‘As Labour's European Spokesperson for Arts & Culture and with decades of professional work experience in the cultural sector, I am delighted to hear what Ed spoke about at Battersea Arts Centre on Monday’ (23 Feb) ‘That the arts, culture and creativity define us: who we are as a nation. Non mihi. Non tibi. Sed nobis. Not for me. Not for you. But for us.’
It is great to be here with you tonight. This is a great day to talk about the arts given what happened last night. I want to first congratulate the British Oscar winners from last night. It is more than thirty years since Colin Welland famously said ‘The British are coming’ when accepting his Oscar.
Since then we have got used to British actors, composers, costume designers, make-up artists, and many others, winning Academy awards, but we shouldn’t take it for granted. It is a huge tribute to our brilliant film industry.
And in the spirit of the Oscars, I want to start with some thanks of my own. To Anish Kapoor with whom I first discussed the idea of this speech. To David Jubb, the artistic director of the Battersea Arts Centre which does so much brilliant work who are hosting us tonight. To David Lan, whose work with What Next has blazed a trail for the future of arts policy. To John Kampfner, whose Creative Industries Federation is sponsoring this speech tonight. And Sir John Sorrell who has done so much to support them. Let’s applaud them all.
I also want to thank Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and our Shadow Sectary of State for Culture, media and Sport and Chris Bryant, the shadow Arts Minister. I’m sure you are all aware of this, but in Harriet and Chris you have the best campaigners in Parliament on your side. And I also want to welcome Will Martindale, the Labour Candidate here in Battersea.
And of course I would like to thank all of you here, for coming out to the Battersea Arts and Culture Centre, which is the old Battersea Town Hall, a building that has long been home to radical change.
And it is with the words here in the town hall that I want to begin tonight.
It says: Non mihi. Non tibi. Sed nobis. I had to look it up too. It means: Not for me. Not for you. But for us. That’s why I am giving this speech about the arts, culture and creativity. For simple reasons:
Because I care about you and your success. Because the arts, culture and creativity define us: who we are as a nation. Because they make a major contribution to our economic success. And because I think government policy can help you succeed as a sector and an industry.
I am conscious with this speech that I am venturing into relatively uncharted, not to say risky, territory. Both my predecessors, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown showed their commitment by overseeing a cultural renaissance when it came to arts policy, including free museums and galleries. But there haven’t been very many set-piece speeches on the arts from British Prime Ministers or Leaders of the Opposition. I did find one by Tony and also another one. By Jim Hacker on Yes, Prime Minister. But he ended up closing down the National Theatre and getting rid of Radio Three. I am not planning to follow in his footsteps.
But this absence makes a more serious point. It, in fact, says more about our political culture than the contribution of the cultural community.
It should be odd that Prime Ministers don’t give speeches about culture and creativity, not odd that they do.
Now I recognise that saying ‘I care’ is a start but not enough. I know the people who subsidise the arts the most are artists themselves: who work for free, for long hours, for scant financial reward. Despite that, I can’t come here tonight making easy promises about more funding despite everything you do. Because of the financial circumstances we will inherit.
Instead, I come here with a different offer: to put policy for arts and culture and creativity at the heart of the next Labour government’s mission. Of course, we should keep the department of culture. It says something that that should even be a question. But I want to go further: I don’t believe culture belongs to just one department.
Because what you do matters across our society and we can only achieve the mission of a society that works for all and not just a few if we see the value of culture right across government.
The Treasury and BIS because of your economic value and the need to protect copyright and intellectual property. And shortly John Woodward will be publishing his review on how we can do more to help the creative industries.
The Department of Work and Pensions for the routes into work you offer.
The Ministry of Justice because your work with young offenders is groundbreaking.
And the Department of Education because how we teach the young is so important to your future and ours.
It matters to our young people for the opportunities they can enjoy. It matters to you for the talent they have. It matters to us for all of the magical things our young people might create.
To put it another way, think of the Grayson Perrys, the Anish Kapoors, the Jude Kellys, the Julie Walters that might not get the chance if we get this wrong.
So putting art and culture at the heart of government policy means putting art and culture at the heart of our offer to young people.
And I want to say something in particular about that tonight.
Before I do, let me say something more about why the arts and culture matter to me. All of us, of course, have our first memories of what really moved us as young people. When a painting, or a film, or a TV show, took us to new worlds, opened up our horizons, helped our imaginations transcend our circumstances.
I remember going to see Anthony Hopkins in David Hare and Howard Brenton’s Pravda back in the 1980s. It was as you remember about a ruthless, overseas newspaper proprietor. Little did I know I would be taking him on thirty years later.
