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Rod Fisher

Rod Fisher founded and directed International Intelligence on Culture (which specialised in international cultural policy research and consultancy) from 2000-2015 and its predecessor the International Arts Bureau. Now working part-time, he is Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, lecturing on cultural policies in Europe and, from 1984-2007, led a Masters degree module on a similar subject at City University, London.  He also has specialist knowledge of cultural policies beyond Europe, especially in Asia. Prior to establishing his company, Rod worked for the Arts Council of Great Britain in several capacities, latterly as International Affairs Manager, and spent nine years managing arts/leisure programmes for local authorities. He was also Director of the European Cultural Foundation UK Committee from 2002-2012.

Rod co-founded the CIRCLE network (Chairman 1985-94) and he chaired the expert group evaluating cultural policy in Finland (1994) and the European Task Force on Culture & Development that produced the report “In from the Margins” for the Council of Europe (1995-96).  Rod has conducted research, lectured and delivered conference papers in 33 countries worldwide, and has written on the European institutions, comparative cultural policies, arts management and cultural relations/diplomacy etc. The latter issue has been a particular focus of his interests over the past decade and he was an independent expert for the Preparatory Action on Culture in EU External Relations (2013-2014).  

Some major challenges facing culture and democracy today

History often manifests as a series of waves with issues coming in and out of fashion. This is certainly true of cultural policies, where those of us of a certain age will recall, for example, how the cultural industries were a subject of debate and research at European level in the 1980s, then dropped off the agenda before returning (with the addition of the label  “creative”) as a major policy issue this Millennium. Today, in our post-factual world, it seems, that opinions are no longer driven by truth, but by what people want to believe.  This is evidenced by the BREXIT vote in the UK, where the “Leave” campaign was largely based on fabrication and the distortions of the press, and in the rise of populist parties espousing nationalist sentiments in many European countries.

Given the shameful lack of compassion towards refugees that is so prevalent, perhaps the biggest challenge for cultural policy is to engage with socially excluded groups, whether new migrant communities or those disenfranchised by poverty, age, disability or gender. Social cohesion also necessitates reaching out to young people with less closed minds through social media etc.  Another major challenge is to rebuild the idea of a Europe working together rather than fragmenting and so there is an important role for cultural co-operation and developing cultural relations. Policies are also needed to respond to increasing calls for the return of misappropriated heritage objects, both within and beyond Europe.  Of course, numerous other challenges remain, not least ensuring that cultural policies really are integrated with other government policy areas.