Public funding for culture in an age of austerity

Jack Newsinger
Department of Media and Communication
[email protected]
 Cultural policy under New Labour
 Cultural policy and the Spending Review (2010)
 Arguments against cutting cultural funding
 Arguments for cutting cultural funding
 Public funding for culture in an age of austerity:
some (preliminary) conclusions
Cultural policy under New Labour
 Department of National Heritage renamed the Department of Culture, Media
and Sport
 Cultural industries renamed the creative industries
 The creative industries are “those activities which have their origin in
individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and
job creation through the exploitation of intellectual property.” (Creative
Industries Task Force, 1998)
 These are: advertising, architecture, the art and antiques market, crafts, design,
designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software, music, the performing arts,
publishing, software, television and radio.
 New institutions: eg UK Film Council, Regional Screen Agencies, Regional
Development Agencies.
Cultural policy under New Labour
 ‘Creativity’ as central to the New Labour ‘brand’. Eg
 “Creativity is at the heart of British culture – a defining
feature of our national identity. And today, the force of
British creativity is renowned throughout the world [...] In
the coming years, the creative industries will be important
not only for our national prosperity but for Britain’s ability
to put culture and creativity at the centre of our national
Gordon Brown (2008)
Cultural policy under New Labour
 DCMS announces the largest increase in Arts Council
Funding ever in 2000 – 60% by 2003-2004.
Creative industries seen as central to the economy:
46 per cent growth in employment terms and 136 per cent
in output by 2015;
In 2004 the creative industries accounted for eight per cent
of UK Gross Value Added compared to four per cent in
Five per cent growth per annum between 1997 and 2004
compared with three per cent for the economy as a whole;
Employ 1.8 million people in the UK;
Creative industries exports contributed £13bn to the
balance of trade, or four per cent of exports. (Holden, 2007)
Cultural policy under New Labour
 A ‘Golden Age’? (Christopher Frayling)
 Actual economic importance overstated?
 Instrumental philistines?
 Two key features:
1) Small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as the
symbolic driving force of the creative industries
Key drivers of other policy objectives: social inclusion,
diversity, regeneration
2) The ‘market for support’ in cultural funding
Cultural policy under New Labour:
some responses
 Creativity doctrine (Schlesinger, 2007)
 Depoliticised (Vickery, 2007)
 Institutionalised individualisation (McGuigan, 2010)
 ‘Bullshit’ (Befiore, 2009)
 Information society policy (Garnham, 2005)
 Culture and media policy as public policy
(Hesmondhalgh, 2005)
Cultural policy and the Spending
DCMS budget cut by 24%
Museums and Galleries 15%
British Film Institute 15%
Arts Council of England 30%
 Creative Partnerships initiative closed
 Creativity, Culture and Education closed
 15% cut to Regularly Funded Organisations
 UK Film Council closed (the ‘bonfire of the quangos’)
 Regional Screen Agencies reduced from nine to three,
renamed Creative England
 Regional Development Agencies closed
Responses to the cuts
 “Not one commercial show is made without talent fostered
in the subsidised sector. The dominance of British talent in
musicals around the world, from Mamma Mia! to the Lloyd
Webbers, have all been dependent on people who learned
their craft writing, directing, designing and acting in tiny
theatres for less than subsistence wages. Yet in VAT on the
West End alone the government makes more than the
entire subsidy to theatre. It is just economically illiterate
not to understand that theatre effectively pays for itself
many, many times over.”
Lee Hall, 2010
Mark Wallinger
Responses to the cuts
 Musicians' Union
 Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
 Unite
 National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
 Equity
 Prospect Writers' Guild of Great Britain
 Arts Council cut map:
Responses to the cuts
 'An important message about the arts' - an
animated video by artist David Shrigley
Responses to the cuts
 “over-indulged quangos” who had wasted subsidy on a “multicultural
nomenklatura of senior lieutenants”
 “If we are going to blame anyone, we should perhaps look at the Arts
Council and its obsession with political correctness.”
 The cuts are “a spring prune of the kind private companies undergo
every few years”.
