Making the Case for Cultural Learning in the 2019 General Election

13 November 2019

After some months of turbulence, a general election has now been called for the 12 December. This post details six different ways that you can help to make the case for the arts and cultural learning in this landscape.

Our friends over at What Next? have put together an Election Briefing, which we’ve adapted to help you make the case for the arts and cultural learning to the candidates and potential governments of the 2019 election. Here is a list of six useful things you can do in the next month.

1. Analyse the manifestos

At the time of publishing, none of the major parties have announced the date that they will publish their manifestos, but we expect them in the next few days. Once they’re out, we will analyse their impact on the arts and cultural learning, and will post the findings on our blog.

We’ll be looking for any pledges that relate to schools, youth services, local authority provision or arts funding in particular. At the CLA, we’re hoping to see:

  • a strong pledge for strategy and plans for a National Plan for Cultural Learning
  • direct, ring-fenced investment into primary schools in the form of an Arts Premium
  • a blueprint for excellent training, professional development and learning for the arts learning workforce; with artists and teachers learning alongside one-another.

You can read more detail about our three main policy recommendations here.

2. Find out who your local candidates are

Get to know who is running for Parliament in your constituency, and make sure that they understand how important the arts are in your area. Because this is a snap election, many local candidates won’t be announced until 14 November – less than a month before the election itself.

This website will tell you which constituency you live in and who your local candidates are as soon as they register. Keep a close eye on local media to find out who else is putting their hat into the ring.

3. Get the arts and cultural learning on the agenda

If you work for an organisation, invite your local candidates in to see how your organisation works and to see a show. If you are an individual artist or freelancer, write to them to ask for their stance on arts education, culture and creativity.

In the current landscape, it might be difficult for candidates to make a statement about where they or their party stand on specific policy issues; some questions may need sign-off from Regional Party Directors. However, all candidates should have views on some of the major issues affecting our sector.

  • We’re aiming to get as many candidates as possible on the record talking about the arts education. We want them to say things that prompt their rivals to respond on the same subject, and we want them to make statements of intent that we can hold them to account with if they win.

  • Give every candidate the opportunity to be a visible champion. Ask them to hold up placard with the hashtags #Artsforschools and #Arts4Britain on it, or to visit a positive arts education event with the press there. Take a photo and tweet it/post it on your social media.

    If possible, encourage the candidates to tweet: ‘I’ve just been shown the work of XXXX arts charity /school and I support it’.

  • Ask them a headline question and make their responses public. We suggest ‘What are your thoughts on the place of the arts in education?’. If they don’t have a strong response, or it’s not the answer you were expecting, you can share that too (without rancour), as this is a useful way to get a local debate about the issue off the ground. If there is a specific local issue or organisation you want to ask them about, then add in a question about that too.
  • Encourage and mobilise as many people as possible to ask this question to your candidates. Use your newsletters and your contacts to get your school / organisations / governors / board members /  audiences / participants / young people etc. to all get in touch with their local candidates about the arts in schools.

Don’t be put off if at first if they can’t make time to see you or don’t reply to your email. They will be frantically busy for the next few weeks: but time, charm and persistence often pay dividends. Especially if you make an ally of a candidate who can go on to be our champion in Parliament.

  • If they are able to meet with you then do offer them a very quick briefing on the value of the arts and culture to children and young people (no more than one side of A4).

Do use the CLA’s suite of briefing documents and our key findings to make the case for the value of the arts and culture to the lives of children and young people, as well as our key publication: ImagineNation.

Arts Council England has a number of other tools, statistics and resources you can draw on too, as does the Creative Industries Federation.

4. Tell everyone you know to register to vote

Earlier this year the Guardian reported that more than 9 million UK voters are not correctly registered to vote. Increased voter registration, particularly for young people, could potentially make one of the biggest differences to the outcome of the election.

All the information you need to make sure you’re registered to vote is available online. The form includes 11 simple questions (one of which is a request for a National Insurance number) and takes less than 5 mins to fill out. The deadline to register for this election is 26 November.

In past elections, arts and cultural organisations have set up voter registration booths in their foyers – with computers which can be used by people wishing to register. This has been especially effective for reaching young people.

It’s Our Time: is an open challenge to the creative industries to mobilise the 2 million people aged 18-30 who care about climate, will be most affected by it and are not registered to vote.

In the 2015 election Vote Art commissioned a number of artists to make work encouraging people to vote – these artworks were put in the public domain and can still be used by organisations now to encourage people to participate in local democracy.

5. Host a local hustings, or make sure you attend one

Hustings are public meetings at which political candidates in an election can address voters. They can particularly help undecided voters listen to individual candidates’ policies in more detail. Holding hustings can boost your profile locally; show the candidates that there is a significant level of support for an issue; and provide an opportunity to quiz candidates on their stance. However, they do take planning and work, and need to comply with simple Electoral Commission rules.

Given that candidates will have a very short space of time to campaign, make sure invites are issued early, and that the event is well publicised. You will need an independent chair and time to decide what issues will be addressed. All candidates should be invited, and organising the event in partnership with other local organisations is the best way to ensure maximum attendance and support. If you can’t host a hustings, then do attend your local one and ask the candidates about the place of the arts in schools.

6. Raise the importance of the arts and culture in all your media and public speaking opportunities

The first rule of communications is repetition. We need as many people as possible to understand that arts, culture and creativity are important to children and young people’s lives, and that this is an issue worth voting on. Between now and the election, try to mention this as often as possible in public and to the press.