The Warwick Commission is aiming to develop new policy thinking and practical recommendations related to the long-term sustainability of culture in the face of tough economic challenges.


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A two-year investigation into ‘The Future of Cultural Value’ is aiming to energise debate around investment in and engagement with our cultural lives. The study will focus on four key themes relating specifically to the state of culture in England: how does England invest in its cultural life? how is culture valued and undervalued? how important is education to the development of talent and participation in culture? and how are new international trends impacting on England's cultural status? It is being conducted through the Warwick Commission, an initiative established by the University of Warwick in 2007 to draw together the expertise of academics, practitioners and policy makers to address issues of global importance.

The choice of Cultural Value as the theme has come as a result of the “legacy of the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics which so successfully realised the role that arts, industry and public service play in making British culture a source of national pride” and the Commission’s work aims to “offer an authoritative and constructive contribution to policy discussions and public attitudes in relation to arts and culture in the lead-up to the General Election in 2015.” Previous Commissions have focused on elected mayors and city leadership, reforming the international financial system in the wake of the global crisis, and how multilateral trade can better serve the global community. All Warwick Commissions are charged with carrying out independent analysis of a particular issue with the goal of making practical and realistic recommendations about how to move it forward.

The latest Commission is being chaired by Vikki Heywood CBE, working closely with partners the British Council, Cheltenham Festivals, the Design Council and the RSA to determine what kinds of investment are needed to ensure the future of culture, and how all forms of culture can be inclusive and accessible. The Commissioners include Deborah Bull CBE, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Ruth Mackenzie CBE and Sir Nicholas Serota and others, who will be working with the partner organisations, an academic reference group and the team at Warwick University, including Professor Jonothan Neelands, Associate Dean of Creativity at Warwick Business School, and Dr Eleonora Belfiore, researcher in the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at Warwick.

The starting point for the research is a belief that a healthy cultural ecosystem is central to the vibrancy and prosperity of society at large, and an acknowledgement that the arts and culture face especially tough economic challenges. Cuts to public funding and reduced levels of private giving have highlighted “points of pressure and disconnection within the cultural ecosystem and the infrastructure for its support, and between some sectors of the arts and the general public” and the Commission will be assessing these, with a view to contributing “a fresh perspective on how, going beyond an exclusive focus on matters of arts funding, we can develop new policy thinking and practical recommendations that allow the country to ensure the flourishing and long-term sustainability of its cultural ecosystem.” It is inviting individuals to contribute their opinions on the four key themes of investing in culture; placing a value on culture; the connection between access to arts education and the vibrancy of the cultural sector; and international trends impacting on England's cultural status, including how it relates to the other nations of the UK. 

Liz Hill