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Culture White Paper: What you need to know

The Culture White Paper is the first government strategy for the arts to be published in more than 50 years
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The first white paper on the arts in more than 50 years has been launched by the government, and has been described by arts minister Ed Vaizey as a “bold new vision” for culture.

It is the second arts white paper ever to be published, and aims to improve social mobility and boost access to the arts, heritage and culture across the country.

Accessibility and diversity

The Culture White Paper sets out a requirement for all publicly-funded arts organisations, including theatres, to improve access to their institutions and increase participation in areas of low engagement.

Vaizey, who launched the white paper on March 23 in central London, said central government wanted to build on Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity, under which organisations risk losing their funding if they do not demonstrate diversity in their work.

He added that central government wanted to initiate a “step change in attitudes to diversity” by working with the arts council to “put the conversation centre stage”.

The white paper also highlighted problems within the arts around diversity in the leadership of arts organisations, and said the cultural sectors would not be truly diverse until there is a “leadership committed to sustained change”.

The government has said it will work with ACE and other public bodies to develop strategies for tackling a lack of diversity in the workforce, as well as examining ways to make it easier for black, Asian and minority ethnic and disabled people to break into the creative industries.

Children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds will be able to take part in a new “cultural citizens programme” that will offer opportunities to experience culture in new ways. This will include meeting performers and creatives and engaging with the arts over a prolonged period.

Vaizey said the scheme would begin in three pilot areas – the North West, North East and West Midlands – before expanding to around 70 areas across England and reaching 14,000 young people.

Commercial

The white paper sets out ways for organisations to increase their “resilience” when public funding is limited, adding that companies must ensure every pound of investment “goes as far as possible” and “think more broadly” about adapting their business models to deal with financial challenges.

The government said it would help cultural organisations strengthen their resilience by establishing a virtual Commercial Academy for Culture. This will include more than £60 million of funding, available to help arts organisations extend their commercial potential.

A pilot scheme, delivered with ACE, Nesta and the Heritage Lottery Fund, will also allow organisations to explore how they can benefit from initiatives such as match crowdfunding.

Nationwide benefits

The white paper said government wanted to see more evidence of local and national partnerships between cultural organisations and other institutions such as universities, parks, health and care commissioners, and trusts and foundations.

The UK City of Culture scheme will be developed, alongside the Great Exhibition of the North and the Discover England fund, all of which Vaizey said would contribute to culture’s role in “place-making” across the UK. Measures include supporting the heritage sector in preserving and using historic buildings, as well as encouraging local authorities and property owners to make more empty spaces available for cultural activities.

The white paper praised digital initiatives such as the National Theatre’s NT Live for expanding the way culture is experienced and opening it up to a broader audience across the country.

The government said it would commission a report on the key issues that need addressing in order to make the UK a leading country for cultural content such as digitised collections.

International

Vaizey said that the UK’s cultural output on the global stage would also be nurtured, thanks to a global cultural export programme. He added that the government would call on public bodies to ensure that funding helps to develop the capacity of the arts to expand its reach globally.

A £30 million Cultural Protection Fund will also extend support to other countries whose cultural assets are in danger or have been destroyed, particularly in conflict.

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