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Rainbow over Ushuaia, terra del fuego, Patagonia Argentina

 

For several years, the UK government was largely silent on its high level support for culture, while politicians in Scotland have been increasingly passionate, eloquent and publicly committed to the value of culture to Scotland.   In producing the Culture White Paper, David Cameron has, for the first time since Jennie Lee’s Policy for the Arts some 50 years ago, committed the UK government to some principles around culture. The Scottish Government has not yet committed to a high level statement of principles about the value of culture, despite consistent demand from the arts, heritage, screen and creative industries represented by Culture Counts, a group of 45 national, umbrella and membership bodies which represent the majority of professional and voluntary artists and cultural organisations in Scotland.

With the forthcoming elections for Holyrood, candidates speaking for culture might consider what sort of high level statement of principles for culture in Scotland we should have. This should start with the principle that cultural expression is an individual right and supports a better understanding of our own and others’ identities. A rights based approach is similar to some aspects of cultural policy in Nordic states and in keeping with the global movement in UNESCO towards recognising that culture is a human right critical for sustainable development. This reflects Scotland’s values more than the UK approach which is largely written from the perspective of the cultural and political establishment. And, in keeping with the governance of our small nation, the principles should enshrine culture across other policy areas.

The Cultural Value Project (CVP) has provided a comprehensive overview of the value of culture and pointed out where there is long term evidence of impact, for example, on the long term health benefits of cultural participation. A cultural statement of principles would support and encourage Scotland’s health bodies to embed cultural participation.

In the meantime , the UK Culture White Paper is the highest level policy statement we have and the PM’s support for equality of access to culture is welcomed, albeit seemingly as a consequence of his belief in public funding:

If you believe in publicly-funded arts and culture as I passionately do, then you must also believe in equality of access, attracting all, and welcoming all.

Rt Hon David Cameron MP

The White Paper lacks the  depth of principles contained in Jennie Lee’s paper, and is less of the comprehensive and high level policy document for culture which one might associate with a white paper. It focuses on institutions funded by government and on actions which will be taken by distinctive, and restricted parts of government and sets out a number of actions for reviews, reports and partnerships with other parts of the cultural establishment. Many of these are similar to actions governments have taken in the past as part of business as usual, for example, reviewing the Arts Council, working in partnership with the British Council, encouraging private investment, commissioning a report on ‘the key issues to be addressed to make the UK one of the world’s leading countries for digitised public collections’ content and so on.

The tone is rather grand..

it seeks to harness the nourishing effects of culture. It seeks to ignite the imaginations of young people, kindle ambition and opportunity and fuel the energy of communities.It seeks to spread the gifts of our arts, heritage and culture to more people, and communities across the country and abroad and free the creative genius that can make a better world for all.

And, while it obligates the general public …

Everyone should enjoy the opportunities culture offers, no matter where they start in life

..it does not obligate other parts of government, such as education, skills, health and wellbeing and social justice, where cultural participation has proven and sustained positive impacts on individuals and societies

Scotland’s statement of principles for culture should be broader, deeper and rights based. It should be underpinned by an outcome for culture . It should articulate the importance of culture as a public good, recognise the right to participate in culture and identify culture’s central role to an informed, engaged and healthy modern democracy, the glue that binds Scotland together.

Homecoming Scottish Cup Cheerleading Team 

“Everyone is part of the cheering section”: Andrew Dixon  

There has been a lot of cheering for the arts, culture and creative industries in Scotland this week.  First we had the Scottish Government’s Government Economic Strategy GES  which identifies creative industries as  one of the six growth sectors.  GES aims to create an environment in which the creative industries can deliver economic growth for Scotland, some through general changes which will only happen if Scotland has more fiscal and taxation powers and some which are specific investments already announced though Creative Scotland.  In the GES, Culture Minister  Fiona Hyslop champions the sector for its growth and influence.

Then yesterday, Andrew Dixon, the cheerful CEO of Creative Scotland  met the Education and Culture Committee and was full of good new stories about the creative sector in Scotland and the achievements of Creative Scotland in its first year:

  • the business model works
  • 87 per cent of its current clients are satisfied
  • the move to new offices at Waverley Gate has been transformational
  • savings of £2m and ongoing savings of £1.5m which so far has been reinvested in the arts, film and television
  • staff numbers down from a high of 155 combined Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen to 95 now
  • new funds have been levered from Paul Hamlyn, Baring and McKendrick

In response to a question prompted by  Culture Counts’ campaign for culture to be made an explicit outcome in the Scottish Government’s performance framework, Andrew Dixon stated that local authorities  are THE most important partner for Creative Scotland.