 “The great writers and painters and composers of past centuries had to
do without an Arts Council. Did Shakespeare have to apply to an Alan
Davey figure for funds? He did not.
 Did John Donne have to go on arts awareness seminars in the NorthEast to show his devotion to ‘access’? He did not. The great creative
talents of past centuries relied on the occasional patron and on naked
commercial appeal.”
 “today’s announcements will be part of a wider cultural battle that is far
too important to ignore.”
Quentin Letts, 2011
Responses to the cuts
 “the labyrinthine, pathologically-left-leaning quangocracy which
generously bestows public money more in proportion to political
correctness than artistic merit.”
 “there is undoubtedly something in the observation that state
funding has produced a bland, monochrome or monotonous,
almost Stalinist uniformity in the national artistic expression
(where are the ‘right-wing’ plays, playwrights, poets or theatre
directors?). In a centralised bureaucracy, cultural diversity is
diminished and creativity atrophies because it is sustained by
the state instead of being sympathetically euthanised by the
Adrian Hilton, 2011
Cultural bureaucracy
 Hostility to the cultural management mechanisms
associated with New Labour
 The ‘market for support’
 Central government increasingly determined how money
was spent through targeted schemes and predetermined
policy objectives (Galloway, 2004).
 “While it was the Conservative government of the 1980s
that first introduced the mantra ‘culture should serve the
economy’, since 1997 New Labour has added a whole list of
priorities – still on the basis of instrumental outcome. The
DCMS is becoming increasingly ‘hands on’”
Frayling quoted in Hylton, 2007
It’s political correctness gone mad
 “We will act to eliminate individual and institutional
racism, meet the needs of our clients and staff, comply with
our statutory responsibilities and make race equality a core
issue in all that we do, across all programmes and
(Arts Council Race Equality Scheme, 2004: 6)
 “Public money will no longer be given to arts organisations
simply because they hire a high proportion of women or
ethnic minorities”.
Jeremy Hunt MP, 2010
It’s political correctness gone mad
 “the received wisdom is that over the last decade government has
placed greater emphasis on instrumental outcomes. While there have
been new, targeted initiatives in areas such as education, there is little
evidence that any prioritisation of social or economic objectives has
had any substantial impact on the decisions that have been made about
mainstream arts funding, or indeed on how artists and arts
organisations go about their work.”
(Bunting et al, quoted in Knell and Taylor, 2011: 13)
 A genuine policy debate about instrumentalism, eg:
 “Since the late 1970s, cultural diversity initiatives within the visual arts
sector have arguably exacerbated rather than confronted exclusionary
pathologies of the art world.”
(Hylton, 2007: 131)
The role of the private sector in
 Perception of the relative wastefulness of the public sector
goes back to the 1970s.
 Various initiatives designed to encourage commercial
values and practices in the cultural sector, ie
 Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme
 The market for support
 Fundamentally an argument about the size and role of the
 A mixed cultural economy or a free market?
Coalition cultural policy
 Not much actual cultural policy from the coalition
government so far.
 ‘The Future of the Arts with a Conservative
Government’ 2010 Arts Manifesto
 A commitment to the mixed economy
 Endowments to enable philanthropy
 Increased match funding
 Cutting administrative costs
 Remove targets
Coalition cultural policy
 "People have had an assumption about Conservative
governments partly because of some of the things that
happened in the 1980s and partly because of the tone
of some of the debate around the arts in the 1980s,
which appeared to say public spending on the arts was
something you might progressively want to reduce,
which isn't where the modern Conservative party
stands. We recognise the critical importance of public
(Hunt, quoted in Higgins, 2010)
Public funding for culture in an age
of austerity: some conclusions
 Coalition cultural policy has been based upon large
cuts to public funding for culture in common with
other areas of the public sector
 Not major restructuring
 Cuts to cultural funding are part of a wider argument
about the size of the state
 Attacks on progressive cultural policy and left-wing
cultural intelligentsia
 Disproportionately effect on regional, heavily
subsidised, less commercial organisations

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