Comparisons on vitality of the arts in the UK: useful, interesting and already out of date

England is the most consistent nation..- in Scotland there is a dramatic and steady deterioration..- For Wales the picture is more erratic … and -Northern Ireland’s Index scores are also erratic

Politics? Football? Weather?  January 1800, 1900 or 2000? No, this time the judgement from London is about the Vitality of the Arts in the nations and regions and its in December 2011.

The words are from  the UK National Campaign for the Arts in its Arts Index which it has now made available after a period where only its members could view.

Few people in Scotland will have had sight of the full report before now, as the National Campaign is largely associated with Westminster and England for most of us in Scotland, what with culture being a devolved responsibility and the  Scottish Culture Counts campaign delighted that the Scottish Government has listened to its requests and responded with a new national indicator for Scotland, to increase cultural engagement.

And so it is with dismay that we see that the first digest by Sam West as NCA shares its intelligence with the rest of us, headlines just how poorly Scotland is performing in comparison with England. Or was.  Although the Index speaks in the present tense, it covers the three years ending in March 2010, before the austerity budgets and cuts in English arts funding and a time when Arts Council England was propping up the sector with major lottery investment.  The same period in Scotland saw the hiatus in arts funding associated with the last days of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen and with no arts lottery funding. And ,as the report states, some of the variances relate to the different ways that different nations describe allocation in funding.

The UK Arts Index uses twenty consistent numerical indicators including subsidy, earned income, financial reserves and attendances against a base index for the UK and against which annual, national and regional variances can be measured. It is a good resource and to be welcomed although of course it can’t, and doesn’t claim to, be the only set of measures by which we value the arts.. This version is playing catch up with its three year review with a promise now to produce annual figures. The 2010/11 figures are bound to look different, after the major ACE cuts in England and taking into account the new confidence in Scotland. Lets hope that colleagues in London can’t cry that the vitality of Scotland’s arts are deteriorating again.


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