Exclusive: New super-body of cultural organisations launches powerful network to keep arts at the top of the public agenda
The largest ever sector-wide arts campaign, drawing together 19 arts membership bodies representing visual art, theatre, dance, music and opera, has been launched to urge local involvement in the arts and curb national funding cuts.
‘I Value The Arts’ (IVTA), organised by the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA), follows in the footsteps of campaigns designed to lobby within the arts sector but is thought to be the first to encourage public participation in this way. It brings together the greatest number of voices to lobby on behalf of artists, practitioners, professionals and local communities advocating for the arts in the face of harsh political decision-making and public opinion polls. In the past month, BBC radio programmes have debated the value of art in the public mind, and findings from a survey, associated with the Threadneedle Art Prize, claim that two-thirds of the public believe arts funding should be cut.
Louise de Winter, Director of the NCA, told AP that “placed against other spending, on education or health, [arts funding cuts] are always seen as being cut and dried”. Mobilising the arts sector to apply continued pressure on policymakers has been a key story in 2010. De Winter emphasises that IVTA needs “people articulating what they think, talking about worth and value rather than spend and budget”, else the arts risks being stymied and sidelined. “The NCA has always felt that local policy is an important plank in arts provision and arts funding [and] we want to spark off local activity and engagement,” says de Winter.
The hope is that thousands of people will join IVTA, giving the new group significant power to lobby local authorities, arts funders and Government. Supporters not affiliated to any one of the membership bodies partnered with IVTA can register on the campaign’s website and begin a two-way dialogue: members can keep IVTA in the loop of key arts and culture issues in their area, while the campaign collates their concerns and keeps a momentum for the arts going in national debate.
IVTA is engineered to work within the government’s ideas of a ‘Big Society’, with strong emphasis on public activity and engagement with the campaign at grassroots level. The campaign aims to empower people to think about arts services in their communities and to support what matters to them. De Winter says: “It’s all about public voice and public engagement – this is not about marches or manning the barricades, but getting involved in local spending meetings and debates.”
Most of the UK’s leading arts umbrella bodies have already pledged their support and have agreed to share information about the campaign with their members. Those already on board include: Arts Marketing Association, Association of British Orchestras, Crafts Council, Dance UK, Equity, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Independent Theatre Council, Musicians Union, National Association of Local Government Arts Officers, Society of London Theatres, Theatres Trust, Theatrical Management Association, Visual Arts and Galleries Association and Voluntary Arts.