Radically Democratising the Arts : A Cultural Grassroots
Extracts from ‘Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth – The 2015 Report by the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value’ (February 2015):
“The key message from this report is that the government and the Cultural and Creative Industries need to take a united and coherent approach that guarantees equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life.” [Foreword by Vikki Heywood, Chairman of the Warwick Commission]
“Traditionally, concerns over broadening participation have concentrated on tackling the social stratification of cultural and creative consumption with varying degrees of success. However, the Commission is keen to emphasise that equal attention needs to be placed on the making of culture and creative expression, whether in the context of the Cultural and Creative Industries or as amateur activity.” [3.1, p.32]
“The value of everyday cultural activities needs to be more fully acknowledged and supported. The amateur and voluntary sector may be of pivotal importance in spearheading a creative participation revolution.” [3.2.4, p.37]
Voluntary Arts, 64 Million Artists and Fun Palaces believe that the time has come to urgently reframe the discussion about the arts, artists and the role of culture in society. We have come together from our core commitment to participation and radical excellence in arts and culture – and a passion for everyone to have “the opportunity to live a creative life”.
By participation we mean everyone having the opportunity to create. Participation does not need to be led by a professional expert. We all have the potential to be cultural leaders, and often the best leaders arise from within our own communities.
By radical excellence we mean excellence of engagement, radically widening the opportunities for all to participate, that everyone deserves the opportunity to create. The word ‘excellence’ is all too often used as a divisive term and a subjective judgement, excluding from rather than including ordinary people in arts and culture.
We want to encourage the artist in everyone. That everyone is, or can be – given the opportunity, the encouragement, the engagement – able to express themselves creatively. We believe that it does arts and culture no good to divide us into artists and audience, to talk about us and them. Artists are community too. The perception of ‘excellence’ currently held in the arts and culture has made many people feel that their creativity isn’t valued or celebrated.
We believe that a truly democratic cultural ecology is only possible through excellence of both participation and engagement. Given we haven’t yet achieved this radical welcome to all after almost sixty years of working from the top down, the time has come to make this happen from the grassroots up.
Equality of opportunity for everyone to live a creative life.