Horizon scan of experimental cultural work published as part of ACE’s plans to 2030 5/4/2018

As part of ACE’s work towards a new ten-year strategy, Nesta has published ‘Experimental Culture’ a ‘rapid horizon scan’ of the future shape of the cultural sector. It contrasts the underlying stability of some cultural institutions, including those which have been adapting to changing times over centuries, with the ‘underlying churn’ of the new technologies and new demographic and political realities. For many issues, it is still hard to assess which will radically change the sector, and which will be subsumed into business as usual. The report highlights four areas: audiences and participation; workforce and skills; changing funding and business models; new technologies. The many shaping factors in the report include:

  • Social mobility has stalled: only one in six of those in low paid work in 2006 had moved out of that classification ten years later. Arts audiences are significantly more likely to be from the upper socio-economic group and are a more committed but narrower audience. For example, 8% of the UK population form 44% of the live music audience. Creativity is happening elsewhere (for example, YouTube led broadcasting) beyond the gaze and knowledge of publicly-funded arts bodies.
  • Teaching hours devoted to arts subjects dropped by 15% in 2010 – 2015, with the most recent figures for 2017 suggesting further decline. This may impact on future arts audiences and practitioners.
  • Digital has not yet transformed arts and culture. There is potential to harness digital for much greater reach: for example, the largely older audiences for National Theatre Live broadcasts could experience far more culture from a distance in new ways through VR and AR. At the same time, the proliferation of channels (and the competition they bring) could mean more effort chasing audiences on ever more fragmented platforms. Since 18 – 24 year olds now spend an average of 35.2 hours online each week, it seems extremely likely that this will shape how the arts are offered and consumed.
  • In the next decade millennials will become the main economic actors in the UK: currently poorer than previous generations, but also with ‘heightened expectation of immediacy, participation and transparency’, they are also the first ‘technologically immersed’ generation.
    • 87% of creative jobs in the UK are at low or no risk from automation compared to 43% in the workforce as a whole. However, Brexit risks lack of access to essential skills from EU staff and 55% of organisations say they lack the skills needed for a digital strategy. A ‘persistent lack of diversity’ and a lack of young people taking arts subjects are also risks. Pauline Tambling comments “I fear that if we’re not careful we will be the country that invented the creative industries and then let them go, rather than reinventing our creative industries for the next generation with the next big idea.”
    • Public funding for the arts continues to fall, although crowdfunding and dynamic pricing show some promise.
    • Overseas visitors are expected to increase by 6.1% a year – however, this demographic is drawn to large institutions with a high public profile, leaving smaller organisations more vulnerable.
    • There are also signs of a digital divide opening between large organisations able to invest in digital innovation and those who can’t. Although there are more R&D funds available, Jonty Claypole, Director of Arts at the BBC comments: “although it can result in outputs that captivate millions, R&D by nature isn’t primarily audience facing. For that reason, it’s the first thing that gets dropped when resource is stretched.”
    • Cultural organisations also need to leverage data and create a new generation of workers who can analyse it with confidence.