Making more of our nation's talent

Posted By Darren Henley on 13 February 2017

In Britain, we enjoy a remarkably rich culture that has consistently produced iconoclastic, original talent.

It’s individual and visionary, but is rooted in our landscape, our communities and our industrial legacy. It’s also stronger for the wonderful diversity of the people who create it.

How can we ensure that this flow of creative talent continues? As I’ve often said, talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not, and the opportunities that do exist don't reach many of those most affected by the economic strictures of recent years.

This isn't fair, and it doesn't make strategic sense on a cultural or national level. On the one hand, our creative industries are growing rapidly; on the other, our society faces unparalleled challenges – social, environmental and economic – that require new creative thinking. More than ever, we need to draw on all our creative talent.

Astronaut flying in Birmingham city centre
Urban Astronaut by Highly Sprung at Birmingham Weekender 2015 Photo © Andrew Fox / Birmingham Weekender

Since I came to Arts Council England, I’ve talked about my desire to see us all work together on a Creative Talent Plan. Such a plan would cut across the usual funding cycles, running from birth for the first 25 years of life; it would draw together available opportunities, show clear progression routes and direct resources to break down barriers and fill gaps

A plan would offer young people the chance to develop their creativity in different ways. Some might pursue a career in the creative industries, or apply their creativity to science and technology. Some might become cultural leaders; others would simply enjoy a more fulfilling life, shared with those around them.

 Some might pursue a career in the creative industries, or apply their creativity to science and technology. Some might become cultural leaders; others would simply enjoy a more fulfilling life

I’m delighted to say that we’ve now begun work on this. It’s going to be a collaborative process. Our principal partners will be De Montfort University in Leicester, led by the vice-chancellor Dominic Shellard. The process will draw on the skills and experience of many of our own Arts Council England teams around the country. We will also be listening closely to people who work with children and young people every day, both inside school and outside school.

Our plan has three phases.  In the autumn we will be launching the pilot programme, and describing in more detail how we think this plan will make a difference in the lives of children and young people. This will lead to the three-year pilot programme in Leicester from 2018-21, working with differing age groups of children and young people. We’d then look to expand this nationally.

People flying on a stage.
Yasmin Vardimon Dance Company: Yesterday, 2008 Photo © Alastair Muir.

This week, we are kicking off with a series of conversations hosted at our nine offices around the country at which we’ve invited stakeholders from the cultural sector and beyond to offer their perspectives and share their ideas. Alongside this, we will be conducting a literature review of best practice and setting up an expert advisory group to challenge us along the way.

The 25 Year Creative Talent Plan will complement and build on the Cultural Education Challenge, through which we are collaborating with partners across education, the cultural sector, business, local authorities and charities to encourage a more joined-up approach to the provision of cultural education.  The Creative Talent Plan will bring a long-term vision to these efforts. It will provide us with a strong strategic focus and will inform the development of our next 10-year strategy.

In many ways, Arts Council England must already rank as among the biggest talent development agencies in the world.  Along with our partners in the sector, we help provide a huge range of opportunities, from cultural education through training at our great artistic institutions, to investment to start your own creative practice or business.

Just imagine the power of a plan that pulled together these initiatives, so that any young person could get the right help at the crucial points in their creative evolution. It would encompass our work with artists, arts organisations, museums, libraries, schools and universities. It would be transformative.

We’re embarking on an important journey. We will keep you updated on our progress, and look forward to sharing more details with you in the Autumn.