Cultural Playing Field


Lord Wei at The Arts, Heritage and The Big Society by Robin Simpson
February 4, 2011, 3:06 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

On Tuesday morning I was back in London to attend the National Campaign for the Arts/Culture Forum seminar on ‘The Arts, Heritage and The Big Society’. This was my first opportunity to see the Government Adviser for Big Society, Lord Wei – and his first opportunity to talk to an audience from the arts and heritage sectors about The Big Society. Lord Wei said “Big Society is something we have to create together: the idea itself is a creative endeavour. Like the arts, Big Society is an evolving and personal way of solving the problems we face together.” He said that Big Society is about supporting citizens to take more control over their lives and is based on an unshakeable belief that people can often solve problems in their communities. Lord Wei explained that Big Society comprises three things:

  • opening up public services (the public services reform bill)
  • community empowerment (the localism bill)
  • social action – encouraging and enabling people to play a more active role in society (including the white paper on giving and changes to regulations relating to vetting & barring, health & safety etc)

Lord Wei suggested “it might take a generation to see the shift we are looking for”. He thought there are were many connections between the emerging policy framework and the arts and heritage. He identified three particular developments to look out for:

  • the role the arts and heritage can play in building social capital
  • a move to more diversified funding for the arts and heritage sector (such as the opportunity to bid for contracts relating to health, re-offending, education etc)
  • social investment (including the Big Society Bank – a “Bank of England for the social sector”, bonds and peer-to-peer funding)

Lord Wei said “we mustn’t underestimate the continued role for Government: Big Society will not solve everything on its own”. But he thought that “Big Society and the arts and heritage are fighting on the same side – encouraging people to watch a little less TV and get involved in participating.”

It was fascinating to see Lord Wei in person. It’s clear that the Big Society agenda still has some way to go in developing a greater clarity and focus but the voluntary arts definitely has the potential to play a major role.

Robin Simpson.

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2 Comments so far
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Sounds positive; hopefully he gets what voluntary arts, in all its diversity and depth; any discussions about how it all gets supported on the ground?

Comment by Matt Scott (CSC)

Thanks Matt – no, not much detail but we’re working on some proposals with Arts Council England for the development of local networks of arts organisations which might help in this area.

Comment by Robin Simpson




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