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Valuing the arts in an age of austerity

June 2011

Angus KennedyDr Kim Wiltshire and John Summers will discuss how the arts sector can ensure excellence in the midst of dramatic budget cuts

Angus KennedyThe Arts in general have always had a difficult time in attracting public and private funding for their activities, but with widespread cuts in public spending budgets, including the arts, financial considerations on which productions and organisations will and which won't go ahead will be more difficult than recently. The economic crisis and subsequent funding cuts are forcing many in the arts to reappraise how they argue the case for funding.


Dr Kim WiltshireThe Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is investigating techniques to assess the economic value of the arts, what it terms non-market goods, in terms of what people feel they would be willing to pay for things if they were not free.


And the February 2011 Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) pamphlet entitled 'Arts Funding, Austerity and the Big Society: Remaking the case for the arts' states:


John Summers

"The Commission on 2020 Public Services at the RSA has called for more public investment to be evaluated in terms of a ‘social productivity test’: whether it builds individual and community engagement, resilience and reciprocity."


Whilst the pamphlet sets out to define a daring and bold response to the challenge presented by the cuts in funding, is there something wanting in the solutions offered? This discussion aims to challenge the participation approach of chasing audiences in favour of more compelling reasons why the arts should receive public funding and ask some difficult questions such as: just how should we value the arts? Are the arts a luxury or a necessity? Do they have intrinsic value or are they best assessed in terms of outcome and impact? Does what the public think they want or like matter or should we fund the arts regardless? Do the arts even need or deserve public funding at all?


Listen again (not miked so variable quality)...


Speakers' introductions - click on the Play button:


Initial audience comments - click on the Play button:


Speakers' responses - click on the Play button:


Concluding comments - click on the Play button:


Some background readings

Can the arts save the economy?, listen again to this Battle of Ideas 2009 session

The Hallé Orchestra is world class again, by Petroc Trelawny, Telegraph Blogs 02 October 2009

Just what are the arts good for?, watch and listen again to this Battle of Ideas 2010 satellite event

Crisis? The arts have rarely been in better health, Simon Jenkins, London Evening Standard, 23 February 2010

Arts bodies braced for fresh cuts, by Ian Youngs, BBC News 16 November 2010

The arts and cultural sector faces ‘apocalyptic’ cuts in austere Britain, by Dave O'Brien, LSE Blog 31 January 2011

Arts Funding, Austerity and the Big Society: Remaking the case for the arts' RSA pamphlet, February 2011

Arts Council funding decision day: as it happened, Guardian, Culture cuts blog, 30 March 2011

Melvin Bragg: why the arts have replaced heavy industry, The Telegraph, 12 May 2011

The true value of nature is not a number with a pound sign in front, George Monbiot, Guardian, 06 June 2011 (a wider context article on putting a price on non-market goods)


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