Indeed. Creative Scotland is a significant but small part of the creative pie and local authorities spend almost twice as much each year on culture.

While the Culture Minister and Creative Scotland are cheering loudly, COSLA, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities,  the representative voice of Scottish local government, is largely silent on the importance of the arts, culture and creative industries.  COSLA lost earlier battles with the Scottish Government: it advocated for cultural entitlements during the Cultural Commission; it asked for a seat on the board of Creative Scotland and was granted neither.   While COSLA is a full partner in the Scottish Creative Industries Partnership  SCIP,  it does not promote an overall vision for arts, culture and creative industries in local government.  The danger of  this lack of leadership regarding culture is that vital facilities and provision may not be sustained and supported as public monies shrink further, except in several leading  individual authorites where there is a clear vision, evidence and understanding of the benefits.    Local authorities’ support for culture is neither obligatory, not being a statutory requirement, nor is it required by the Scottish Government.  The current National Performance Framework  Scotland Performs contain National Outcomes and National Indicators.  None of these are about culture.  Participation in cultural activity is measured by its instrumental value to achieve other outcomes.

All of these outcomes point towards achievement of the Scottish Government’s single ‘Purpose’ . That  ‘Purpose’ is ‘to make Scotland a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.’ .  For the Scottish Government, achieving economic growth is the key to everything else and will, amongst other things

stimulate higher government revenues and a virtuous cycle of re-investment in Scotland’s public services. and..  bring a culture of confidence, creativity and personal empowerment to Scotland.

Cultural participation in Scotland is vital to our creativity, identity, social cohesion, confidence and wellbeing.  Its value can not always be measured in monetary terms and it has a value beyond acting as an instrument to deliver Purposes or outcomes. This surely chimes with COSLA’s beliefs, as it considers culture as part of its  Health and Wellbeing portfolio. Let’s hear it.

Matthew Paris’ map of Great Britain. St Albans, c.1250 British Library Cotton MS Claudius D.vi, f.12v Copyright © The British Library Board

At the State of the Arts Conference last week, a last minute switch led me to being part of the panel discussing Has Britain Got Any Talent for Talent? instead of a session on the public and the arts. Thinking about it, I realised that I was being asked to consider two concepts which were largely fuzzy.  One was the notion of ‘talent’ itself, given its current diverse use to mean anything to young performers, staff in a corporate organisation, contestants in a talent show and to anyone who works in the screen industries;  and as applied to the individual gift each of us has in life. And its overuse in the public sector applied to skills and employment as in Creative Britain: new Talents for the New Economy.  Which brings me to the other fuzzy concept, that of ‘Britain’.  ‘Britain’ is properly neither the UK, which is Great Britain and Northern Ireland, nor Great Britain, which is England Wales and Scotland, not the British Isles which includes the whole of Ireland.

Britain includes nations where cultural policy is devolved and, in Scotland, so are many other powers including education, but neither fiscal policy nor tax raising powers.  So, within the broad canvas of Britain and Talent, some areas are less British and more Scottish.  The importance of supporting, celebrating and rewarding artistic talent as an expression of cultural identity is less and less of a British issue and more of a national one for the devolved nations, particularly in Scotland.

Many Scottish creatives and artists now identify as Scottish and /or Scottish British as opposed to British. They compete, exhibit, perform and trade on international platforms and the best are awarded British and international prizes, like Richard Wright and Carol Ann Duffy.

The symbiotic relationship between artists and cultural identity is enshrined in many international policies and the recognition and support of a nation’s artistic and creative talent has a higher value to small and emergent nations.

And, for those artists who may not be commercially successful – the poet, the painter – the greatest recognition can come from the state.

In 1969 Charles Haughey, the then Taisoch of Ireland, closely advised by the writer Antony Cronin, made changes to state policy which signalled to the world the importance of artists to the independent state of Ireland, through the introduction of three things:

1 the exemption from income tax from creative content and products – paintings, composition, books, etc .This was later capped and is now under threat again as Ireland fights severe economic crisis.

