In this report published by the London-based think-tank, Demos, Samuel Jones explores the motivations and avenues for state involvement in cultural and sporting activities.
This essay is part of a joint Demos and CASE (Culture and Sport Evidence Programme) fellowship examining the evidence currently available in relation to public participation in culture and sport. The purpose of the fellowship is to generate independent policy recommendations as to how policy might be developed. This document sets out some principles by which that might be done. It has been written independently and so cannot be taken either as a policy statement, or to reflect government opinion. It has also been written at a time at which the public sector as a whole is facing cuts on a scale unprecedented in recent history. However, with a more lasting view, it addresses a long-standing need to review the purposes and mechanisms of cultural policy. To this end, it proposes a series of provocations to prompt the thinking and change that policy-makers and the cultural sector alike will need to meet this need.
Cultural policy needs to be reviewed because social and technological changes have brought the importance of culture to the fore and because that has implications across governmental policy. Engagement and participation with cultural forms is at the heart of a new economy, both as products in themselves, and as stimuli to creativity and creative enterprise – the latest estimates put the DCMS sectors’ contribution to GVA at 10 per cent. At the same time, participation in culture and sport is rising and, on the basis of curricular participation by young people today, this will increase in the future. Through technologies such as YouTube or as a result of increased travel or migration, people can now access, encounter, create and share the products of cultural creation on a scale previously unimaginable, and regardless of the publicly funded cultural sector. This brings the different opinions expressed in such cultural production and activity into closer and more intense contact, which creates new challenges for society. Meeting these challenges will require new capabilities of individuals and means new responsibility for cultural policy. From a democratic perspective, cultural policy must focus on the equitable distribution of the capabilities by which individuals can take part in shaping the culture around them and interpret the expression of others. This will require thinking anew about what form the government agencies responsible for culture take, and how they are run. Because the DCMS is the governmental arm that responds to this environment, its role and relationship to policy concerns across Whitehall departments must also be reconsidered.