The big C word
Overused, allegedly undervalued, and bouncing off the pages of any arts report worth its weight in words: Creativity. Be it the economy, education, everyday thinking about the arts – we’re all clamouring to prove that this tiny word, with huge reach, is central to the way we now think, work and innovate. Hats off then to Scotland, where plenty of noise is being made by its new cultural funding body about prioritising creativity in education (p2). The return on investment is obvious: the ideas industry has become the twenty-first century’s answer to the industrial revolution; of course our kids need to be lateral thinkers, graduates of the Edward de Bono and John Howkins school of ingenuity. And as I keep saying, to anyone with half an ear left, it’s admirable that the likes of Creative Scotland and Arts Council England (ACE) have stepped up to do the necessary groundwork (and all credit to them), but should they be charged with the responsibility? Creativity needs to be embedded within the school curriculum – for all the will in the world, this won’t happen unless government, and in turn the education sector, starts taking creativity as seriously as the cultural sector does.
To news that minority ethnic staff are “still under-represented” in museum jobs. True, if we’re
checklisting the workforce against the national census,
but a decidedly pessimistic angle to take away from the Museums Association’s report. In the past 15 years,
employment of black, Asian and candidates hovering over the ‘other’ box, has trebled in museums. I’m not surprised that the numbers of ‘diverse’ staff in management and collections are still relatively low (as they are for women). But let’s remember to take stock: this is still a process, not an end result – there are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
The genuinely sad news comes in the closure of the Museum Association's Diversify programme (which winds up this year) and the alleged threat of funding cuts to the Inspire MA at the Royal College of Art (for minority ethnic students taking a Masters degree in curation). Both have done solidly positive work and, to borrow a phrase from Greg Dyke, have helped make our national museums less “hideously white”. Diverse arts policy is often criticised for creating a ‘cultural apartheid’ rather than the inclusive, organically evolving arts landscape one supposes could have existed without it. But for all its failings, and however slow it was on the uptake, the insistence of the last government (and, yes, the work of ACE behind it) to make sure the arts became accessible to all, remains one of its greatest triumphs. The numerous schemes to foster black, Asian and minority ethnic talent in all fields and at all levels have worked: regardless of the weary sighs around ‘box-ticking’ culture, the strength of diverse talent working in and around British arts is greater than ever before. To pretend that this sea change in British culture over the past two decades could have happened without targeted arts policy is naive. Moreover, to do away with positive work on the grounds that the arts have reached a level playing field? Disingenuous, if not downright dangerous.
This week Nosheen was swept away by the imagination of Complicite’s ‘A Disappearing Number’, and the charms of Don Draper. She headed over to Asia House for Granta’s launch of its special Pakistan issue (it’s wonderful, she’ll say no more) and booked her tickets for ‘Blood and Gifts’ at the National Theatre.