Over the coming weeks, ArtsProfessional will be putting your questions to Arts Council England on its new draft ten-year strategy. Here ACE’s Deputy Chief Executive Simon Mellor introduces one of the strategy’s three key outcomes.

A photo of a man photographing a street piano player
People spoke at length about their wish for more opportunities to participate in creative activities such as photography clubs in their communities

The second and final phase of consultation on Arts Council England’s (ACE) 2020-30 strategy is now open. We’re seeking input from the sector and other stakeholders until 23 September 2019.

Over 5,000 people have shared their views with us in previous stages of consultation. This included artists; staff in museums, libraries and arts organisations; the public; children and young people, and people from across the creative industries, education and local government. We have also talked to a lot of people who don’t regularly engage with publicly funded arts and culture.

The Arts Council has to date not always been full throated in our support for the idea that everyone should be given opportunities to develop their creativity

Their responses helped us shape a draft version of our strategy. We’re encouraging everyone to read this draft strategy before taking part in our online consultation and the workshops we’re hosting across the country. We want to hear from as many people as possible.

Vision

At the heart of our 2020-30 draft strategy is a proposed vision: Over the next decade, we want England to become a country where the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where every one of us has access to a rich and remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences.

The draft is built around three outcomes and three investment principles, which will help us work together to deliver this vision. In the coming weeks I will be writing here, in ArtsProfessional, about each of the outcomes and about our investment principles.

Our draft strategy shows where our thinking has reached from the evidence we’ve gathered and the people we’ve spoken to so far. But it’s important to say that we are still in listening mode. Input from the previous consultation has really helped our thinking to date and we’re keen to get your feedback.

We plan to publish the final strategy in December this year. Alongside it, we’ll also set out in detail how we will begin to realise the outcomes in the first few years of the next decade.

Here’s an introduction to one of the outcomes we’re proposing: Creative People.

Creative People

As I travelled across the country listening to conversations about our next strategy, the thing that struck me most forcefully was how deeply we value creativity. The people who came along to our consultations spoke at length about their wish for more opportunities to participate in creative activities – from photography clubs and dance classes to craft circles and local choirs – in their communities, and their hope that their children would have a chance to realise their creative potential.

But I also heard from people about their concerns that such activities were increasingly coming under threat, due to the closure of libraries and other community spaces, the reduction of adult education opportunities, and the marginalisation of arts in the school curriculum. This was particularly striking given that I also heard repeatedly from young people – many of them still at school – of the mental pressures and strains they are currently under and how important creative activity is in providing them with a much-needed release.

The Arts Council has to date not always been full throated in our support for the idea that everyone should be given opportunities to develop their creativity. With the new strategy we are suggesting that we should do more to promote opportunities for everyone, at all stages of their life, to be creative. We believe that every one of us is born with the capacity to be creative, but that the chances to take part in creative acts are not currently open to all.

And yet the benefits creativity offers are profound. As well as providing us with a means of expressing ourselves and of engaging with the world, creativity can reduce loneliness, support health and wellbeing, sustain older people and help to build and strengthen social ties. Shouldn’t we all be able to develop our personal creativity, and experience these benefits? And isn’t it important that opportunities to do so are available from our earliest years?

Dependent on background

Over the next 10 years, we plan to support libraries and cultural organisations, community partners and the public to co-design and deliver an improved programme of creative activity for young people and their families. Looking further ahead, we know, thanks to a November 2018 report by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and Nesta, that creative skills are sought out by employers not just in the creative industries but across industry.

The same report showed that by 2030, jobs asking for ‘creativity’ as a skill, are far more likely to grow as a percentage of the workforce. It is critical, therefore, that every young person has the opportunity to develop such skills in order to prepare them to enter the workforce. And yet teaching of the arts in state schools is in decline. Over the life of our next 10 year strategy, we will champion the value of creativity in schools and encourage the Department for Education to increase its investment in cultural education.

In the present day, though, the opportunity to pursue a creative career remains unjustly dependent on personal background. We need to do more to help young people understand what working in the creative industries looks like, and make it possible for anyone, regardless of background, to do so. We also believe that individual artists and creative practitioners need more support to turn their creativity into a career. We will therefore work to deepen and widen the talent pool, in order to ensure that our artists and creative practitioners have the opportunity to realise their ambitions, and that our enormously successful creative industries continue to prosper.

Creativity is a powerful force for change, and for good. By 2030, we want every person in the country to have the opportunity to develop and express their own creativity, throughout their lives.

Simon Mellor is Deputy Chief Executive, Arts and Culture at Arts Council England.

Do you share ACE’s thinking? Let them know and take part in the draft strategy consultation.

Or do you have a question about the strategy you’d like ask? ArtsProfessional will be putting your questions to ACE to encourage discussion in the sector. Email editors@artsprofessional.co.uk with your question. We’ll choose the most popular and thought-provoking to put to ACE, who’ll publish their answers here in future weeks.

Simon Mellor’s next ArtsProfessional piece will focus on Cultural Communities.

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