Vaizey – arts must further embrace technology and innovation

Ed Vaizey is to make his first keynote speech as culture minister this week, calling on the arts sector to embrace technology and innovation more fully.

Speaking to The Stage ahead of his presentation at the Culture Change conference, he revealed that he had asked Arts Council England, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts and the Technology Strategy Board to join together to create a forum to promote technology and innovation in the arts and recommend ways to “capture and disseminate” innovative ideas.

He explained: “Technology is a great new opportunity for the arts and therefore if government is going to be involved in arts policy, technology should be a central plank of that arts policy, as opposed to something peripheral. I want to put technology and innovation at the heart of the arts policy debate.

“I want this body, this coming together of different organisations, to be a forum where TSB, NESTA, Arts Council England and other interested organisations can come together to work out ways in which this kind of innovation can be harnessed.”

Vaizey said he had been impressed by some developments in the arts world – the telecasting of theatre shows by Digital Theatre and NT Live, for example. But he said the sector needed to do more to co-ordinate its efforts so that people weren’t “reinventing the wheel” and he was keen for ACE to take a lead on this.

“I think that [the provision] is good in parts, so I think there are some organisations that are quite far advanced, but I do think that it’s a fact of life that most arts organisations are run by people who are not what we would call digital natives and therefore they need to make a little bit more effort to grasp new technology. And I don’t think that people have thought that not only does it answer their access issues, but also that they can engage with new partners – be it with young people or [by having] conversations across the creative sphere with game makers and so on,” said Vaizey.

“I hope I’m not being unfair on the arts council but I haven’t got the sense that a lot of this innovation is being talked about by them.”

He added that he would keep a close eye on how the inter-agency talks progress and said he would be looking to ACE, NESTA and TSB to consider “whether they could make available small sums of money to aid development funding in this area”.

Vaizey said he felt that theatre companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company could use technology to develop their brands and give them a global presence, and added that “looking to the future, [I like] this idea that you could be passing the Royal Court [for example] and be able to download trailers to whatever play is going on there”.

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