Ed Vaizey – 2016 Speech on Culture White Paper Launch


Below is the text of the speech made by Ed Vaizey, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at the Southbank Centre in London on 23 March 2016.

It’s been a great privilege to have been arts and culture minister for six years – and on occasion to have been the heritage minister as well. It’s a wonderful job that has taken me all over the country and enabled me to experience many of our great cultural treasures and some outstanding events. Be they national and grand or local, small and exquisite, each has immense value.

Fine art, heritage, music, dance, libraries, museums, theatre and other cultural pursuits describe and raise the human condition. They are valuable in and of themselves. But they also contribute in other ways: to our economy, to our education, to our health and wellbeing. They make places great and give them an identity.

We have remained ambitious for culture – even during a very tough economic climate – and we have achieved, in my view, a great deal.

We increased the share of National Lottery funding for the arts and heritage.

We introduced tax credits for theatres and orchestras, and now we will do the same for exhibitions.

We encouraged resilience in the sector and worked with our partners to roll out endowments and capacity-building schemes, in recognition of the vital role of philanthropy.

We maintained free entry to our national collections and increased freedoms for museums. Recently, we secured £150 million to move collections out of storage in Blythe House and enable greater public access.

We introduced the Cultural Gifts Scheme.

We created music education hubs, expanded In Harmony, and introduced a range of cultural education programmes.

We established the new English Heritage charity which runs a wide range of historic properties and in which we invested £80 million.

Last year, we secured a good deal for the arts and heritage in the Spending Review that was welcomed across the sector.

The role of our libraries has changed over the last 50 years and is continuing to evolve with society’s digital expectations. That is why we created the Libraries Taskforce.

Attendances and participation have continued to rise. Over the last Parliament, we saw a third of heritage assets removed from the ‘at risk’ register for the right reasons. We continue to see phenomenal success and creativity, led by an outstanding generation of cultural leaders. So I think we can be in good heart.But of course there are challenges right across our cultural landscape. We want to address those challenges. We want to maintain our ambition.

That is why we are the first government in fifty years to publish a White Paper on culture, one that offers a comprehensive assessment of that landscape.

The great Jennie Lee was the last – and indeed only – arts minister to publish a White Paper. I am honoured to follow in the footsteps of someone so distinguished. Elected to the House of Commons at the age of 24 when she was too young actually to vote, she played a pivotal role in the foundation of the Open University and expanded the Arts Council so that it did more work in the regions, along with creating art institutions at the South Bank Centre.

Jennie Lee’s White Paper is short and to the point – no more than 20 pages and a hundred paragraphs. It is challenging – to the arts themselves. It is aspirational – the beginning of a process, rather than the end. And many of the themes it identified in the middle of the 1960s are as relevant today, in the middle of the second decade of the 21st century.

The biggest challenge Jennie Lee identified in her White Paper was ensuring that the arts should not be the preserve of a privileged few. Despite enormous changes to arts and culture in this country since 1965, the same concern animates our own White Paper.

There are now many families for whom a trip to the theatre, a historic house, or a museum is second nature. But this is far from universal. Many of our institutions do great work in this area. But the challenge is to make that work sustainable, to make the engagement permanent, and to really try and reach those who are the hardest to reach.

So the Government will challenge all cultural organisations in receipt of government funding to do more to reach out to people of all circumstances and backgrounds. Arts Council England will regularly report to government on the progress being made.

A Cultural Citizens Programme will be launched in places that have especially high deprivation and low cultural engagement.

Starting in September, ACE will help institutions to engage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by immersing them in the work they do and introducing them to the people that run those institutions.

We will pilot the programme in three areas – the North-West, North-East and West Midlands – and hope that by the end of the third year it will be operating in up to 70 places and reaching 14,000 young people. I hope that many of them will end up forging a career in culture – and that all of them will be enriched and inspired in a way that stays with them for life.

We also need to do much more on diversity. ACE has already made a start on this. But we need much more diversity in the leadership of our arts organisations, much more diversity among those who work in them, both on and off the stage. We will make it clear to arts organisations that we want to see real and tangible progress in diversity – that is a legitimate expectation of anyone who applies for public funds.

Cultural activity should be nurtured in every corner of the country. There is a great debate, as there was in Jennie Lee’s time, about the balance of funding between London and the rest of the country.

This debate is presented in stark terms, when the reality is far more nuanced. Nevertheless, we want to build on what ACE is already doing, in rebalancing its funding between London and the regions, with schemes such as Creative People and Places.

So we will introduce a new Great Place Scheme, which will bring national arts and heritage Lottery funders together to work with councils, cultural organisations and universities to make culture a core part of local authority’s plans and policies.We will initially pilot this in twelve areas, at least four of them rural. Historic England will provide advice on how to use planning and development to bolster local culture.

Culture should never be considered an add-on or a fringe activity, when a whole host of organisations would benefit from a closer relationship with culture. The Great Place Fund will be a catalyst for delivering comprehensive and sustainable strategies.

The North East Culture Partnership has done sterling work in this field already – and can be an inspiration to others. Its Case for

Culture has brought together more than 1,000 people and organisations – including twelve local authorities and five universities along with business, sport, education, tourism and cultural bodies – to work towards major cultural development over the next fifteen years.

Today, at my behest, the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce has launched a consultation on our vision for public libraries in England that sets out a bold and dynamic direction of travel for the next five years. I very much welcome your comments and feedback through the consultation process to help shape the final Ambition document by Summer 2016.

Our historic built environment is a unique asset. We have announced £3 million of new funding for the Architectural Heritage Fund and we are supporting Historic England in launching Heritage Action Zones. And I am delighted that Bernard Taylor has agreed to lead a review of Church buildings. This will examine new models for opening these buildings up, bring their history to life and sustain them for future generations.

Our museums are a huge draw and extremely popular. It is clear from all the work we have done that they face specific challenges and merit a separate review.

It will consider three main themes: firstly the framework for different kinds of museums, secondly those museums that are directly sponsored by government, and thirdly local and regional museums. The review will touch on multiple issues, but with a particular focus on shared services, storage, digitisation and resilience. We want to see many more objects brought out of storage, and made available, in an informal setting, to the public.

And we want Britain to be a world leader when it comes to the digitisation and dissemination of our great collections. As announced in the Budget, we will bring in a new Museums and Galleries tax relief from April next year, and will begin our consultation on this in the summer.

We want all our organisations to increase their resilience and long-term sustainability. More than £60 million of funding is available to help cultural organisations improve their resilience.

I’m also tremendously excited by the new virtual Commercial Academy for Culture, which will use existing networks and forge new ones, in order to build a strong centre of commercial expertise. And we will pilot an innovative new matched crowd-funding scheme to support the cultural sector’s use of this rapidly growing fundraising tool.

While our White Paper recognises the importance of the local, we also understand that there are global treasures, and that we need to play our part in protecting them.

Culture is a key part of this government’s international development work, and we are signatories to several international cultural conventions and have taken a lead as members of organisations such as the Council of Europe and UNESCO.

We are committed to helping protect World Heritage Sites and subject to legislation this country will finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols.

Last year the Government hosted a highly successful cultural protection summit at which experts of all stripes discussed what more we can do to protect cultural assets. A £30 million Cultural Protection Fund, managed by the British Council, will make a serious contribution to these efforts.

This White Paper is an unapologetically ambitious exercise – far- reaching in scope and driven by a fierce determination that the great gifts that cultural engagement bestows should be available to all.

All of us who are responsible for cultural institutions must not only make clear that everyone is welcome, but do all we can to encourage them in.

That is my mission. Thank you.