2. tax incentives for investors in the Irish film industry, in a move which has had long term economic impact

3. the establishment of Aosdana, the academy of recognised artists, where being a member confers recognition and reward

Not only have these measures contributed towards Ireland’s international artistic success and reputation but they have engendered a respect for artists as leaders. In the bloody fighting in Ireland over the funds in a decimated public purse, the arts sector has fought and won through a brilliant campaign. Using  hard evidence about the sector’s economic contribution of €11.8 billion or 7.6% of GDP was one weapon which saved the Film Board, Culture Ireland and 94 per cent of the arts budget.  Another was the impassioned influence of artists who campaigned publicly or who gave evidence to political committees, including Sebastian Barry, Joseph O’Connor, Colm McCann, Colm Tobain to Brendan Gleeson, given prime place in the Dail and the media as respected leaders, confident, assured and celebrated.

While other countries have made some tax concessions for artists, no other country has made such a major statement about the importance of artistic talent to its cultural identity.

For Scotland, recognising, celebrating and supporting its artistic talent is a key component of cultural policy, a devolved power. As a small country, recognising the talent may be relatively easy.  But the powers to support that Scottish talent is limited by  Westminster.  The current minority SNP administration is committed in principle to tax exemptions for artists but does not have the fiscal autonomy to do this.   Our world leading talent for interactive games in Dundee has watched its competitive position weaken as France, Canada and now Ireland offer tax incentives.

The Scottish Government is bringing forward the Referendum Bill to support greater devolution of such matters. Fiona Hyslop, the Culture Minister, said yesterday

“Artists and creators often hold up a mirror to society, reflecting back the experience of belonging; nowhere more so than in Scotland, where our distinctive cultural life is known the world over.

“I firmly believe that a Scotland with more control over its own affairs – a Scotland more confident in itself – would see fresh creativity shine through as a result. In turn, a more confident nation leads to an even more creative one – a virtuous circle of increasing confidence and creativity.

“There is a hard edge to this, of course, as Scotland trades on the international recognition of its culture and heritage. It is a major attraction for visitors and showcases our country as a diverse and exciting place to live and work; so increased confidence and creativity can only be good for business.

Artists in Scotland have an important role to play in the success of the nation as well as in the UK – sorry – Britain,  and internationally.  And political recognition with visible backing is essential.

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c Nex Architecture on the Behance Network

There is a huge wealth of skills and ability amongst arts board members, matched by some brilliant cultural leaders at the helm of our organisations but the system simply does not support them to adapt their organisations during turbulent times.

The current system of arts funding and cultural governance suspends our arts organisations in some sort of aspic, resisting change and discouraging risk taking.  We have created arts organisations which are not robust enough to lead change through setting them up as interconnecting components of public administration.  Most are charities but, unlike charities which are accountable to their members, most of these charities have directors who are also the only members, thereby never having the legitimacy of democratic election.  Being unpaid as well as suffering from a democratic deficit,  they often do not take long term responsibility and neither do they take risk.  They are kept in check through a bespoke system for arts boards governance and investment is made in publications, training and the like.  There is a push for increased diversity on boards, but the reality is that this a pretty elite system with board members almost always well established in the community and the system being pretty inaccessible to newcomers.

Why don’t arts organisations get together and merge?  Because the current artistic directors don’t want to, and the boards neither want to upset the directors nor put their heads above the parapet nor get their sleeves rolled up.

Why don’t some of the high experienced business people and entrepreneurs on boards apply their skills to generate income for the organisation?  Because that is not their role, as charity trustees, and their ideas must pass the taste test of their arts executives.

Tomorrow’s successful local or regional arts organisation will be embedded in its community, be dynamic, risk taking and take a high level of responsibility for success.

It will maximise local entrepreneurial skills and community engagement. The charity model does not support this and so a new model would be to develop Creative Community Companies, cultural Community Interest Companies. CICs are limited companies, with special additional features, created for the use of people who want to conduct a business or other activity for community benefit, and not purely for private advantage. This is achieved by a “community interest test” and “asset lock”, which ensure that the CIC is established for community purposes and the assets and profits are dedicated to these purposes.

A CIC can be set up with a mixture of members, representative and individual.  The key thing is that all the members are working within a structure which exists to service a particular community.

The Creative Community Company would be set up to serve the interests of all those in a local arts and culture and creative community – creative practitioners, artists, participants.   The CCC could govern all the infrastructure or some of it, accepting that its job was to provide the best creative and cultural experiences and products for its community and that is likely to involve continually evolving and changing.

Board directors would be accountable to their community of interest and would include executive directors – paid for their professional services and taking full responsibility. An executive Chair, rooted in a community, could lead change and provide robust and dynamic leadership for the organisation long term.  Local authorities, enterprise agencies, universities could all be members and would serve therefore without any of that awkward conflict of interest that can exist in the current system.

We could harness the skills and enthusiasm of some of the volunteers currently serving on board in more satisfying ways  – as cultural champions in schools, for example.  With fewer and small professional boards, the focus for the staff, artists and volunteers can be on creating and supporting the activity and less on convoluted governance matters.

The CIC vehicle is used by Culture and Sport Glasgow and Watershed’s Ished amongst several others, and the model offers an opportunity to change the dynamic of art organisations and to add both entrepreneurialism and community ownership. As our communities become ever more diverse and in the future maybe more so with migrant populations, the CCC model can be designed to be genuinely porous supporting creative hubs which offer neutral space for all collaborations.

And the Creative Community Company can adapt to change.  Who knows what will emerge this century or even this month as a creative interactive experience, or what Spotify, Google, Apple and people we don’t know yet will do?

During the current public sector expenditure reduction, he arts have argued well their case to national governments.  But with the pressure on local authorities, its only a matter of time before parts of the system begin to collapse.  The Creative Community Company can be the phoenix for future growth.

(from a longer presentation)

There was a diversity of creative business leaders at last week’s C&binet Forum.  As well as global industry leaders from Google, Spotify, EMI, Vivendi and many other major media leaders, publishers, content providers and distributors, there was a rich smattering of creative entrepreneurs (mostly not wealthy either because they work in community creative enterprises, or simply because they are emergent).  So both the formal sessions and informal chats were driven by an energy and passion around change and improvement to maximise the impact of UK creativity.

The ‘arts’ did not emerge much during the formal discussions, perhaps due to the domination of the copyright agenda. Twice they were mentioned, once by the CEO of  DACS and once by Colin Tweedy of Arts and Business who was given short shift by the panel talking about investment, who were interested in profit not patronage.  In their mind, music , publishing and games fell clearly under the remit of the creative economy, but subsidised arts did not.

This division is one which some of our artists and subsidised arts organisations feel comfortable.  It provides  some necessary protection and a space for the state to encourage the vital support of individual artists and arts activity which cannot and should not be commercial.  The metrics of the arts are not only (if at all) commercial but are educational, social and cultural, promoting well being, cultural identity, individual growth and community cohesion – as well as , most importantly, provoking ideas, thoughts and revelations.

But not to engage in the fast moving change  around the way we communicate and interact in the digital age  could be a catastrophic mistake which threatens some subsidised arts organisations with irrelevance and possible extinction.

And its not about using Twitter as a marketing tool.

The key areas are around interacting with audiences and around 21st century business models.

In terms of interaction, the massive increase in people interacting through games must surely given some ideas to arts organisations – especially those involved in drama and music – some scope to review current products and seek new collaborative methods of creating work.

And as for 21st century business models   – its all about Freemium and upselling.

The leaders of some arts organisations engage in the challenge and break through the aspic of subsidy.  Watershed, for example, in its Ished project is about to embark on creating theatre with participants through mobile technology. Cornerhouse through the Art of With is at least asking the questions about collaboration with users in curation and programming.  But the examples are few and far between.  In the mainstream of subsidised arts, the production and presentation of work is entirely led by the visions and drives of the artists at the top, and the machinery around that is concerned with realising the artistic ambition and attracting an audience for it.

So does it matter? Maybe subsidised theatres and arts centres are simply the organised versions of individual artists who create work for arts sake and damn the audience?

A colleague , faced with the evidence which demonstrated the type of work which would attract larger and more diverse audiences, and noting the artistic director’s disdain, described the ‘salon  theatre’ with which that organisation was engaged.

Personally, I think that is a great pity.  I, like many, discovered the arts with a little help from the library, my dad’s work night out to the (variety) theatre, and school trips.  A typical child of the ‘C2DE ‘ household with no books, art or music, the arts unfolded as I began my journey of discovery.

Subsidised arts organisations should encourage the discovery of today’s youngsters and engage with their equivalent of libraries and works socials – social networking and gaming as well as intense engagement in education.  Or else adopt the the model of supply-led theatre and arts, the ‘salon’ and make the case for investment for other reasons – the arts are, after all, good for your health, well-being, community cohesion and sense of self.

