The Battle for Culture
sponsored by The Liberal
Sunday 30 October 2005
11am – 12.30pm
For arts sake...?
The arts have always been a useful social tool. Throughout history, governments have employed artists to glorify their military achievements, celebrate national identity and promote moral values. Such pressures often took their toll on creatives, as they struggled to please their patrons whilst maintaining their artistic integrity. But have things changed? Instead of glorifying war and patriotism, New Labour prefers to use the arts to promote social inclusion and build our self-esteem. Politicans and artists alike agree that the arts make a vital contribution to the economy and can help tackle social problems. More radical artists might see their role as overtly political; challenging the government in the absence of political debate. Is such instrumentalism a cause for worry or should we accept that ‘art for art’s sake’ has never been an ideal? What is art’s responsibility, if any, to audiences, artists and society?
Pauline Hadaway director, Belfast Exposed
Naseem Khan commentator, policy developer and author of the seminal ‘The Arts Britain Ignores’
Joyce McMillan theatre critic, the Scotsman
Rt Hon Chris Smith former Secretary of State for Culture/Director of Clore Leadership Programme
Chair: Munira Mirza convenor, The Battle for Culture
2 – 3.30pm
Bread and circuses - is the audience getting the culture it deserves?
It seems that the arts are not elitist anymore. Attendance at theatres, galleries and cinemas is booming. Attracting large and diverse audiences is the number one issue for most arts and cultural organisations. But there are many problems these statistics do not show us. Whilst the number of people engaged in culture is rising, what about the quality of that engagement? Does excellence in culture really reach a mass audience or does the consumerist approach result in dumbing down? Can mass culture in cinema, television and music also be excellent? Does the drive for audiences stifle innovation or can experimentation rejuvenate popular interest? Is it possible to develop an intelligent public culture and an audience for it?
Professor Piers Hellawell professor of composition, Queen’s University, Belfast
David Jubb artistic director, Battersea Arts Centre
Andrew Missingham director The Hub
Ferdinand Mount columnist, the Daily Telegraph and TLS; author of Mind the Gap: Class in Britain Now
Chair: Tiffany Jenkins arts and society director, Institute of Ideas
4 – 5.30pm
A 21st century renaissance
The Sistine Chapel would have been impossible without the Catholic church. Indeed, the most creative periods of human history were inspired by frameworks of meaning that now seem outdated. Today, the old certainties of religion, nation and politics are gone, so what is left to inspire artists? After Modernism, is it possible or even desirable to promote grand, universal ideas through art? At a time when political debate seems moribund and technocratic, artists are freer than ever to ask ambitious, challenging questions. What are the new currents emerging across the art forms and how will these change the way we think about the world in which we live?
Colin MacCabe chair of the London Consortium, author of The Eloquence of the Vulgar: Language, Cinema and the Politics of Culture
Tom Morris associate director, National Theatre
Ben Ramm editor, The Liberal
Vicky Richardson editor, Blueprint
Chair: Dolan Cummings editor, Culture Wars