Oct 7 2014 - Posted by Yvonne

What Next?

What is the value of culture?

What is it worth?

Can we measure the impact and value of art and culture on an individual, a community, a society?

Can we calculate the impact and cost if we do not value and invest in art and culture and place them at the heart of a society, a community and an individual’s life?

I believe passionately that access to the Arts & Culture is a fundamental right of every citizen and that the Arts must form a central and pivotal role within British Society and specifically within Education.

I became involved in What Next? last year when I was awarded the Arts Council of Wales Clore Leadership Fellowship 2013/14 www.cloreleadership.org. For my secondment I was asked to cover the maternity leave for the Strategic Lead for What Next?

What Next? is not an organisation. It is a movement. It is an experiment. It may fail. If it is to succeed it needs cultural leaders across the sector and across the UK to make its aim and guiding star an absolute priority in all that they, and their organisations, do.

In order to succeed What Next? must urge, encourage, enable the people in this country to take back the ownership of art and culture. I want them to demand it as a public good for themselves their children and their grandchildren.

I am not happy that I live in a modern democracy and yet the fundamental right of every citizen to have access to high quality art and culture is being dismantled and relies on the whim and decision and choice of those with ‘surplus’ money whether it is a spare tenner or 10 million they can spend on the art of their choice. Art and culture must not be allowed to become a luxury item affordable only by the few.

I would everyone in Britain to moan about art and culture the way people moan about the NHS because then they would have a sense of ownership and right to art and culture. I would like everyone to demand, debate and celebrate art and culture.

We have a state funded NHS to look after our bodies, a state funded education system for our young minds and we did have state funded art and culture for our souls, spirits and humanity. That equal access state funded art and culture is in jeopardy. the other two will be next.

Every piece of popular culture whether it be music, fashion, TV, advertising, computer games or radio is part of art and culture. Every piece of design and creative work is part of art and culture. Where did the person train who designed your i-phone? Where do fashion designers go for inspiration? Shall we trace back the roots and inspiration of every track you download from i-tunes? Deleting art and culture from your world would leave so many holes it simply would not make sense.

It is the human condition to undervalue that which we take for granted and which has always been there. It is only when it has gone that we realise what we had. We are living through an interesting time. How do you make the world appreciate that the abundance of all things creative we have now is the product of earlier investment in arts and culture and in twenty years’ time and more we or rather our children and grandchildren will reap the results of the current underinvestment and the cuts that are yet to come?

This is not simply about art any more. This is about the very foundation of our society and how we wish to live. We were told a story by the Thatcher government and not even 10 years of a Blair labour government changed that narrative or the terms of the debate.

After a global economic crash, record levels of poverty (with more households in Britain accessing food banks than ever before) it is crucial that we challenge the accepted wisdom of a market-led economy and ask, without a World War creating the stimulus for the question-

What kind of society do we want and how do we make that a reality?

The purpose of What Next?

BROAD AIM: to find new ways of engaging with our audience and visitors: the ever-expanding millions who value and take part in the cultural work that happens day-in, day-out up and down this country.

GUIDING STAR: to encourage the people of this country, as individuals and as communities, to see connections between the many different ways art and culture affect and enhance our lives; to urge everyone to register their endorsement of – and pleasure in – their art and culture, especially where these are under threat.