Today, I love the thrill of taking my two boys, Daniel and Sam, to the Tate Modern and seeing them run down the slope at the Turbine Hall. Or going to the Donmar Warehouse to watch James Graham’s Privacy. Or sneaking out on a rare night off with Justine to the Odeon on Holloway Road to see an incredible film like Captain Phillips directed by Paul Greengrass.
And in my career, I have been lucky enough as well to get to see the fantastic workings of the British creative industries from the inside. I was on the Board of the Royal Court. And I learnt a lot about the challenges facing an artistic director and their team, not just creative but financial too.
But my commitment to the arts and culture is not just a personal commitment. It is about what the arts and culture do for all of us. We already hear a lot about the economic value of creative industries to Britain. And rightly so.
It is an area where Britain leads the world. From the film set of the new Star Wars to training the talent of tomorrow as at the BRIT school where I was this morning. And every day we see all around us evidence of the brilliance of British theatre, design, fashion, architecture, video games and every other branch of arts and culture.
Together, the creative industries account for at least 1.7m jobs and are the fastest growing sector of our economy. But the importance of the arts and culture for me goes far beyond pounds and pence.
They define our character as a nation.
In one opening ceremony, Danny Boyle told the story of what makes us great as a country more than any number of speeches by politicians.
The BBC is a great cultural institution.
Great architecture and public art, from the Millennium Bridge to the Angel of the North, lifts our spirits.
Publicly-funded art and culture is vital to our dynamism as a country. Encouraging our experimentation, creativity and innovation. And it opens up new opportunities.
Like at the CAST theatre in Doncaster, where I am an MP.
Like I saw at the BRIT school this morning. The young man I met who said to me: “this is the school that means we can realize all our dreams.”
I would go further: if you believe in social justice, if you believe in a more equal society, as I do, then access to the arts and culture is not an optional extra—it is essential.
Not simply because of the worlds it opens up, but because of the wider impact it has.
Some people pose the arts and culture as an alternative to academic education. But the truth is the opposite. Over 40% of 16 year olds from low-income families who engage in the arts and culture score above average in their school tests. Those who take part in the arts and culture are more likely to get a degree. It can’t be right that all of these advantages are the privilege of a few, rather than the right of the many.
That is why at the heart of the next Labour government’s mission is to guarantee every young person, from whatever background access to the arts and culture.
A universal entitlement to a creative education. And we have a plan to make it happen. We are going to strengthen creative education in schools and after-school clubs. Build clear paths from school, college and university into the arts or creative industries.
And I personally commit today to using the power of the Prime Minister’s office to put arts and culture policy at the very heart of government.
Now if we care about the opportunities for the young, the findings of the recent Warwick Commission should worry us all. The number of primary school children taking part in music fell from well over half in 2010, to just over a third by 2013. The number of arts and culture teachers in schools has fallen by 11% since 2010. And in 2013, fewer than one in ten of students combined arts and culture and science subjects at AS level.
In my view, this is a direct consequence of a backward-looking, narrow educational philosophy from a government that has gone from the Gove regime to the Gove regime in all but name.
And only this morning at the BRIT school I heard about their fear about the all pervasive downgrading of what they do.
We have to turn that round.
At the moment there is no formal requirement for arts and culture and cultural education in schools and much of what we did to improve access in government has been cut back.
So as the first part of our plan to improve access to the arts and culture, the next Labour government will do everything we can to recognise the importance of a creative education.
In my view, a truly outstanding education cannot exclude creative subjects, especially if we wish to see fully rounded citizens of our country leaving our schools and colleges at 18.
So Harriet Harman, Tristram Hunt, our Shadow Education Secretary and I have agreed that under Labour we will build the need for a creative education into Ofsted inspections. And schools will have to provide high quality creative subjects and cultural opportunities to all their pupils if they want to get an “outstanding” Ofsted rating.
It is about understanding the importance of the arts. That we will succeed in the future with STEAM not just STEM. Because young people deserve a broad and balanced curriculum.
And we will do more.
We will encourage and support every school to identify a specialist “culture champion” to connect with arts and culture organisations locally and around the country. And work with careers advisors to enable all our children to have access to the very best that Britain has to offer.
So our plan starts with schools and making sure creativity and the arts and culture go from the margins to the mainstream in education in this country.
Next, we need to make sure that the thousands of fantastic arts and cultural organisations we are so fortunate to have in this country are truly open to all our young people, in all regions, from all backgrounds. Because for too long, opportunities have been available to some and not all, as the Warwick Commission has shown.
Again, we will use all the means we can.
We will maintain the policy introduced by the last Labour government of free admission to our national museums and galleries. In the first 10 years of free museum and gallery admission, visitor numbers more than doubled. Over two million more children visited museums every year. And the number of ethnic minority visitors nearly trebled in the first 10 years it was in place.
And I know so many of the organisations that you lead are doing more and more every year to widen access to the arts, often against the hardest of odds, both social and financial.
