The Arts Dividend: Why Investment in Culture Pays

The Arts Dividend: Why Investment in Culture Pays

by Darren Henley


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The Arts Dividend looks in depth at seven key benefits that art and culture bring to our lives: encouraging the UK's creativity; advancing education; impacting positively on health and wellbeing; supporting innovation and technology; providing defining characteristics to villages, towns and cities; contributing to economic prosperity; and enhancing England's reputation for cultural excellence on the global stage. This book encourages us to consider the country's unique levels of creativity and the invaluable rewards to be gained from the public investment that enables great art and culture to be a part of everyone's lives, no matter who they are or where they live. Having spent a year traveling the length and breadth of England, Darren Henley shares his reflections on the UK's national arts and culture landscape in 2016, offering a snapshot of the remarkable creativity on display from Cumbria to Kent and from Cornwall to Northumberland.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783962778
Publisher: Elliott & Thompson
Publication date: 10/01/2016
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Darren Henley is chief executive of Arts Council England. His two independent government reviews into music and cultural education resulted in England’s first National Plan for Music Education, new networks of Music Education Hubs and Heritage Schools, the Museums and Schools program, the BFI Film Academy, and the National Youth Dance Company. Before joining the Arts Council, he led Classic FM for 15 years,  first as managing editor and then managing director. The author of 30 books, he studied politics at the University of Hull and holds honorary academic awards from Birmingham City  University, Buckinghamshire New University, Canterbury Christ Church University, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, Liverpool John Moores University, Royal College of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, the University for the Creative Arts, and the University of Hull. A companion of the Chartered Management Institute and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London College of Music and the Radio Academy, he is a recipient of the Sir Charles Groves Prize, the British Academy President’s Medal, and an OBE for services to music.

Read an Excerpt

The Arts Dividend

Why Investment in Culture Pays

By Darren Henley

Elliott and Thompson Limited

Copyright © 2016 Darren Henley
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78396-278-5


the creativity dividend

in brief ...

Creativity is at the heart of great art and culture, and it runs through all six of the other Arts Dividends that follow this chapter. Creativity changes a place and the people who live there for the better. Creative people are inventive, imaginative and innovative. They think differently and see and do things in new ways that remake the world around them. But to be a truly creative nation, we need to identify and nurture talented people from all parts of the community. Without a genuinely diverse talent base, creative possibilities will be capped and personal potential will remain unfulfilled.

The recipe for creativity

Creative people eat a lot of cake. And they bake a lot of cakes too. In my experience, they cook almost everything with great aplomb. Having spent so much time in the company of the widest imaginable range of artists and creators over the past twelve months, I can assert this with absolute confidence. My growing waistline is testament to the delicious homemade treats I have been served by the people I've met at arts venues up and down the country. I suppose it's obvious really. Creative people like creating things, so why should great food be an exception?

I believe that there is creativity embedded in all of us and that we could all be artists if we either wanted to apply that creativity, or if we knew how to do it. The broadcaster Andrew Marr summed up the creative disposition of human beings rather neatly in an article for the New Statesman:

'It's making. We are the making animal. Unless we make – that is, in some small way, change the world around us – we are not fully human. The making can be a book, a garden, cooked food, but the best making is the making of other human beings, kind and competent, through parenting, biological or otherwise. But what we do is, we change the world around us. We are because we make.'

I enjoyed one of my favourite meals of the past year sitting with a group of actors outside a National Trust barn on the cliffs near Mevagissey one hot summer's evening. This is the home of Kneehigh, a remarkable theatre company that creates all of its new work in Cornwall, but has a reputation for innovation that has seen its productions grace stages not only all over the UK, but also around the globe. I was privileged to be allowed to sit in on their rehearsals for 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, an adaptation of a Michael Morpurgo book about the D-Day landings. It was to be premiered at 'The Asylum', Kneehigh's huge tent, pitched in a field at the wonderfully named Lost Gardens of Heligan just down the road from their rehearsal barns.

Besides what we might think of as conventional acting, Kneehigh is famous for using music and puppetry to tell its stories, and it was fascinating to be given an insight into their production process. I was struck by the camaraderie and warmth: everyone looked as though they were enjoying themselves – although they were in fact working incredibly hard. It was fun for me to watch, but there was deadly intent in the relentless rehearsing of lines, actions, songs and dances, all followed by feedback from the director Emma Rice (who, along with Michael Morpurgo, had also adapted the book for the stage).

This creative process, involving constant repetition with incremental minute improvements, is as much a part of science as it is of art. It's a technique embraced by great designers, such as Sir James Dyson, the inventor of the dual-cyclone vacuum cleaner. When they're working in inventing mode, engineers like Dyson don't expect to get everything right first time; but they know that the goal is worth pursuing, and so they try and try again, gradually moving as close to creative perfection as they can. In his book Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success, Matthew Syed discusses the ways in which initial failures in the creative process drive innovation. James Dyson shared his insights:

'People think of creativity as a mystical process. The idea is that creative insights emerge from the ether, through pure contemplation. This model conceives of innovation as something that happens to people, normally geniuses. But this could not be more wrong. Creativity is something that has to be worked at, and it has specific characteristics. Unless we understand how it happens, we will not improve our creativity, as a society or as a world.'

