The social impact of participation in the arts (revisited)

Use or Ornament? - 1
Some of the social impact project reports and working papers from 1995-1997

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK House of Commons has just announced an inquiry into the social impact of participation in culture and sport. Its terms of reference state that ‘Participation in culture and sport has a proven link to a wide range of benefits. The Committee is expected to focus on five major themes, taking evidence on social mobility, health, crime reduction, education, community engagement and diversity. The legacy of the Olympics may also be considered as part of the inquiry.’

It’s not the first time this subject has been examined, either by Parliament or by the Department for Culture. The 1999 Policy Action Team (PAT 10) report on the role of the art and sport in combatting social exclusion is now in the National Archives, which feels odd as I contributed to it. A couple of years before that, I’d led the first large research project into the issue, published in 1997 as Use or Ornament?. It proposed some ideas that have since become commonplace, and met similar opposition to that which faced community artists in the 1960s and 1970s. If you’ve never seen it, download a copy here and decide for yourself. I should re-read myself, as it’s part of the history of participatory art I’m working on: I’m curious to see what it feels like now.

But the main reason for this post is to encourage you to submit evidence to the committee if you have views about this. The value of such inquiries depends absolutely on the quality and range of evidence they receive: here’s a chance to make your voice heard. The deadline is 22 February 2018.