The issues of devolution and regional cultural policy have been highlighted recently in Manchester and across the North with the announcement of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ heralding significant central government investment in local cultural infrastructure. These initiatives accompany the call to rebalance the significant deficit in arts and cultural funding in the North away from London , taken up by the recent Government White Paper ‘Our Culture’ and DCMS Select Committee ‘Countries of Culture’ and influencing the development of new pan-regional initiatives such as Culture Forum North. These issues were the subject of debate at the Art of Devolution conference and Hit the North workshop organised to investigate and establish the research agenda in this area.
This invite only 2 day residential workshop was funded by SALC Research Network funding in order to consider the next steps with leading academics in this area. The implications of this agenda specifically on ‘the local’ and its relationship to national policy bodies, such as the Arts Councils of the British Isles, is of great importance. In post-EU Referendum Britain, devolution, divided nations and democracy are up for debate and the prospect of the ‘regional’ as a unit for analysis and decision-making is uncertain. Existing research on the geographies of cultural policy reflects a bias towards national policy priorities and research data , neglecting local historical, social and economic contexts for creative and cultural production and obscuring the distinctiveness, diversity and inequalities which are part of these contexts. It also highlights the potential for further engagement between HEIs and local cultural sector and policy making.
In response to these factors, a residential workshop was convened on 7 and 8 June 2017 in Hebden Bridge, hosted at the Town Hall, establishing a network of scholars whose work engages with these issues. The workshop began from the position that there is a significant knowledge gap on the relationship between national policy frameworks, agencies and infrastructure, and the networks, contexts and resources found within ‘the local’. The aim was to provide a space for discussion and incubate debate to highlight key sources and directions for research to fill knowledge gaps. Delegates gave short papers on a range of topics related to policy models on arts governance, policy and devolution. The opening panel explored the relationship of the local in Arts Council policy in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, paying particular attention to decision-making processes and governance. Delegates then were taken on a guided walking tour with local poet John Siddique who read from his work and offered observations about the role of the local from the perspective of a creative practitioner.
The second day began with a panel on place-based agendas and local authorities, which presented several case studies, including Hebden Bridge and Birmingham; and an in-depth discussion on quantitative methodologies used in government policy decision making. The second panel focused its analysis on the international context, including an examination of the relationship between the local and nation in Italian arts policy, the impact of mega-festivals such as the EU City of Culture model on local policy and global city positioning. Following lunch, delegates workshopped used the emerging themes from the panel to address what is cultural policy in the local context. Some key observations were the need to analyse and document democratic models in policy making and implementation, to inventory and critique the methodologies used for evidence, the mobility of network formation in response to the creative industries, and the potential for further engagement between HEIs and local cultural sector and policy making. The workshop concluded with an outline for future activities for developing and nurturing an expanded international network, a working committee to submit a book proposal on the topic of arts policy and devolved governance.
• Residential report and outline literature review
• Expanded network of international scholars
• Outline proposals for co-edited book and special edition of Cultural Trends journal
• Platform for further funding bids
Delegates and Affiliations
Franco Bianchini, Director of the Culture, Place and Policy Institute at the University of Hull
Peter Campbell, Lecturer, Sociology and Social Policy, University of Liverpool
Tamsin Cox, Honorary Research Fellow, Sociology and Social Policy, University of Liverpool
Tori Durrer, Lecturer, Arts Management and Cultural Policy, Queens University Belfast
Beatriz Garcia, Director of the Institute of Cultural Capital, University of Liverpool
Abigail Gilmore, Director, Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester
Leila Jancovich, Programme Leader, Culture, Creativity, Entrepreneurship, University of Leeds
David Stevenson, Head of the Division of Media, Communication & Performing Arts, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
Saskia Warren, Lecturer, Human Geography, University of Manchester