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Arts Council to hire its first economist to make ‘powerful’ financial argument for the sector

Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley. Photo: Sunderland Echo

Arts Council England is to hire an economist for the first time, claiming the new role will enable it to make a stronger financial case for the sector.

Chief executive Darren Henley revealed the appointment as he gave evidence to a parliamentary committee looking at the impact of cultural participation.

Henley was asked about the importance of gathering data to argue cases, and replied: “We have to be better at gathering data and being able to tell the stories with a databased approach.”

He added: “We are going to hire an economist for the first time at the Arts Council. Although we were started by an economist, John Maynard Keynes, we never employed one. We will have an economist so again we can start to make economic arguments that are very powerful and make them in an economist’s terms.”

ACE said the post would be advertised imminently.

Giving evidence, Henley also spoke about how ACE was looking at developing leadership skills within the sector.

He said he wanted to see “more leaders coming through who are even better at running our organisations”.

Henley said the plan was to implement programmes for leadership training and management development.

“We will work to develop skills in that area. One of the things that has historically happened is that you might have [someone who is] good at a particular art form, they are promoted [to a leadership position] but we have not given them that [leadership training] support,” he explained.

Henley referred to his background in business, where he said people were “given training all the way through”.

“We want to do that much more. Part of having a sustainable and resilient arts and culture sector is having high-quality leadership,” he said.

Henley also spoke of his desire to see the arts prescribed more by GPs as a way of improving people’s well-being.

“It is important and one of the things we need to do is get more conversations going with GP surgeries and practices to show them they can do this,” he said.