Valuing the Arts in an Age of Austerity

Date: Wednesday 22 June 2011, 6pm to 7:45pm

Venue: The Millennium Room, The Carriageworks, Millennium Square, Leeds

Speaker: Angus KennedyAdam Ogilvie and Andy Abbott.

With the current economic crisis and widespread cuts in public spending budgets, things are even more financially precarious for the arts than usual; and many have been forced to reappraise how they argue the case for funding.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is investigating techniques to assess the economic value of the arts — what it terms non-market goods — in terms of what people feel they would be willing to pay if they were not free.

The February 2011 Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) pamphlet, Arts Funding, Austerity and the Big Society: Remaking the case for the arts, states:

"The Commission on 2020 Public Services at the RSA has called for more public investment to be evaluated in terms of a ‘social productivity test’: whether it builds individual and community engagement, resilience and reciprocity."

The pamphlet attempts a bold response to the challenge presented by the funding cuts, but is there something wanting in the solutions offered?

This discussion aims to challenge the participation approach of chasing audiences, in favour of more compelling reasons why the arts should receive public funding, and ask some difficult questions such as: how should we value the arts? Are the arts a luxury or a necessity? Do they have intrinsic value or are they best assessed in terms of outcome and impact? Does what the public think they want or like matter or should we fund the arts regardless? Do the arts even need or deserve public funding at all?

£5 waged/£3 unwaged on the door


This debate is part of the Emerge Leeds Festival 2011 being held at the Carriageworks Theatre from the 19th to the 26 June. For more information go to:



Can the arts save the economy? (listen again to this Battle of Ideas 2009 session)

Just what are the arts good for? (watch and listen again to this Battle of Ideas 2010 satellite event)

Arts Funding, Austerity and the Big Society: Remaking the case for the arts (RSA pamphlet, February 2011)

Arts Council funding decision day: as it happened (Guardian, Culture cuts blog, 30 March 2011)

Melvin Bragg: why the arts have replaced heavy industry (The Telegraph, 12 May 2011)

Crisis? The arts have rarely been in better health (Simon Jenkins, London Evening Standard, 23 February 2010)

Using art to nudge the public (Jan Bowman, Culture Wars, 20 May 2011)

Culture Linked to Improved Health (BBC 24 May 2011)


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