But the next Labour government will work with you to go further.
Responding to the challenges that Peter Bazalgette raised himself only a few months ago.
Organisations who receive funding from the Arts Council are already encouraged to improve the number of activities that they offer young people. But we will work with you to do more to ensure that public money is always used to increase the number of arts and cultural opportunities and activities available for young people of all backgrounds. By working with the Arts Council to increase the number of organisations receiving funding with this type of expectation.
This will support an increase in the number of outreach programmes, offering dance, theatre and other creative opportunities to young people, as well as reduced admission prices to performances.
If the first part of our plan is about school and the second part is about access to arts and culture organisations, the third part of our plan is about working in the arts and creative industries.
We must open up the opportunities for young people to work and develop their artistic and creative talents wherever they are in the country. That starts with proper opportunities in school, real work experience and expert careers advice.
Last year there were only 1,000 apprenticeship starts in culture and the creative industries. And yet, the creative industries are one of the fastest growing and increasingly essential sectors of our economy. So a Labour government will work with you - and work with the creative sector all over Britain - to increase the number of apprenticeships.
We will give you more control over the available funding for training and apprenticeships. And in exchange, we want you to make those apprenticeships available.
As well as increasing opportunities through apprenticeships, our plan also involves getting young people who have been out of work back into jobs.
And there is a role for arts and culture here too.
The next Labour government will give a Jobs Guarantee for every young person who has been out of work for 6 months. In return for employers providing a job and at least 10 hours of training to participants, government will pay the wages. We want you involved in this. You offer the jobs of the future and lots of young people want to work in your sector.
And so we will look to the arts and creative sectors to play a key role in creating these paths to employment. And we will know we have succeeded when we have an Oscar or Olivier or Grammy or BAFTA award winner who has come through that route.
The fourth and final part of our plan is ensuring that the voice of the arts and culture is heard at the very heart of government. Because, as I said at the outset, the importance of the arts and culture goes far beyond education and employment. To every part of government.
So I intend to make a permanent change to the way that the arts and culture are represented in Westminster and Whitehall. We want the Department of Culture Media and Sport to work effectively with other depatments.
But I want to go further.
So I will establish a Prime Minister’s Committee on the arts, culture and creative industries. The members of the Committee will include leading figures from the arts and culture world, drawn from a whole host of backgrounds from right across the country. As broad a range of talent as we can draw upon. Practitioners as well as decision-makers.
Its job will be:
To bring key issues of concern in the arts, culture and creative industries directly to the attention of the Prime Minister. To make sure that you and your value is recognised across government. To increase funding for the arts and culture by bringing private and philanthropic sources of support into a closer relationship with the public sector. And to help us go further in expanding our agenda of increasing access to the arts and culture to all young people of any background.
And there is another area where the Prime Minister’s Committee must play a role.
Equality of access across the country.
We’ve seen so many regional success stories over the years. Turner Contemporary in Margate, the Hepworth in Wakefield, the Baltic in Gateshead. Not to mention, the recent huge re-launch of the Whitworth in Manchester and the Liverpool Everyman theatre.
But still too often opportunities are significantly skewed towards London. And just as the cuts for local government have disproportionately hit some parts of the country, so too that has had a devastating impact on the arts and culture in some regions. Making a difficult situation worse.
So the first thing that the Prime Minister’s committee will do, working with you, is put a strategy in place to ensure equality of access right across the country.
As the Arts Council has acknowledged there is a need to look at the way funding decisions are made, where they are made, including the case for further devolution of resources.
And also how we can better use the resources we have in London. Including do more to ensure that the works in the national collection currently in storage are able to travel to regional museums and galleries around the country.
Just as the Lewis Chessmen have inspired thousands of people around the country, we should open up objects currently in storage. I can’t think of any better job for the PM’s Committee than to make sure that people in every part of our country have the chance to enjoy proper access to the culture and creativity of our nation.
So this is our plan to celebrate, enhance and open up the arts and culture in Britain for a new generation.
It is a core part of our plan for Britain as a whole. Because I believe, and I know so many of you do too, that Britain will be a prouder, richer, stronger country when we give everybody the opportunity to develop their creativity, expand their horizons, enhance their talents and make a life for themselves in the arts and culture.
This Wednesday will see the 50th anniversary of Jennie Lee’s White Paper on the arts.
Jennie Lee had one central belief: That the arts and culture weren’t the property of the few, but that they came from and belonged to all the people of Britain. Old and young. Rich and poor. North and south. Her vision enhanced the opportunities of millions. And transformed culture and the arts in this country.
Tonight I rededicate myself to making that mission ours again. To ensure that no chance is missed. No imagination remains unopened. And that all our talent is unlocked. That’s what the next Labour government will seek to achieve in the arts and culture. I look forward to doing it together.