Partnerships with Defra, local authorities and LEPs will be key to delivering the Arts Council’s strategy in rural communities.
Leo Reynolds (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
A new position statement setting out how Arts Council England (ACE) intends to meet the specific needs and aspirations of rural communities explains the principles that it will take into account in its advocacy, development work and funding for rural areas. Rejecting the need for a specific rural strategy or investment programme, ACE says it wants to see “rural communities benefiting appropriately from the totality of our support”.
Partnerships are seen as crucial to this and ACE will continue to work with Defra to take account of “rural proofing”, and more specifically to see how the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and other funding programmes can support the cultural sector in rural areas. Local authorities are recognised as a key strategic and delivery partner, but whilst ACE will “engage strategically with local authorities in rural areas in order to sustain and extend cultural opportunity”, it makes no commitment to “make good” local government funding cuts for arts and culture. Efforts are ongoing to lever investment from Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), and to broker partnerships between the arts and cultural sector and LEPs. This is seen as a major opportunity which “rural arts organisations and their partners should actively exploit… if we are to see the creative economy in rural areas make its contribution to national recovery”. Other partnerships involve joint audience development activity, such as those with the National Trust, the Canal & River Trust and Forestry Commission England. The value of strategic organisations such as the National Rural Touring Forum is acknowledged, as is Voluntary Arts for its role in community-based cultural activity and its importance to rural cultural infrastructure.
Comments on the position statement are being invited and these, together with the outcomes of the independent review of rural proofing currently being undertaken by Lord Cameron of Dillington, will contribute to a revised version that will underpin ACE’s approach to working with rural communities until 2017/18.