Hunt’s inaugural speech unveils the government’s key reforms for culture

28 May 2010

At the Roundhouse in London on 19 May, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt spelled out his vision for the arts and culture in his inaugural speech to the arts community. You can view highlights

here. He clearly relishes his new job and the cultural sector, but has a tough job ahead when the only certainty is cuts to funding. This was a speech about how the government will “help weather the storm”.Cultural learning does seem to remain a priority for Hunt who hopes that “even in the tough financial environment, we develop and expand the many excellent education programmes being run by so many of our cultural organisations”. But at the same time the “plethora” of existing arts education initiatives will be streamlined.He thinks that there is still some way to go to convince the education establishment of the value of cultural learning as an essential, not just nice to have, part of a child’s education. To this end he’ll be working with Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, to “ensure that the superb cultural offer available in some of our state schools is available in them all”. We see this as key to ensuring cultural learning thrives in schools, and we’ll be interested to see how the relationship between the two departments develops.But the major feature of the speech was a mixed economy of public and private funding which is key to success and Hunt believes that in the longer-term this will provide the sector with sustainability and an “additional pillar of support”. It is a cultural shift that fits with the ‘Big Society’ idea of social responsibility, and the top 200 cultural donors have been asked for their advice on how to nurture more giving. Several independent trusts are supporting the Cultural Learning Alliance and have a vested interest in ensuring that cultural learning remains a strong commitment for the new government.Hunt announced a reform to the National Lottery which will restore the focus of funding to the four original good causes bringing heritage and the arts their original 20% share of Lottery funding. But the cuts to public spending on the arts and culture are not insignificant. Hunt is asking grant-giving organisations for a reduction in administration costs to 5% of the budgets they distribute.So change ahead across the board. Hunt’s personal commitment and clear desire to work with the sector seem to have made a good first impression. But the key will be the way in which an effective bridge is built between the DCMS and the DfE.