What the Culture White Paper means for you.

In March this year, the government released the first Culture White Paper in 50 years and this country’s only second one ever.

White Papers are policy documents. They’re designed and delivered with the purpose of setting out priorities for future legislation.

Legislation in the cultural sector covers all of the following:

  • the Arts
  • Historic environment including landscapes and buildings
  • Cultural property and heritage
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Galleries
  • Archives

And it’s not just those which receive government funding. We all should be paying attention as the reach of this paper stretches out to us all.

No matter what you think of the way this government has handled the strategic development of this country’s cultural sector, this White Paper is really important for us all.

As James Doeser explains, it hasn’t actually developed at all from the first and only other Culture White Paper. I concur with Doeser that we need a revolution, not an evolution. However, we can’t ignore it.

Here’s why:

The Culture White Paper 2016 puts express pressure on the sector’s key funders to support particular programmes of work.

It explicitly and repeatedly mentions the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Historic England.

That’s right. For possibly the next 50 years or even more, the government has demanded that our big sector funders focus on supporting projects that satisfy, among others, the following key performance indicators:

  • Rich and continued engagement with children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • More jobs, apprenticeships and leadership positions being fulfilled by people from disadvantaged backgrounds and black and minority ethnic groups.

It demands a heck of a lot more but these are the ones most important to us at the moment.

So, what does this mean for you, fellow culture professionals? 

Well, if you work in the cultural sector and are in charge of any kind of cultural asset, it means that your key funders now have new priorities. These now need to become your priorities. Funders will be looking for projects, initiatives and programmes that will help them meet these targets. So, chat with your local HLF/Arts Council England/Historic England representatives and make sure that you can incorporate the above into your programmes.

And what about you, my friends working in community groups and organisations?

If you’re working in an organisation that supports children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, or supports black and minority ethnic groups, then you may want to take note that the cultural sector is being steered in your direction. Have a project but need someone to do it with you? Have a look at what cultural organisations are around you. They should be jumping at the chance to work with your organisation because that’s what is now expected of them.

Funders! What about you?

Many funders already have these targets in their matrix somewhere but they’re about to earn a hell of a lot more points.  You need to be showing that you are increasing your support of projects which meet your newly prioritised key performance indicators.

The bottom line is:

We need to be making connections between the organisations and operations which have cultural assets, those within the communities that are being highlighted and the funders. These connections must then form a sustainable chain of supply and demand to meet the Culture White Paper’s expectations.

Get talking. Get sharing. Get experimenting and bouncing ideas off each other. Consult with the professionals on the supply chain and get creative!

The implications don’t stop there, though. Do you work in a school?

It’s not just us culture/heritage folk, which need to pay attention. If you work with schools/academies, the Culture White Paper also puts heavy pressures on you to provide cultural experiences and richness to your pupils.

This is a big deal.  Having worked with schools before I know it’s not as simple as clicking your fingers to provide a rich and unique cultural experience to young people.

So what do you do?

There’s not set formula. So, just talk to us. Again, it’s simple supply and demand. Us folk in the cultural sector need to be showing that we are meeting these targets to get funding since it’s the funders’ priorities as well. So, we may be able to work to deliver an experience to your pupils that you could not have managed before.

Get in touch with your local cultural organisation or a consultant like myself and see what can be done. It could be something as simple and easy to deliver as one of us coming to your school and doing a workshop. It could be an off campus visit. It could be designing with you a cultural pack based on our assets which you can deliver to all your classes.

Again: by working together and getting a chain of cultural supply and demand going locally we can meet these targets and make all of our lives a lot easier.  

Also, for all of my fellow Northerners, we’re mentioned A LOT. If you want to chat about how we can work together, then I’d love to hear from you.

Any ideas?

Any comments?

What did you think of the Culture White Paper?




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