Arts Council England chief Darren Henley on supporting culture in 2017 and the authenticity of pantomimes

Written by Civil Service World on 30 December 2017 in Feature
Feature

With the end of 2017 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2018 – and tell us what they cannot do Christmas without

Photo: PA

What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?

This summer we announced the new Arts Council England National Portfolio of 831 organisations who will receive £1.6bn of public investment between 2018 and 2022.

Whilst maintaining our strong level of investment in London, we increased the amount of money we spend in arts and cultural organisations across the whole country, helping to develop new centres of creative excellence and cultural production across England.

What was your most difficult decision in 2017?

We’re blessed with a huge amount of artistic and cultural talent in this country, and there are more wonderfully creative ideas that we’re asked to fund than the money we have available. We constantly need to make difficult decisions about how best to invest our funds.

What’s your organisation’s top priorities in the year ahead?

Public investment in artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries benefits the lives of everyone in so many different ways: educationally, socially, in terms of health and wellbeing and in economic terms. We’ll be continuing to make investment decisions that have a positive impact on the lives of people in communities up and down the country.

For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without…

At least one trip to the pantomime. It’s an authentically English art form that happens in villages, towns and cities across the country. And it’s also a way that many young people from all sorts of backgrounds first engage with live acting, singing and dancing in a theatre environment.

It’s very easy to forget that for young people who come from families from the most deprived economic backgrounds, the arts aren’t always part of their lives. We need to make sure that these children have the chance to enjoy the same creative, cultural and artistic opportunities that their more financially fortunate peers benefit from.

Talent is everywhere in our country – but the route for that talent to come to the surface isn’t always there. And we’re committed to doing more about tackling that inequality.

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