If that is the case, individual arts organisations will need to have their evidence ready.  We have less and less public expenditure available.  And government, particularly if the Conservatives win the next election, get it about business models.  Barnet Council’s freemium model could, if extended, mean that the arts and culture are an additional extra for tax payers.  And will they pay for salon theatre?

apb-chars

Sir Gerry Robinson’s advice to the Global Irish Economic Forum is to take decisive action and target  4 or 5 games companies from Scotland to relocate to Ireland by providing a package of support including five years of tax incentives.   Ireland built up its film industry by taking action in this way and now boasts  a thriving audio visual sector which now contributes 557m to the economy.

Countries across the world are investing in their creative industries to get out of the recession – even in Iceland

The Scottish and UK Governments are fully aware of the vital importance of the games industry to the Scottish economy. There have been several reports now making a strong economic argument for investment in the games industry throughout the Creative Britain process, the Digital Britain report  and, specifically,  by NESTA and by TIGA, the games industries association.  TIGA’s most recent report:

presents a robust argument for the introduction of a tax break for the UK video games industry, similar to the tax credit which already exists for the UK Film Industry. This report was submitted to the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport on August 28, 2009.
Key report findings included:
  • Over 5 years the Games Tax Relief would create 1,400 new jobs in the studio sector
  • 60-80 UK developed titles would benefit per year
  • A tax credit would trigger growth in employment, new game development, innovation and investment, and more sustainable business models for British studios
  • By year 5, for every £100 of investment by government in the Games Tax Relief, the industry will invest £176.
  • Over 5 years the Games Tax Relief would increase investment by games studios by £146m, direct and indirect annual tax revenues by £133m and GDP contribution by £323m
Mike Russell, the Scottish Culture Minister, frequently refers to the importance of the games sector and it will be one where the Creative Industries Partnership will get involved beyond the work Scottish Enterprise already does, it if deems it necessary, which surely it must.  Scotland has watched while France and Canada have invested  in the games industry and stolen a march.
Mike Russell states that full fiscal autonomy is necessary to offer the right package of support.

A spokesman for the Scottish government said to the Herald in its coverage at the weekend:

There is a range of support available for the games industry in Scotland. Of course, our view is that Scotland should have control of key fiscal levers in order to do more. This is a clear example of the need for radical change which at least provides full fiscal autonomy for Scotland. Until we have those powers we’ll continue to make the UK government aware of the implications for the Scottish gaming industry. We’ll also work with the industry to provide evidence of the impact.

If the Conservatives win the next election we can expect progress in this area, if Ed Vaizey has has way.  Perhaps Ireland will wait patiently.  Perhaps its hot air. Perhaps a deal is being done with the games industry while the political points are being made.  Dundee MSPs are seeking action. All the evidence is there.  Its just the action we want now.

Following hot on the heels of NT Live, Opus Arte has announces that productions  from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will now also be accessible  in cinemas throughout the UK and abroad.

The Opus Arte 2009/10 season also includes world class productions from the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne,  Madrid’s Teatro Real and Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu as well as concerts from the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.  Opus Arte claims:

“Recorded in High Definition and true Surround Sound these performances from the world’s great stages give you an experience as vivid and as ambient the best seats in the house”

As the work of world class brands becomes more and more accessible, regional theatres will have more opportunities to diversify and free up resources.

Its part of the programming balance in a regional theatre to present world classics and Shakespearian productions but this is a costly business.    The cost of mounting a Shakespearian production or major classical production in our regional theatres varies.   So does the cultural success of the productions, in terms of the specific resonances and connections to local audiences through the production and the quality of the production.

But if a regular supply of excellent productions of Shakespeare and classics becomes available at a nearby cinema, then theatres could free some of their resources into the streams of theatre that are very specific to their audiences.  Collaborative work, participative and community work, research and development are all costly activities which tend to be subordinate to putting on the big productions but which embed theatres into their communities and allow them to take artistic risks.

Cinemas should be the bed rock of cultural planning for the 21st century.      In their inherent neutrality, they are more democratic and accessible than theatres, concert halls and opera houses.  The network of cinemas streaming opera and theatre live does not cover the whole of the UK at the moment, but it could.

It remains to be seen how much more diverse the audiences will be for Shakespeare and opera  in cinemas than they have been in  theatres, where audiences in regional theatre overall have remained static and lacking in diversity over the last five years at least.  Removing the barriers of cost and location and providing more certainty as to the quality through the assurance associated with household names should surely open up the experience to a wider audience.