Director's Blog - December 2018

Welcome to the last Director’s blog for 2018 and our very best wishes to CVAN regional networks and the visual arts sector. Time to banish the gloom and spice the wine!

Let's start with a bit of seasonal roundup cheer. The British painter, Jenny Saville, became the most expensive living female artist in October when Propped (1992) sold for £8.25m (£9.5m with fees) at Sotheby's in London according to the 2018 roundup in The Art Newspaper but her success was drowned out by a shredder! Congratulations also to Charlotte Prodger’s Turner Prize-winning exploration of queer identity, language, technology and time. CVAN celebrates our truly stellar female artists and looks forward to a New Year of innovation and diversity in the visual arts and continued international cooperation.

Local Authorities’ Finance

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, provisionally announced a 2.8% cash increase in funding for local authorities representing a 'real terms increase' in resources available to Local Authorities - I don't have the statistical analysis but I suspect the increase will be heading for imperceptibility after adjustments. This seems still less impressive when seen in the context of the NAO report on the Financial Sustainability of Local Authorities 2018 which found a 49.1% real-terms reduction in government funding for local authorities, 2010-11 to 2017-18. Local authorities are funded through a combination of business rates, central government grants and council tax as well as income from fees, rents and other investments but the NAO found that there was a 28.6% real-terms reduction in local authorities' spending power (government funding plus council tax), 2010-11 to 2017-1 and a 32.6% real-terms reduction in local authority spending on non-social-care services, 2010-11 to 2016-17. Still, perhaps we should be thankful for no further erosion this year.

Sick of Brexit? And yet strangely unprepared . . . ?

I really share the urge to pull the duvet over my head and whimper but anyone with any kind of international exposure should put Brexit into their risk registers - if you haven't done so already - and be thinking about how it's going to pan out for you in the event that we crash out - and even if we exit in a reasonably orderly fashion. Whatever happens, it seems clear that things will never be the same again. As Mr Blobby is becoming a humourously sought-after authority on what will happen next amongst policy wonks, we really have to be prepared to cope with an oscillating deal/no deal scenario.

ACE has been publishing annual reports on Brexit impacts, find the 2018 report here released last February. This document offers a wealth of information based on an ICM survey of 992 arts and culture organisations to understand the impact of EU exit on their businesses. It also gives food for thought on how to prepare. ACE will continue to update and refresh reports, advice, and deadlines.

CIF published a Technical Notices on a 'No Deal Brexit' with a 'need to know' summary of the issues for creative industries where arts organisations will find useful information. The areas that seem most relevant to visual arts organisations include:

  • Falling out of the EU Cultural Objects Licensing system and mutual recognition principle

  • Non-EU VAT rules

  • Flow of data from EU to UK

  • End of free movement and compliance with Schengen border code required for EU travel

  • UK companies operating in EU countries will become subject to third country business rules per country

  • Possible changes to employment legislation as EU employment rights are written into UK law

  • Reciprocal recognition of qualifications will end

  • We will drop out of EEA intellectual property regs - this places artists' resale rights at risk

If you feel your organisation might benefit from a workshop on preparing for deal/no deal Brexit, do let us know.

Meanwhile, the Spending Review seems to be scuttling onward through the 2019 calendar . . .

If you’d like to take some action in the run up to a delayed (?!) vote, What’s Next has published a campaigning kit to call for a people’s vote including a draft letter for your MP and a covering letter from What’s Next.

Creative Higher Education

Meanwhile, the second year of the new Higher Education data sets reveals <gasp!> that graduates from better-off families earn more than others, men earn more than women, those from the south earn more than those from the north - and most artists are as poor as church mice. These stats have been documented by researchers again and again and the stats don't seem to offer any new insights into how this state of affairs subsists, not least as these effects have been demonstrated again and again to depend on factors external to the University system. And yet Government proposes to rely on such data sets to evaluate value added by teaching and even fee levels based on graduate earnings by subject. Hmmm. Meanwhile, critics argue that education is being reduced to a financial transaction and job-satisfaction relegated to the land of unicorns. It’ll be interesting to see whether changes introduced by last year’s HE Bill will really open out more ‘alternative’ creative higher education offers?

CVAN into next year:

It’s been an exciting year for us and we’re planning more developments next year. Watch this space for news of restarting our annual conference and our advocacy agendas for Spring 2019.