Watching rehearsals at the Kneehigh Barns, I realised I was witnessing one of the secrets of the theatre world – something special, that those not directly involved in a production rarely get to see. I was seeing something taking shape – creativity in action. It's a process of collaboration and it's only when you see it happening that you realise just how special, and how hard-won, it is.

A few years ago, when the designer Sir John Sorrell stood up to give a lecture at The Royal Institution, he handed out small red cards to the audience. On one side was printed the word 'Creativity' – the title of his lecture. On the other was the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word:

Bringing into existence.

Giving rise to.


Being imaginative.

And inventive.

I have one of the cards stuck on the corner of my computer screen as I write these words. Producing this book is in itself a creative process; I find that little card a creative spur, as the ideas and words arise in my head and are shaped on the screen in front of me.

In 2014, John Sorrell returned to the subject of creativity in a book that he wrote with me and Paul Roberts – who, like John, is a leading thinker in the area of cultural education. In The Virtuous Circle: Why Creativity and Cultural Education Count, we argue that an excellent cultural education should be a universal right. It brings personal, social and commercial advantages that can benefit the lives of all individuals in society. I'll discuss the education dividends that investment in arts and culture pays back in the next chapter.

First, let's unpick creativity a little more. In many ways, the Creativity Dividend is the most important of all of the benefits that arise from art and culture. It's also the hardest to pin down and to quantify: but, like the lettering in a stick of Blackpool rock, it runs through each of the other six dividends.

Try to imagine a world devoid of creativity. It would be the antithesis of the ideas suggested by the words on John Sorrell's card: nothing would be brought into existence or given rise to; there would be no originating; and people would be neither imaginative nor inventive. In a world without creativity, we wouldn't be able to make improvements to the environment that we live in; we would not have the imagination or inventiveness to resolve the global issues that we all face in the twenty-first century.

To put it simply, creativity makes the world a better place. It enhances our lives. Through being creative in our approach, we can innovate – we can imagine a better future, and then realise it.

Sir John Hegarty made his name as one of the founders of the advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty. His success in business was founded on his own creative ideas, but he was also able to spot creativity in other people, which helped him to surround himself with talent. Hegarty wrote that:

'Creativity touches all our lives in a thousand different ways, from the clothes we buy to the buildings we live in, from the food we eat to the cars we drive. Creativity invents, perfects, and defines our world. It explains and entertains us. Almost every facet of our lives is influenced by it. And its impact is only getting stronger as time goes on. It's not surprising then that we're always being told the future is creative!'

I have tackled the Creativity Dividend first in this book because it's often the most obvious outcome in the early stages of cultural investment. Great artists bring creativity with them when they roll into town, and that has an effect on everyone they come into contact with. This is not to overlook the enormously important and positive effects of home-grown artists engaging with the place where they were born or grew up. But I think that latent indigenous talent often comes to the fore when it's sparked by the arrival of new creative talent in a community. Artists of all sorts can very quickly alter how a town or city physically looks, and how the people there think of themselves and behave. I'll talk more about this in Chapter 5.

Artists can effect change in the most unlikely of places. This was brought home to me last summer, when I found myself eating (yet) another delicious supper with a community of artists. The meal had been prepared by Alan Lane, artistic director of Slung Low theatre company and we were in Slung Low's base, the Holbeck Underground Ballroom (known as 'The HUB'), just outside Leeds city centre.

It's not exactly a glitzy address, at least not in conventional showbiz terms. The HUB is made up of five railway arches in an area that you might describe as being off the beaten track, artistically. But it is here that Alan and his team have built a home where they can dream up innovative and ambitious theatre. And, it would be fair to say, theatre that is sometimes slightly crazy too. But that's the brilliance of its beauty.

I watched Alan's production of Camelot at The Crucible in Sheffield, which involved the entire audience walking through the centre of the city on a Saturday night listening to the action on headsets, with explosions and artillery battles taking place in front of them. You assume you know the story of Camelot, but Slung Low's version was quite unlike anything I have seen. Alan Lane and the writer James Phillips had wholly reimagined it, turning it into a new piece of epic theatre.

The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes that constant reimagination is the signature of the creative, across all artistic disciplines:

'Each poet, musician, or artist who leaves a mark must find a way to write, compose, or paint like no one has done before. So while the role of artists is an old one, the substance of what they do is unprecedented.'

Now, the logistics of having tanks roll through the streets of Sheffield on a Saturday night in the middle of summer, surrounded by an army of 137 performers from Sheffield People's Theatre, while you act out a contemporary reworking of the Arthurian myths must be mind boggling. There must have been so many potential obstacles. But, working with the creative team at Sheffield Theatres, Slung Low had made it happen. To pull off a performance on this scale in Sheffield took exceptional application and dedication. Far from being a bunch of lazy luvvies, the best creative people demonstrate a greater entrepreneurial spirit and can-do approach than most of the rest of us. It's something that the BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz has noted:

'Artists don't seek permission to paint or write or act or sing, they just do it. What tends to set them apart, and gives them their power and purpose, is not their creativity per se – we all have that. Rather, it's the fact that they have found a focus for it, an area of interest that has fired their imagination and provided a vehicle for their talents.'

