Dan's Arts Article in the Guardian

The arts and creative industries have changed dramatically over the last 15 years. In 1997 it was a key part of the Labour party's vision to invest in our arts and culture, both in our local communities and our large cities. We wanted Britain to become a centre of excellence and to encompass all that is good about the arts; to strive for excellence, to create something new and sometimes out of nothing, to work together and to be proud of our contribution.


The creation of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport provided the catalyst for what became known as the "Golden decade" for culture. In that decade we saw an explosion of arts around our country, where for the first time, every person was able to experience our proud history and culture by visiting Britain's national museums and galleries for free.

Children in schools were also entitled to five hours of culture each week and our creative industries grew far faster than the economy as a whole. This is a legacy which we should be proud of, and not just because of what it enabled our arts and creative industries to achieve but also because of the untapped potential in the sector today.

After three weeks in my new role, I believe we are on the cusp of a new era, which if grasped will firmly secure Britain's continued role as a leader both in the arts, and the creative industries. The legacy of the last decade has meant that we have the foundations to ensure that our children can become artists, sculptors and creative minds and that our country can continue to be known as a number one tourist destination.

But this isn't just about the existing foundations; it's also about creative thinking and the need for the government to realise the potential blueprint for the arts and creative industries of tomorrow. The internet has meant that the world has changed greatly since 1997, and the government needs to ensure that our creative industries and its entrepreneurs, small businesses and large corporations can take advantage of that.

The potential in the arts and the creative industries is vast. Artists will be able to work with other creative minds around the world with incredible ease, we can draw on the culture of other countries and we can also use it build on the economic success of these industries. The internet transcends regional, and national, borders – it means that a person of any age can launch their own creative idea from their own home and it means that all of us can enjoy, learn and participate in the arts anywhere in the country.

The risk is that the government fails to realise this potential, and my experience so far is that instead of striving for more, sadly, we're settling for less. The dialogue and ideas that I hear from the government benches have been based purely on budgets, not innovation, ideas and creativity; sacrificing the latter for the former is fundamentally short-sighted.

Over the coming months, I want a new and reinvigorated debate about the arts, culture and creative industries. In 1997 Labour had a vision of what we wanted these sectors to look like, and I will spend my time working with people across the country to articulate a new vision – a vision for the 21st century. Last week, I launched my first report which will look at arts in Britain's regions – both for government funding and its value to society across the country.

The government has embarked on a dangerous gamble in which they expect philanthropic giving to plug the holes in government funding. This leaves our arts community open to huge risk, and one of the main aims of my report is to look at how this will affect the different regions. I have already been overwhelmed by the interest surrounding this area, and I would invite you to also leave your thoughts or experiences on this subject.

With a new decade comes new expectations and new public perceptions. As shadow culture minister, I am in no doubt that it is my task to remind the government that they have a responsibility to protect the foundations and fabric of our culture and arts, and also to recognise its potential for our next generation of creative thinkers.

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