Last week saw an event to unveil Towards Plan A: A New Political Economy for Arts and Culture, an Arts Council England & RSA -supported discourse (including several keynote papers and an on-going blog) to explore how the arts and culture can connect, collaborate and contribute, in systematic and fundamental ways, across adjacent sectors such as local & regional government, education and commerce.
in a squeezed final few moments at the very end of proceedings, a question from
the floor pointedly highlighted a conspicuous omission: nobody had addressed
the matter of how UK arts and culture could or should be seen in a wider
European context, in terms of partnerships, funding or good practice.
Twitter made plain the fact that this marquee England-wide event was covering
similar themes to, and taking place at the same time as, the 2013 EU
hesitance of our island nation in fully engaging with Europe is, of course, a
longstanding issue that extends far beyond the cultural sector. I had the
opportunity to ponder the matter in some depth a month or so ago, when I
travelled to Finland for a conference about European local and regional
government’s role in the strategic planning of culture.
the second annual conference of Les
Rencontres, an EU-wide network of senior local government managers and
elected representatives for arts and culture. Much to my surprise, I was the
only British representative out of nearly 70 attendees.
event was graciously and expertly hosted by the City of Tampere, Finland’s third
largest urban centre, which sits in the South West of the country, about 110
miles north of Helsinki.
industrialised in the 19th Century as a former hub of the Nordic
textile trade, in recent years Tampere has undergone an astonishingly complete
process of culture-led regeneration. Its vast, previously obsolete
bricks-and-mortar industrial infrastructure has been comprehensively repurposed
to house a rich array of museums, cinemas and business incubation units. This
flourishing is strongly reflected in the fact that Tampere now consistently
ranks amongst Finns as the most popular city to relocate to.
then, this year’s Les Rencontres event focused on culture and social
innovation, with economic growth, regeneration, education and social
participation/cohesion all explored. The spectre of European fiscal austerity
permeated the event deeply, as did the question of how we innovate, with less
money, to not only sustain but deepen the role of culture in such arenas.
much towards this theme, I presented on A New Direction’s Connected
London programme, through which we’re working with Innovation Unit, London
boroughs and other partners to examine how new models of income generation and
delivery of cultural education can be formed in this more challenging economic
My slides can be found below, whilst a summary of the wider conference content will soon be available here.
wider programme was fascinating. It’s difficult to choose general highlights,
but in particular I’d like to refer to the presentations of:
Kuittinen from Demos Helsinki,
whose key-note speech on the first day of the conference really set the scene
by framing Finland’s success in economic, educational, and wellbeing terms as
being underpinned by social innovation, with creativity and culture at the core
Marianna Lehtinen, Senior Coordinator for Children’s Culture at the City of Tampere, who spoke persuasively about the Finnish concept of a cultural entitlement for all children (remarkably, many municipalities in Finland have a separate budget strand for cultural education, in addition to ‘general’ education and ‘infrastructural’ culture funding). Marianna also gave an intriguing introduction to Aladdin’s Lamp, a collaborative best-practice network for arts education in Finland (See her presentation below).
...and Javier Jimenez from Lord Cultural Resources, who gave an intriguing summary of the process of developing Chicago’s first cultural strategy, and how the consequences of this went far beyond economics and new infrastructure to reinforce citizens’ wellbeing and civic engagement (See presentation and notes below).
cultural funding, and building UK participation
one of the fundamental areas covered in the conference agenda was the launch of
Europe, the new EU-wide culture strategy, and the accompanying funding
programme (currently being ratified by member states, and to commence next
new strategy promises a holistic vision for the development of the creative
industries in Europe, and this passes down to the proposed funding programme
too; whereas before there were separate, biddable strands for Culture and
Media, these will now be combined into a single initiative which will allocate
up to €1.46 billion between 2014 and 2020.
overarching mission for the programme is to foster and promote 'smart,
sustainable and inclusive growth' across the EU’s cultural industries.
an immense opportunity here, but research from the previous programme confirms
the suspicion that UK cultural organisations do not engage as strongly as
partners from other countries.
capita, the UK has traditionally produced the lowest number of applications of
any EU member state, but the success rate of those bids, at 46%, is the second
highest of any country in the Union (behind only Germany).
Guardian article by Visiting Arts
(the EU Cultural Contact Point for the 2007-2013 programme) highlights, and
challenges, some of the reasons for this historic disengagement, including lack
of participation in wider EU networks; apprehensions about a process that is
presumed to be highly bureaucratic; and a scarcity of ‘cash’ match funding.
the information available so far, the new programme goes a long way to
addressing and surmounting these and other obstacles to participation. But how
can London and wider UK-based organisations really get to grips with the
A good initial step would definitely to be to sign up to, and to read, the European Commission’s Culture and Education Newsletter and the European Cultural Foundation’s Newsletter; and to also subscribe to Visiting Arts’ E-bulletin, for information on the transition from the 2007-13 to the 2014-20 programmes.
Arts actually also have an event on Creative
Europe in central London on December 9 2013 (10.30-12pm), too, so that
should be well worth attending if you can make it.
that many of the funding opportunities will focus upon trans-national
partnerships for new artistic productions, research and sector development
partnerships, in order to participate fully it’s also crucial to get to know
colleagues across Europe with whom we might collaborate.
range of UK-based entities (such as GEM, Engage, CLOA,
Arts Development UK, and many, many
others!) are good at percolating down news of some wider European developments.
Following my experience in Finland, I also strongly recommend local and
regional government partners to explore participation in, and membership of,
organisations like Les
Rencontres. I’m frequently told that Eurocities
is also a very vibrant, exciting network.
broader cultural organisations, you’ll know your alternatives much better than
I do, but I also believe there’s value in
taking the time to identify and engage with bodies that can strengthen and
bring an international perspective to your work.
might include the International Council of Museums (ICOM), Europeana,
or ne-mo.org; IETM (the international
network for performing arts); dance networks like EDN and Aerowaves;
or Cluster (for
Visual Arts; currently ‘closed’ in terms of primary membership, but active in
sharing practice more widely). It may also be useful to look beyond your own
sector, to make links across different art-forms, heritage, film etc.
know of others networks that you’d recommend, please take a moment to share
that knowledge in the comments thread beneath this blog.
also do our best to share and/or signpost further information about the new EU
Culture Programme as it’s finalised and opened for bids, so watch this space!