Briefing: The Culture White Paper

24 March 2016

The Cultural White Paper is published

On 23 March, Ed Vaizey, the Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media & Sport & the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, launched The Cultural White Paper at the Southbank Centre.

You can read the document here, and his accompanying speech here.

You can read coverage from the BBC, The Stage, The Telegraph and the Guardian and can also read the response from the Arts Council, the RSC, the Creative Industries Federation and the Museums Association.

What’s in it?

The White Paper is set out in four sections: opportunity, community, cultural diplomacy and funding.

Most of the measures laid out in the paper are existing initiatives and activity, and whilst it’s good to be reminded of the collective weight of this work, this briefing will focus on the significant new content.

Headline initiatives:

  • Launch of Cultural Citizenship Programme for young people in areas of deprivation and low engagement. 

    This will be piloted in three regions for three years (in 70 areas where cultural participation is lowest), will be led by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund and will have an initial target of 14,000 young people per year. The programme will involve young people meeting professionals and creating sustained relationships with arts organisations.
  • Launch a new Great Place scheme
    This scheme will initially be piloted in 12 areas, of which at least four will be rural areas. It will support areas where there is a strong local partnership and a commitment to embed culture in the local authority’s plans and policies.

    The White Paper cites the North East Culture Partnership and Case for Culture as a template.
  • A Museums Review on the themes of infrastructure and partnership. 
    The review will focus on shared services, storage, digitisation and resilience, and will consider not only the scope for more shared accessible storage facilities but also what can be done to ensure that more objects held in storage in London can be put on display elsewhere. The review is expected to be complete during the financial year 2016-17.

Other new initiatives include:

  • A virtual Commercial Academy for Culture: a group of expert individuals who will work through new and established networks to support the sector
  • A new pilot scheme to to explore opportunities and build the evidence base for matched crowdfunding for culture
  • £30 million ‘Cultural Protection Fund' to protect and help countries recover from acts of cultural destruction
  • A report on the content of digitised public collections
  • £4m of new capital funding for English museums and galleries delivered through a joint DCMS and Wolfson Foundation fund
  • Reviews of Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund

Although there is a very welcome emphasis on diversity and access throughout the White Paper, there is very little in terms of concrete, new initiatives or policy levers that will be used to make change happen.


Unlike Jennie Lee’s White Paper in 1965, this White Paper does not come with more core funding for the arts, but the Minister made the point that the Spending Review settlement was a positive one for the arts (we would agree, although the situation looks a lot less positive if you factor in the local authority picture). 

What’s good about it?

As Jude Kelly and Sir Peter Bazalgette both said at the launch event, it is great to see a clear statement of belief in the value of culture from government, and it is important for all of the sector, delivery bodies, funders and departments to sing from the same song-sheet on this issue.  For us, it is particularly heartening to see statements about educational value and social value, and to see clear recognition that the playing field is not level for all young people: 'employment in the creative economy disproportionately favours those who come from a more advantaged socio-economic background’.

  • It’s interesting and useful to see case studies of good practice pulled together. At the launch event a colleague from the Local Government Association praised this approach, stating that, in the current climate of extraordinary cuts to local government, a mandatory or top-down requirement for culture would not be welcomed. He felt that the sharing of innovative models about local delivery was the best way of supporting local authorities to invest in culture.
  • From our perspective, the White Paper contains two principal initiatives: the Cultural Citizenship Service and the Great Place Fund. Both are attempts to address inequality: for young people in deprived areas and for geographical areas without cultural infrastructure or strategy. Both are key issues for the sector and we’ll look to the results of these initiatives with interest.
  • It was great to hear the Minister confirm that government is committed to maintaining the Taking Part survey as it is a really critical source of participation data.
  • It is great to see that the DCMS will be holding itself to account against both outcomes and outputs – although we are really interested to see how they will evidence their impact against such broad targets. We’re also really interested to find out more about the new measure of children’s participation in culture mentioned on page 59 of the White Paper.

What’s of concern?

No read across to other government policies

This is the third large-scale policy document that the government has published this week. We’ve had an Education White Paper and the Budget for 2016. It’s extremely concerning that there is so little read across between the Cultural White Paper and these two documents – especially for children and young people, education and the talent pipeline.

