Arts in the community
In recent years there has been a noticeable focus on the place of culture in towns, cities and civic life, whether through inquiries, research, programmes or accolades such as the UK City of Culture.
The Cultural Cities Enquiry: Enriching UK Cities report from Core Cities UK outlines ways that cities can make better use of their cultural assets to compete successfully for talent, tourism and investment. It recommends strategic partnerships of city authorities, business, education, cultural and community leaders to co-operate in “City Cultural Compacts” that build on shared interests to promote creative and digital innovation and attract external investment.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK has funded a two-year Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations and the relevance such organisations have in their local communities. The intention is to consider, in partnership with arts and civic society practitioners, how the role of such organisations can be strengthened through policy change and support. A Creative Civic Change programme has been launched in response to the inquiry to fund over three years a number of community-led arts projects with a track record of employing arts and creativity to address social need in their local area. It is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
A report from the Local Government Association expressed the view that communities must play a central role in cultural regeneration strategies. The report, Culture-led Regeneration: Achieving Inclusive and Sustainable Growth, looks at the economic and social impacts of culture-led regeneration and emphasizes the importance of cultural growth being linked to the history and heritage of an area.
Living Places is a project that has sought to provide those involved in shaping communities in five English areas with information, advice and support in the use of culture and sport to create better environments and empower communities to make cultural and sporting activities and infrastructure part of their lives.
The Great Place Scheme is a three-year pilot programme to put the arts, culture and heritage at the heart of planning in 16 communities in England. The Scheme, funded by ACE and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, aims to test new approaches to enabling cultural, community and civic organisations to work more closely together to discover how it might boost local economies and promote community cohesion and wellbeing. It builds on a project between the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Royal Society of Arts that sought to identify areas that could better utilise their heritage assets to strengthen local identity, improve community wellbeing and generate tourism. A scheme to regenerate high streets through culture, arts and heritage assets is being administered by Historic England (see chapter 3.1).
Creative People and Places is a diverse action-research programme that focusses on the parts of England where involvement in arts and culture is considerably below the national average (see chapter 6.1).
A project to better understand how culture is resourced and engaged with in towns in England was launched in 2019 by ACE in conjunction with the research organisation Centre for Towns. It will examine how people participate in cultural activities and how the local infrastructure is distributed.
The UK City of Culture, modelled on the European Capital of Culture, was instigated by DCMS to build on the interest shown by cities in Liverpool’s experience in 2008. A key aim is to transform the winning city and build community cohesion rather than simply showcasing what already exists to attract more visitors. Derry-Londonderry was selected for the first UK event in 2013 and Hull followed in 2017. Hull’s year of celebration was estimated to have contributed up to GB£ 300 million to the economy and changed negative images of the City. However, a report from the Culture, Place and Policy Institute of the University of Hull, though confirming significant economic and social impacts, suggested the benefits were fragile and that consolidating a core audience for culture and encouraging greater engagement of non-attenders would be a challenge. Coventry has been selected for 2021. Hull’s experience encouraged the Mayor of London to institute an annual London Borough of Culture, with 22 local authorities competing for 2019, which was won by Waltham Forest. The intention is to encourage councils in London to place arts and culture at the heart of their communities, especially at a time of austerity and polarised societies. Brent was awarded the accolade for 2020. Greater Manchester has announced plans to set up its own Town of Culture award for 2020.
Following the institution of the UK City of Culture competition, the Cultural Cities Research Network was set up with funds from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to consider the impact of the bidding process for the latter accolade on policymaking, the role of the creative economy in city strategies and the connections between different communities. The Institute of Cultural Capital (a collaboration between Liverpool John Moores University and Liverpool University), led the network in association with City University, London, and Birmingham University and with three of the shortlisted cities for the UK competition in 2013. One outcome was a report on the network, It’s Not the Winning…Reconsidering the Cultural City (Wilson. K and O’Brien. D) in 2012.
While much research and initiatives have focussed on urban areas, a study was published by ACE in 2019 that sought to identify issues confronting arts in rural areas and help determine a future strategy. Rural areas have been hit especially hard by reductions in public funding for arts and culture with a 32.7% cut between 2010-2017 and the Rural Evidence Review notes that only 2.6% of the total funding of ACE’s National Portfolio Organisations is being allocated to those NPOs defined as ‘rural’ in the period 2018-22.
Arts and health
Although arts/culture and health began to emerge in England and Wales as a policy issue in the 1980s, it was not until 2001 when the Secretaries of State for Health and for Culture emphasized the role that the arts could play in delivering health benefits, that the issues gained some traction. In the last decade an increasing emphasis on wellbeing has broadened the territory from one are seeking to deploy the arts to help people suffering from ill health, as well as improve the environment of health care buildings, to one that utilises arts and culture provision to tackle wider social concerns such as age-related difficulties and the general health of the whole population. During the past decade there has been an acceleration in the amount of research interest in the area.
In 2007 the Department of Health and ACE jointly published a Prospectus for Arts and Health, showing through examples of good practice how the arts contribute to health/wellbeing. The same year, ACE also issued a national framework for arts, health and wellbeing seeking to integrate the arts into mainstream health strategy and policymaking.
In 2017 an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing issued a report – Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing – which recommended that the Secretaries of State for Culture, Health, Education, Communities and Local Government should develop a cross-government strategy to support the delivery of health/wellbeing outcomes, and also ACE should support arts/cultural organisations it funds to make health/wellbeing outcomes integral to their work as a priority in the Council’s 2020-2030 strategy. It also recommended that education of clinicians, health and care professionals etc. should include accredited modules on the evidence base and practical use of arts in health/wellbeing outcomes. One recommendation – that National Health Service Trusts, clinical commissioning groups, local authorities etc should incorporate arts on prescription in their plans – is already being developed, including a project fund for doctors to prescribe arts activities (in place of drugs) to patients in 23 areas. The NHS Long Term Plan 2019-2024 states that all general practitioners in England will be able to refer patients with mental health issues to culture and other community activities by 2024. Moreover, a cross-generational strategy on loneliness launched in 2018 factors in social prescribing of arts/culture and ACE is required to co-operate with public health providers to suggest suitable programmes as well as identify best practice. Interestingly, a survey of more than a 1,000 General Practitioners in the UK health service, conducted by Savanta:ComRes on behalf of AESOP (Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose) in 2019, revealed that 74% of the GPs considered that engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution to the prevention of health issues. This represented a very noticeable increase in favourable opinions of doctors towards arts-based intervention.
The Arts Council of Wales will be collaborating with the Welsh National Health Service Confederation in a project that is to explore how arts interventions can play a prominent and sustainable role in health and wellbeing. The project is led by Ylab, a partnership between Nesta and Cardiff University, and follows ACW’s mapping study of arts and health in 2018. In addition, ACW is to partner the Welsh Government, Public Heath Wales, the NHS and arts sector to improve the evidence base for arts in health interventions and “scale up” those interventions proven to be effective. It will also contribute to the Government’s cross-cutting priority of better mental health.