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Launching our open policy development programme

Updated: 21 hours ago

This month, Culture Commons have joined forces with a coalition of some 20 partners to launch an ambitious 12-month programme that will investigate the future of local cultural policy across the UK.

We are now making an open call for individuals and organisations to summit evidence on the programme's key themes to ensure the work includes a wide range of perspectives. We're also hiring a Post Doctoral Research Associate to join this multidisciplinary team for the next year. More details on both below.

This first-of-its-kind ‘open policy development programme’ will see Culture Commons and a coalition of local and regional governments, universities, arm’s length bodies, creative and cultural sector representatives and grant funders coming together to explore how political promises for more powers for local governments might impact the creative, cultural and heritage ecosystem of different places in the four UK nations.

This yearlong programme will bring together experienced industry practitioners and leading researchers to explore four key themes:

  • Local Cultural Decision Making

  • Culture-led Place Shaping

  • Funding

  • Local Voice

The work will result in a suite of evidence-informed polices, as well as a new shared language to better articulate how the creative, cultural and heritage ecosystems interact with, and can support, local place-based development.

The programme is expected to conclude in September 2024 with a launch event alongside policymakers and sector representatives.

If you would like to learn more about the work of the programme, please visit the programme hub here.


Trevor MacFarlane FRSA, former advisor to senior politicians and Founding Director of Culture Commons, outlines the rationale for kickstarting the programme:

“Policymakers across the UK have been promising to empower local communities to take charge of their own futures for some time now. But we haven’t yet heard how increased local decision making might impact the creative, cultural and heritage ecosystems within different types of places and indeed, what role these sectors might play in empowering local communities. These are exactly the sorts of questions we hope to explore in our flagship open policy development programme.”

“By bringing stakeholders from across the UK’s creative, cultural and heritage ecosystem together, and consulting closely with those who are usual excluded from national policymaking processes, we’re trying to take a radically inclusive approach that we think will result in a more coherent and balanced set of recommendations for local and national policymakers at this critical period in the electoral calendar.”

Professor Ben Walmsley, Dean of Cultural Engagement at the University of Leeds and Director of the Centre for Cultural Value said:

“I’m delighted that the Centre for Cultural Value is partnering with Culture Commons on this important national policy programme. As a Centre, we’ll be working alongside leading research institutions including the University of Leeds, University of Warwick, University of Liverpool and University of Dundee, to ensure that robust research is being fed into the programme partners to underpin the policy thinking that takes place over the next year.”

Alison McKenzie-Folan, Chief Executive of Wigan Council, said:

“We’re really pleased to be a part of the efforts of Culture Commons, working to develop policies that will create the best possible outcomes for the creative and cultural sectors, as well as making these more equitable across the UK. It’s only right that opportunities to support and develop the sector are fairly spread across different geographical areas."

“Culture is something we’re incredibly passionate about here in Wigan Borough, and the impact it can have on local communities cannot be understated. Our cultural manifesto, ‘The Fire Within’, plays a key part in improving outcomes for local people, artists and sector organisations. I’m keen to share the things we’ve learned in a cooperative and collaborative way to create a better cultural sector that everyone – no matter where you’re from - can benefit.”

Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, a charity who support UK museums, said:

“No matter their scale or setting, museums are at the heart of their communities. We are delighted to be working with Culture Commons and a superb group of partners to explore an ambitious future for local cultural policy, recognising the huge social and economic benefits of vital cultural spaces to local places.”

Bernard Donoghue OBE, Director for the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) and Independent Chair of the programme’s Steering Panel said:

"I am excited to be acting as the independent chair of the programme’s Steering Panel of senior representatives. A collegiate cross-cutting approach is exactly what the sector needs to respond to the challenges facing its future. With the combined expertise of the brilliant collection of partners Culture Commons have lined up, I know the outcomes of this programme will be bold and disruptive and I encourage decision makers to follow this work carefully. I hope the conclusions and recommendations that come forward are far-reaching, inspiring and challenging.- culture and its centrality to local economies, wellbeing, communities and individuals requires nothing less.”

Andrew Bramidge, Chief Executive at Harlow Council says:

“Following a successful Levelling Up Fund application, the development of Harlow Council’s new Cultural Quarter is now well underway and this exciting national policy programme feels particularly important for us to be part of. Working with Culture Commons and the other partners involved, we hope to learn how our new cultural investments can really deliver something meaningful for all communities in Harlow.”

To ensure that the programme is drawing on a wide range of information and perspectives, the programme partners are now making an open call for evidence from individuals and organisations, with a specific focus on how increased local decision making might affect the creative and cultural life of the UK.

If you or your organisation have any ideas, published research, or data that explores the connection between increased local decision making and the creative and cultural life of the UK that you would like to submit to the programme, please visit the Call for Evidence submission page. Submissions will be accepted in accessible formats.

We're also now hiring a Post Doctoral Research Associate to join our team of leading Research Partners, including at the Centre for Cultural Value, University of Leeds, University of Warwick, the Heseltine Institute at the University of Liverpool and .University of Dundee

If you would like to learn more about the work of the programme, please visit the programme hub here.

Full list of programme partners:

Art Fund

Arts Council England

Belfast City Council (pending final approvals)

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority

Centre for Cultural Value

Creative Estuary

Durham County Council

Greater Manchester Combined Authority

Harlow District Council

Historic England

Libraries Connected

Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Sheffield Culture Collective

South Yorkshire Combined Authority

University of Dundee

University of Leeds

University of Liverpool

University of Warwick

Wigan Council

We’re grateful to the following organisations who will be observing the work of the programme

Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre

Arts and Humanities Research Council

Royal Society of Arts

Local Government Association

Call for evidence

The Culture Commons team hope to receive evidence from individuals and organisations operating in:

  • The creative industries

  • The cultural sectors (privately and/or publicly funded)

  • Local and regional governments

  • Universities, think tanks and independent researchers

  • Trade unions and workforce representative bodis

  • Sector and trade representative bodies

Culture Commons will endeavour to take a flexible approach to the types of evidence that they review. The evidence submitted could include, but would not be limited to:

  • Own personal views

  • Views of an organisation

  • Anecdotal evidence on how devolution has already affected an individual or organisation

  • Qualitative data collected on related themes

  • Summaries of existing primary and secondary research

  • The risks and opportunities that you or your organisation are thinking about

  • Survey or other quantitative data that reveals something about how you or your organisation thinks about devolution

More details on the programme can be found on the programme hub webpage here:

Social Media

Twitter: @culturecommons

LinkedIn: culturecommons

Programme hashtag: #futurelocalcuture


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