Authors: Lois Stonock & Charles Tims
Music, galleries, raves, plays, museums and bad tattoos — beyond families and friends, here in Britain, it’s culture and art that make life worth living.
A rich cultural life is the best thing about being in a free society — so if Britain seeks to spread freedom in the world it follows that supporting art and culture should be a part of it.
But how should this happen? Can artists solve problems development professionals can’t? And besides, doesn’t culture get lost in translation anyway?
It’s questions like this that British Council’s Arts Team’s wide ranging Golden Thread programme has been exploring over a year long project in 14 countries located in Official Development Assistance priority regions.
In each location British Council’s arts managers have set-up a project that they believe best makes a difference to their region. As independent thinkers and researchers, we have been asked to look over the programme, talk to arts managers and participants and identify stories and themes that resonate for us. This is our perspective.
Now, as the programme draws to a close, a pattern has emerged: some projects support artists and arts organisations because art is a way of thinking freely; others use art and culture as a way to help marginalised groups; while other projects directly borrow methods from the arts and use them to deliver outcomes the development industry has at times, struggled to achieve.
Through all this runs a conviction that art and culture make a difference to life in ways that other things can’t. In Britain this has found expression in concerned Victorians who built museums and galleries; in New Labour’s desire to use culture as a tool to regenerate schools, hospitals and deindustrialised cities and in the countless artists, dramatists and writers who have instinctively searched for the overlooked, marginalised and unusual...