesn’t just have to come from billionaires or multinational corporations. Attract enough small donors and it all adds up over time.” 

With his predecessors sometimes criticised for being overly interfering, the minister assured the culture sector that “the job of government isn’t to tell people and organisations what to do. 

“It’s to create an environment in which they can thrive.” 

He added: “You don’t have to worry that I’m going to insist you focus solely on the bottom line.” 

Labour consults on young people and the arts  

Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman also focused on cultural exclusion this week as she launched a public consultation into arts policy and young people.  

In a speech at the Roundhouse in London, Harman said it was imperative for public policy to make the case that culture is for everyone. 

Describing how cultural engagement could increase social mobility and improve children’s performances in other school subjects, she said: “How, then, can we accept a situation where some get that opportunity and others do not? How can we tolerate cultural exclusion?” 

Harman criticised the current government’s policies, saying funding cuts and the downgrading of the arts in the curriculum were making culture more remote from young people from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds.

She said: “The danger is that, at the moment, there is a growing number of young people with no meaningful exposure to arts and culture."

Harman cited figures from the Museums Association’s cuts survey 2013 showing that a third of museums had seen a drop in school visits. 

She affirmed Labour’s support for public funding for the arts, saying it “could not be left to private philanthropy”. 

But she said there was a democratic imperative to widen access at publicly funded institutions in order to justify the state support they receive. 

She said: “To change audiences, there has to be committed, focused intervention."

In the consultation document, Labour proposes that museums and other cultural institutions should be obliged to produce annual progress reports on what they have done to attract young people from diverse backgrounds, and risk losing their public funding if they fail to act.


Labour's consultation on arts policy and young people


Edited to include more information from Labour's consultation document.

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