Director's Blog - September 2019


Tom Watson's creative policy has been receiving some attention as an election looms onto the horizon. So what is Labour's policy? According to the policy document "A Creative Future for All" Labour recognises the key role culture plays in promoting the UK's image abroad and promoting trade and will place creativity at the heart of their industrial strategy. There would be a £1bn Cultural Capital Fund to upgrade and regenerate existing arts infrastructure and to build new facilities and museums would remain free. Access and equality will also be foregrounded. Labour recognises that a major barrier to people from working class backgrounds entering the arts is the culture of low and no pay and so will work with trade unions and employers to agree sector specific advice and guidelines on pay and employment standards that will make the sector more accessible to all. There will be an arts pupil premium to invest in cultural activities and arts facilities. The Secretary of State for Culture would be represented on the Brexit cabinet committee. The whole policy document can be read here.

The Art Newspaper somewhat mischievously remembers Johnson's remarks on becoming Shadow Arts Minister 15 years ago . . . There are concerns that Johnson's record in cutting arts funding as London Mayor may bode further austerity for the arts across the UK whilst a recent leak indicates that Johnson's electoral strategy may be focused rather on collating government databases on the UK population than the future of the UK VA sector.LibDem policy papers indicate a will to "nurture creativity" but it's hard to find any detail on creative industries policy from the list of documents approved at Conference. However, the LibDems in Coalition led on a strong creative industries policy and the DCMS team have called in Parliament for a commitment to action from the Government to protect the creative industries with some detailed proposals.

Meanwhile, as the Anglo-American policy climate moves from a model of public funding to 'alternative finance', sponsorship scandals are piling up provoking a rising groundswell of concern about 'artwashing' both in the USA and UK. Artists and curators face demands for new skills with limited support to acquire them and, as we've observed before in this blog, funding from sources such as Local Authorities and Lottery have drastically shrunk whilst funding overall becomes increasingly instrumentalised. Institutions will need to become more data-literate and able to use evidence effectively in future planning. We need to talk about these challenges! CVAN will be hosting an event for members in February 2020 to explore these pressing issues and look for workable ways forward - more details soon.

ACE draft strategy consultation closes soon - don't forget to have your say!

Spending Review

Nothing to see here! This was a holding/rollover due to the prevailing circumstances - the current budget was expiring and this is not the best time to project future government spending in detail. There'll no doubt be an election and probably a Brexit before anything interesting happens on this front...


Risk of no-deal remains high although uncertainty also remains high. Under the circumstances, it makes sense to prepare if your organisation or practice involves EU nationals or EU collaborations. Check the ACE EU Exit Guide, the CIF advice for no-deal, and Creative Europe Desk has advice on EU cultural funding in the event of no-deal.

This TIAMSA Blog entry is a sobering reflection on the potential impact of a Brexit/Johnson double-whammy on the UK arts market and the record of the new PM's record on arts sponsorship. It seems likely that policy will slant towards facilitating financialisation. However, there are also arguments that regulatory de-alignment could open out new opportunities to attract sales and continue to compete successfully for global market share. These are unlikely to appeal to artists and public institutions however as they're likely to include the abolition of artists' resale rights currently guaranteed by EU regulations along with free ports and zero-tax zones (well known to attract money-laundering) and increased costs for participation in international exhibitions. Ultimately, however, just how the UK arts market will be affected by Brexit is as opaque as everything else to do with Brexit!

There have been some new announcements on immigration from the new Executive including:

  • EU Migrants will, again, have three years' temporary leave to remain removing the cliff-edge for current EU migrants and allowing EU nationals arriving before the end of 2020 to stay until the end of 2023.

  • Tier 4 'Graduate Route' will also be restored allowing eligible graduates [which means the institututions they graduate from are compliant] to work or look for work for two years after they graduate with no cap - this will be very welcome news not just for HE but also for creative sectors.

  • A CIF survey showed that 81% of those surveyed said they would face challenges if they were unable to hire talented EEA workers and the salary threshold for work visa eligibility remains a thorny issue. Creative Industries Federation has been tirelessly arguing that extending the £30,000 threshold applied to non-EEA workers to EEA workers post-Brexit is entirely unrealistic for the creative sector. It also fails to take account of regional variation in wages. In other words, rather than making it easier for global workers, the MAC proposals will just make it harder for EEA workers.

  • CIF is also pressing the proposal for sector 'umbrella schemes' which CVAN could run on behalf of the VA sector to sponsor EEA and non-EEA workers under Tier 2 to take the burden from small and micro-organisations - this could be a way forward.

  • CIF is also arguing for a more realistic 'sector deal' for creative industries but the problem is that no-one knows how to define a creative worker for the purposes of a sector-specific scheme and that multiple sector deals would lead to an unworkable hotch-potch of per-sector regulations which would make the whole system unworkable. The Government has made it very clear that this is not on the table.

  • The Tier 5 temporary Creative Worker Visas, Standard Visitor Visas, and Permitted Paid Engagements (PPEs) also urgently need reform to reduce the burden of evidence and avoid over-use of visitor visas.

  • We will continue to support CIF's calls for a lower threshhold and/or a sector deal but the Government is now also considering an Australian style 'points' scheme rather than the 'employer led' scheme we currently have. They are also open to reviewing evidence relating to the salary threshhold. CVAN is asking for evidence from our members to submit to this review but organisations can also respond directly: MAC call for evidence closes 09:00 on 5 November.

    And now for some lovely stats:

    Taking Part 2018/19 Statistical Release

    Over last year, engagement with the arts remained high, main barriers to engaging with the arts continue to be lack of interest and lack of time. Between April and June 2019, there were a total of 13.0 million visits to the DCMS-sponsored museums and galleries. This is an increase of 4.2% (around 530,000 visits) compared with the same period in 2018.

Everything remains up in the air with Brexit unresolved, constitutional crisis, a new ACE strategy, and a possible election in the works. So as we go into the Autumn rush let's just prepare for pretty much anything!