In launching the government's white paper on culture – published today – minister Ed Vaizey (above) has stated his insistence that government institutions, from schools to arts venues, must encourage a wider cross-section of the public to develop an interest in the arts. He pledges, in turn, to put the arts ‘at the heart of everyday life’ and ensure everyone can access culture, ‘no matter what their background’.
The white paper is the first of its kind in more than 50 years. It was proposed in September 2015 by Vaizey – who has been minister for culture, communications and creative industries since 2010 – and was followed by a long consultation. It addresses the fact that more children from disadvantaged backgrounds should have access to music, and that state schools should be educating children about ‘great music’ from an early age. It points out that every child should be given the opportunity to play a musical instrument, a long-held view of the government that led to the formation of 123 Musical Education Hubs in 2012.
To back up the government’s success, the white paper points out schemes which are helping to improve music in schools, including In Harmony (based on Venezuela’s El Sistema), Music for Youth, and the London-based Mayor's Music Fund, which supports thousands of children as they develop their musical potential through scholarships. The Music and Dance Scheme, which provides means-tested support for young musicians to help with places at the country’s specialist music schools, is also highlighted.
Every government-funded arts venue, says the paper, should be required to open up to a wider cross-section of the public in an attempt to address a current shortage in performance spaces. Empty buildings – which are often owned by local councils and businesses – are highlighted as potential venues for more cultural events, including concerts.
And appealing to more diverse audiences has been a ‘problem for many years’, it says. Although progress has ‘arguably been made on addressing gender balance and LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] representation… there remains some way to go’.
Among those to have commented on the white paper is the Incorporated Society of Musicians, which has given it a guarded welcome. 'We are delighted to see the Government re-state its real commitment to music and the wider cultural sector,' says its chief executive Debirah Annetts. 'We are, however, concerned that this white paper stands in isolation from the wider ecology of the cultural sector… The investment in music education hubs and the Mayor's Music Fund in London continues to be welcome, but music delivered as part of the curriculum in our schools is increasingly under pressure.'
To read the full report, click here.