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'Towards Cultural Democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone', King’s College, London

16 August 2017
Nick Wilson, Jonathan Gross, Anna Bull

A new report ‘Towards Cultural Democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone’ was published in June by King’s College London. The report builds on a research collaboration with the BBC Get Creative campaign. Get Creative is led by a consortium of cultural organisations including 64 Million Artists, three of the UK’s art councils, Voluntary Arts and the BBC among others. 

The report calls directly on policy makers, other governmental stakeholders and funders to consider a ‘radical but pragmatic new approach to understanding and enabling cultural opportunity’. At the heart of the report are 14 direct recommendations for this broad set of sector organisations and others involved organising cultural activities.

The report looks at everyday creativity and identifies key ways in which future policy and practice could support increased ‘cultural capabilities’ for everyone. It highlights the need for the publicly funded arts, the creative industries and ‘everyday creativity’ to be better connected. It challenges the notion of the ‘deficit model’ in current policy, critics describe this as a top down approach to take ‘high arts’ to a wider demographic. I became aware of this terminology from the findings of the AHRC Cultural Value Project and the King’s report connects this approach to the ongoing lack of diversity within the publicly funded arts landscape.

The report and other articles placed in mainstream media and arts outlets generated some healthy debate online. For further reading if interested, Stephen Pritchard’s blog critiquing the ‘appropriation (often naively) of radical political concepts’, Stella Duffy’s article ‘Excellence in the arts should not be defined by the metropolitan elite’ and see the response to the debate by co author of the King’s report Dr Anna Bull, ‘Towards Cultural Democracy?’ A quick search also throws up a report within the Variant magazine archives ‘Beyond Social Inclusion: Towards Cultural Democracy’ written by the Cultural Policy Collective (a grouping of Scottish based unnamed artists and arts professionals) in 2005.

It will be important to follow how this report might quite quickly start to shape new approaches towards funding and support of arts activity or even the new national Cultural Strategy. If any members are particularly interested in this subject please get in touch, I’m interested to know what you think of the report and it’s key recommendations.
Seonaid Daly, Director, SCAN

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'Towards Cultural Democracy: promoting cultural capabilities for everyone', King’s College, London