  • National Citizenship Service
    The Education White Paper sets out the government’s vision for the National Citizenship Service: the DfE expects to invest more than £1 billion over the next four years, so that by 2021 it will cover 60% of all 16 year-olds. This throws the pilot plans for the Cultural Citizenship Service in three regions and the target of 14,000 participants into sharp relief. Why are the two schemes not more closely related? Why is culture not an embedded part of this priority government initiative?
  • Pupil Premium
    The Cultural White Paper indicates that the DCMS will work with the RSA to find ways to encourage schools to use their Pupil Premium funds on arts and cultural related activity. This is not a new idea and many schools already do it to good effect, but, in the Education White Paper the emphasis is very clearly on improving the effectiveness of the pupil premium by encouraging schools and virtual school heads to adopt evidence-based strategies, drawing on evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation.

    For the government’s ambitions here to be realised they must look to invest in ways for schools and their cultural partners to demonstrate measurable impact on attainment for the most disadvantaged students in a way that the Education Endowment Foundation will recognise as robust – mere encouragement will not be convincing as was shown by a recent (worrying) EEF report on this subject. In our view, it would have been great to see an Arts Premium for Schools set up through this White Paper, equivalent to the one for PE and Sport (which has just seen a doubling of investment to £320 million a year in the 2016 Budget). This is what we have long called for in our manifesto.
  • The National Curriculum and teacher recruitment
    The Cultural White Paper talks about the National Curriculum arts expectations but the new Academy plans set out in the Education White Paper mean schools won't have to follow it – see our briefing for the CLA take on what this means for culture in schools. Similarly, art and design, drama and dance teachers are currently the only subject teachers not to receive a training bursary – how will we ensure excellence in our schools when there is inequality in the system and a teacher recruitment crisis?

Local authorities
The cut to local authorities of over 50% over the last 6 years is one of the most serious issues facing arts, culture and communities in the UK, and although the Great Place Fund is encouraging, it does not go nearly far enough to strategically engage with this issue. During the launch event the Minister was asked how arts and culture could be systemically embedded within Growth Deals (worth £1.8bn this year) and within devolution deals for cities and regions. We would very much like to see a plan from the DCMS on how they will work with the DCLG, the Local Enterprise Partnership network, and others, to make this happen.

Partnership working with other Departments
As the Minister himself admitted at the launch, government has a tendency to work in silos. We believe that effective cross-departmental working between the Departments for Education; Culture, Media and Sport; Business, Innovation and Skills; Community and Local Government; Work and Pensions; Treasury; the Cabinet Office; and Health are absolutely essential to the on-going success of this vision and we would have liked to have seen the White paper act as a catalyst to form a working group of this type.

Reviews of Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund
Although we absolutely agree that our funders and arms-length bodies should be held accountable for the work they do, both these institutions have been restructured and reviewed extensively over the last ten years and need time and the trust of government to deliver what’s needed for and with the sector.

Language and tone
Although the White Paper tackles big, critical subjects like diversity, access and inequality, there is very little information in it on how these will be addressed. The document is full of words such as ‘support’, ‘encourage’ and ‘ask’. As pointed out at the launch by a Times journalist, there is very little in the way of delivery mechanism.

What else is missing?

The White Paper doesn’t tackle the ever-growing number of freelancers, micro-businesses and entrepreneurs that underpin both the arts, cultural and creative industries. This workforce is both dynamic and vulnerable – and needs an economic framework, support and infrastructure that allows it to flourish.

The paper also fails to adequately address the voluntary and amateur arts and cultural landscape and to make links with key strategies like Our Cultural Commons.

It also doesn’t mention the need to move from STEM to STEAM in our schools, to ensure there are learning trustees in cultural organisations, and cultural representatives on education governing bodies or the need to prioritise early years and families. It mentions SLiCE – a Bridge organisation scheme to have specialist leaders in cultural education – but does not include the CLA’s long-standing call for one teacher in every school to be a designated cultural ambassador, liaising with the cultural organisations working in the school’s locality.

Other documents
There will be a separate case studies document that sets out great practice across the country in due course and there’s a DCMS Youtube Channel with individuals talking about culture direct to camera.