From Helen Gould, Director, Creative Exchange
Despite the apparent U-turn over targets in the arts (AP issue 150, p1) the indisputable fact is that the arts sector in England is still failing to deliver to many people in lower socio-economic groups and those from diverse communities and ethnic backgrounds. The last thing the government must do is divest the arts of targets simply out of embarrassment that it apparently so dismally fails to hit them. Involvement and entitlement to the arts and participation in the cultural life of the community is enshrined in international rights legislation for all, not just a few.
If we are failing to reach these groups and hit these targets, we should be rightfully asking why, not shooting the messenger. Is the full range of arts provision we offer through our funding system relevant to those we would try to reach? Are we adequately supporting arts provision which is reaching into communities working at community level? Our organisation produced figures for 20032006, (admittedly now out of date) which found that only around 2% of Arts Council Englands spending by Regularly Funded Organisations (just under £6m) was going towards arts projects addressing community needs and social inclusion. If you want to hit targets, fund the work that hits them, then measure the result. My fear is this recent announcement might encourage the arts sector in England to revert back to a comfort zone which has a tendency of benefiting a (dare I say it, still largely white middle-class) minority.
You can almost hear the sighs of relief: thank goodness that nasty old instrumental arts and social inclusion stuff is no more. For those who are tempted to these thoughts, please read the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and think about the responsibility the arts sector has to encourage the full development of everybody in this diverse, unequal and at times rather divided nation.