‘If rural communities are to unlock their creative talents and achieve their full cultural potential, play a greater role in building stronger, vibrant, sustainable communities, address the environmental sustainability issues in the countryside, and continue to contribute to the national creative economy, then they feel that they are entitled to fair access to the available strategic national arts and cultural funding for regeneration’– Michael Hart
Chair Rural Cultural Forum
Cultural entitlement and equity for rural communities
One of the main aims for the Rural Cultural Forum is securing cultural entitlement, and a fairer access to arts and cultural funding and resources for rural communities and artists.
Cultural Rights and Responsibilities
Cultural entitlement for rural communities will allow them to deploy their creative skills, imagination, and cultural capital in support of the national need for rural regeneration and farm diversification, and delivery of the creative economy (DCMS), healthly communities (CRC) and environmental sustainability (DEFRA). Rural communities also want to have a say in drawing up the priorities for future arts and cultural funding and policy for rural areas.
‘Using all of Britain’s creative talents].. we have a responsibility to give everyone the opportunity to unlock their creative talents’.– Prime Minister Gordon Brown
‘Creative Britain’ Report (DCMS, 2008)
Cultural entitlement would strengthen rural communities by encouraging them to take on responsibility for their future economic and environmental sustainability. It would also enhance their independence, self-esteem, creativity and entrepreneurial self-reliance, and allow them to develop new ways of tackling the problems associated with isolation, lack of health care provision, poor transport services, lack of affordable housing, and economic and social exclusion.
‘So what does ‘Stronger Rural Communities’ actually boil down to? In short, it comes down to achieving for Rural England what we want to achieve for all of England: thriving, vibrant, sustainable communities which improve everyones’ quality of life. It [also] comes down to ensuring equity and fairness for rural communities’.— Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn,
Secretary of State for DEFRA (8th May 2008)
Fairer access to existing cultural funding and resources
Cultural equity means ensuring fairer access for rural communities and rural artists to the available mainstream arts and cultural funding and national strategic arts cultural regeneration initiatives. Rural communities are seeking cultural entitlement because of the perceived imbalance in favour of urban arts and culture-led regeneration within current arts and cultural funding guidelines. The majority of major national arts and cultural funding initiatives ignore or disadvantage rural communities. During the crucial post-FMD recovery period for example, rural community-led arts and regeneration projects failed to benefit in any way from the ACE/Millennium Commissions’ £19.5 million Urban Cultural Fund. The £45 million SeaChange arts-led regeneration initiative, while it referenced rural areas, concentrated mainly on the sea-side towns. Rural communities also appear to be unable to access support for their creative cultural needs in the current bidding rounds for the UK City of Culture Initiative or the Cultural Olympiad /Legacy Trust arts programme.
The need for a strategic framework
Rural communities are confident of their creative potential, cultural capital, and positive contribution to the nation’s creative economy. They have benefited in the past from Arts Council, Lottery, RDA and local authority initiatives for arts and cultural programmes, and from DEFRA/EU LEADER+ and RDPE (2007 – 2013) funding programmes, but the support has in the main been sporadic, limited in scope, and unevenly dispersed, and it continues to suffer from a lack of strategic focus and sustainability which makes it difficult to assess the economic, artistic and social benefits of providing public support for the arts in rural communities, or gauging rural cultural needs and potential.
These issues, and the data obtained from conferences and consultancy seminars, have informed other main campaign objective of the RCF: the introduction of a rural cultural strategy.