The Society of Authors has responded to Arts Council England’s consultation on its future strategy, ‘Shaping the Next 10 Years’. We are calling on ACE to do more to increase diversity in the arts, secure the future of the library service and ensure that young people from all backgrounds can engage in cultural activity.
The cultural sector and wider creative industries are not representative of society at large. It is widely recognised that action needs to be taken to ensure that England’s culture reflects the diversity of its population.
As well as negating ACE’s stated aim to provide ‘great art and culture for everyone’, the current lack of diversity is a missed opportunity for the sector to grow its audience base and therefore become more successful. If people feel that culture reflects and speaks to their own experience, they are more likely to engage and feel empowered to pursue a future career in the culture sector themselves.
We are calling on ACE to make the following issues central to its new ten-year strategy:
- Support for libraries: Libraries are unique in the sector for attracting a higher proportion of people from less privileged and under-represented backgrounds. Given Arts Council England’s role as the development agency for libraries, we believe it needs to work with local authorities to restore library services where they have fallen into decline.
- Teaching creative subjects: We are concerned at the considerable drop in the number of pupils taking creative subjects at school, with the proportion of 15 and 16 year olds in England studying arts subjects such as music and drama falling to the lowest level in a decade. We would like to see Arts Council England do more to make the case to Government about the importance of teaching creative subjects in schools, in order to nurture the creative talent of the future and ensure that young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in culture and the arts.
- School libraries: Libraries in schools have also suffered from spending cuts. This has a detrimental impact upon children who have limited or no access to books at home, and widens the gap between the best and the least ‘well-educated’ and ‘well-read’. Unless all children are given access to books in schools and reading habits are nurtured, the benefits of reading will only be felt by those from more privileged backgrounds.
- Support for literature and individual authors: Authors have made an unparalleled contribution to the cultural life of England and the UK. Authors, translators, scriptwriters and illustrators currently receive relatively small amounts of Arts Council funding compared to other creative sectors. In between 2015-2018, ACE expects to spend approximately £46m on literature from a total budget of over £1.3bn, which represents just 3.5%. We would like to see this increased, and to see Arts Council England supporting authors through skills training, school visits, mentoring schemes and funding for prizes. ACE could also provide support for literary festivals, small publishers and wider initiatives around storytelling and reading.
For further information please contact Tim Gallagher – [email protected]
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
- You can find out more about the consultation here, and you can read a longer summary of the SoA’s response here: