Written evidence submitted by Fiona Macalister
1. I am writing in response to the consultation
into the proposed cuts to arts funding as an independent conservator
who has worked for over 20 years in museums (nationalBritish
Museum and the then National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland,
universitythe Ashmolean Museum and local authorityBristol's
Museums Gallery and Archives), eight years for the National Trust,
mainly as an adviser with a national remit, a year providing advice
to smaller museums through Renaissance SW and for the last two
years independently. I am a member of the DCMS Emergency Planning
Group and a member of the associated Emergency Planning sub-group,
contributing as a trainer to training delivery. When employed
by the National Trust I was the NT's observer for the DCMS working
group for carrying forward the findings of Understanding the
Future. While I am an accredited conservator and work in a
freelance capacity for the Institute of Conservation (Icon) as
a regional coordinator, supporting largely HLF funded conservation
internships in various heritage organisations and private studios
I am writing in a private capacity.
2. Of the questions identified to be addressed
through the consultation I will be addressing the following:
What impact recent, and future, spending cuts
from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage
at a national and local level;
What level of public subsidy for the arts and
heritage is necessary and sustainable;
What impact recent changes to the distribution
of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations;
The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm's-length
bodiesin particular the abolition of the UK Film Council
and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;
Whether businesses and philanthropists can play
a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level;
Whether there need to be more Government incentives
to encourage private donations.
3. It is to be greatly welcomed that David
Cameron, Prime Minister, speaking earlier in August 2010 highlighted
the importance of heritage to the UK and in particular to tourism.
This link has been mentioned in a number of important studies
over recent years including the DEMOS report
commissioned by the internationally renowned Textile Conservation
Centre, University of Southampton, when under threat of closure.
4. It is to be greatly welcomed that the
present government's intention is that a greater proportion of
the National Lottery should be allocated to heritage. This will
be vital particularly where cuts are made to services funded through
national bodies and local authorities. The Heritage Lottery Fund
has achieved a great deal that has enhanced access to collections
and heritage and with the recent investment of £17 million
in Skills for the Future is helping to ensure that heritage
skills are developed and acquired by a greater diversity of peoples.
It is unlikely, however, that the increase in funding through
the Heritage Lottery Fund will compensate adequately for cuts
to other bodies.
5. What level of public subsidy for the
arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable? I find this impossible
to answer except that while the arts and heritage may be subsidised
in so far as they receive public funding it is undoubtedly true
that they bring in a great deal in terms of income to regions,
cities and not simply for the organisations themselves. They are
draws for the tourism industry. The Banksy v Bristol Museum exhibition,
which ran for two and a half months in 2009 brought in £millions
to the city during the course of the exhibition and was of massive
benefit to the city and local businesses.
6. Significant cuts in spending from central
and local Government will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect
on the provision of services in the heritage sector; on the long
term survival of collections and their availability for those
who come after us; on the maintenance and up keep of buildings;
on the availability of training opportunities for younger generations
and as a draw for tourism. Cuts in the order of 25% would inevitably
lead to cuts in staff. While a number of museums are thinking
imaginatively about how they might use voluntary assistance there
are many aspects of work within non-volunteer run museums which
could not easily be passed to volunteers without employing an
adequate number of staff to be responsible for the work carried
7. The impact of large cuts to central and
local Government spending on heritage could be great in the areas
of conservation. It is likely that if the cuts are large priorities
will be to maintain buildings, security and keeping establishments
open. Areas such as conservation and curatorship are likely to
bear the brunt of large cuts. The report A Cultural Blueprint.
A Workforce Development Plan stated that:
"There are certain skills and knowledge
unique to this sector that could be classified as `fragile' or
`at risk'. This includes specialist knowledge of collections and
buildings and the technical, conservation and traditional skills
needed to maintain our heritage and bring it to life."
"Employers do not always acknowledge their
role and responsibility in ensuring the continuance of many specialist
skills. Organisations increasingly outsource skills to freelancers
and consultants so in-house knowledge and skills can dwindle."
Belatedly the heritage sector itself is becoming
aware that there is a very real risk of insufficient capacity
within conservation and large cuts now could exacerbate this situation.
8. I do not know whether the cuts to DCMS
will affect areas such as Emergency Planning and Business Continuity
but the work which has been carried out in this area in the last
few years has been very influential and the guidance provided
has been invaluable. Cuts in this area may result in less collaboration
and less partnership working in an area where effective response
can be dependent on the level of collaboration.
9. In many regions Renaissance in the Regions
has been very effective at providing training and raising standards
of collections care in museums and heritage organisations, thereby
helping to ensure the preservation of the collections and facilitating
their use and re-interpretation by sections of the public not
previously engaged. Reduction in Renaissance funding will have
a large impact on those organisations which have to date benefited
from the funding, either directly or indirectly. This may however
be the time to review how these funds are allocated.
10. The Museums Libraries and Archives Council
has gone though frequent re-inventions over many years and throughout
all this time the staff have worked very effectively at providing
leadership and raising standards across these three areas. For
museums the Accreditation Standard has been particularly effective;
the advice provided by the Security Adviser has been essential.
While some of the functions previously carried out by former reincarnations
of the MLA are now carried out by organisations such as Collections
Trust and the Museums Association these bodies cannot effectively
take the place of the MLA. It is understood that there is a possibility
that the MLA may be taken under the wing of English Heritage.
It is very unclear at this stage how this would operate.
11. There is undoubtedly a role for businesses
and philanthropists in funding and supporting the arts, as many
have done over the years and continue to do. It is unlikely, however,
as the country faces an uncertain future financially that many
businesses will be able to justify spending money on heritage.
While major exhibitions bring in huge sums of money and large
numbers of visitors to a region/city it is difficult to predict
what will capture the public's imagination.
12. Government incentives to encourage private
donations would be welcome, but not as a substitute for public
39 It's a Material World. Caring for the public
realm. Jones, S and Holden, J. 2008 Demos www.demos.org.uk Back
A Cultural Blueprint. A Workforce Development Plan. Creative
and Cultural Skills Council, MLA and MA 2008 p.35 www.ccskills.org.uk Back
As above Back