I've seen this creative energy in many different cultural environments, not only in those we might think of as traditional arts organisations. Some libraries, for instance, currently face severe financial challenges because of reduced funding from local authorities – but, nonetheless, they continue to evolve and build on their historic role as storehouses of knowledge and information. Today, the very best of their number are creative spaces at the heart of their communities. I saw one good example at FabLab Devon, a small-scale digital fabrication workshop housed inside Exeter Library. It's an open-access, not-for-profit, community resource. It offers people the opportunity to develop new creative skills and learn how to free their own innate creativity – at FabLab, anybody can invent and make just about anything. It's a part of reimagining what the libraries of the future will look like.

Talent is everywhere: opportunity is not

I made my first speech as chief executive of Arts Council England at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. In 2017, it will be home to the Turner Prize – the same year in which Hull will assume the mantle of UK City of Culture. In that speech, one of the things that I talked about is the need for those involved in art and culture to do more to nurture creative talent across all of England, and for that creative talent to come from all parts of society. Nobody should be prevented from achieving their creative potential because of barriers of race, ethnicity, faith, disability, age, gender, sexuality, financial deprivation or geography.

Talent is everywhere; opportunity is not. Not yet. It's a problem, but one I'm determined to do something about.

I was particularly struck by a performance at Somerset House in London, at an event organised by the National Art & Design Saturday Club. This network of clubs – the brainchild of Sir John and Lady Frances Sorrell – offers young people aged between fourteen and sixteen the unique opportunity to study art and design every Saturday morning at their local college or university, for free.

I was speaking at the launch of the annual exhibition of their work, but I was completely overshadowed by the talents of the other speaker that night: twenty-four-year-old poet George Mpanga, who had been mentoring a group of Saturday Club members from Walthamstow.

George grew up on the St Raphael's Estate in north-west London before studying politics, psychology and sociology at King's College, Cambridge, where he began adapting his rap verses into poetry. Under the stage name George the Poet, he has a record deal with Island Records. The company's president, Darcus Beese, says of him:

'In this ever hyper-stimulated world, with attention spans decreasing by the minute, George asks us to slow down, listen, understand and hopefully act accordingly. Important stuff ... there's not much more important than that.'

That night, George's recital of his poem 'All Existence is Contribution' was spellbinding – one of the most remarkable performances I saw in that first year at the Arts Council. It made my words seem quite inadequate, because his poem put the case so eloquently for the voices of all parts of our communities to be heard:

'Everyone brings something to the table
But not everyone gets a seat.'

The poem calls for us to recognise the contribution young people from all backgrounds can make to society:

'Untapped potential could be unlocked ability
Hidden wisdom, unsung possibility.
We live in a world that celebrates our young
For being more professional than clever.
As a result, we miss out on a lot of knowledge
At a time when it's more accessible than ever.'

I wanted to hear more. On the train home, I looked George up on the Internet and ordered a copy of his first collection of poetry Search Party. The anthology includes 'All Existence is Contribution' alongside another thirty or so of his poems. I urge you to read it.

But to make sure that we are liberating the creativity of every part of society, we need to have a more inclusive and diverse art and culture sector – and to achieve that we've got to make some fundamental changes. The arts need to reflect the world we live in – and shed light on the world we want to see. We need to understand – as many international businesses now do – that diversity is a major opportunity that we must embrace if we are to thrive. That's what the Arts Council is doing through promoting its Creative Case for Diversity. Rather than treating diversity as a kind of supplementary add on, or an activity that is supported to run parallel to the mainstream arts and culture world, the Creative Case presents it as being central to the creative process. It is an opportunity to find fresh ideas and new art.

When I talk about diversity here, I am referring to people who possess one or more of the personal characteristics that are protected under the law by the Equality Act of 2010. But I am also addressing the disparities of opportunity that arise through socioeconomic and geographic factors. The promotion of diversity is about removing barriers that are faced by too many in our society.

At the same time as tackling disadvantage, it's important that we also celebrate everyone's diversity and the insight, experience and knowledge that people's diverse backgrounds bring to our national creativity. The more diverse we are as a community, the more creative we become. We need to ensure that the people involved at every level of the commissioning process are an accurate reflection of the way England looks and feels in the twenty-first century – those being commissioned, those doing the commissioning, and those funding it. That way we can make sure that the resultant art and culture is also properly representative.


Excerpted from The Arts Dividend by Darren Henley. Copyright © 2016 Darren Henley. Excerpted by permission of Elliott and Thompson Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

About this book vii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The creativity dividend 19

Chapter 2 The learning dividend 45

Chapter 3 The feel-good dividend 71

Chapter 4 The innovation dividend 89

Chapter 5 The place-shaping dividend 107

Chapter 6 The enterprise dividend 139

Chapter 7 The reputation dividend 161

Acknowledgements 173

Index 175

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