Edinburgh event, 28th June 2013

This is a brief account of some of the thoughts, reflections, issues that emerged during the last of the three Dangerous Grounds events, which took place in Scotland. Inevitably, the conversation was a lot richer than this report seems to suggest, and as part of the discussion took place in breakout groups, these notes reflect this (as the rapporteur stuck with her own groups to avoid disrupting the discussion). Nevertheless,  I thought it would be a good resource to have at least some of the content produced on the day recorded here. Many thanks to Dr Anna Upchurch, of Leeds University, who volunteered to be our rapporteur on the day. A big thank you goes to Roanne Dods, without whom this event would simply not have taken place. She proved to be a great organiser, a warm host and a lively participant all rolled into one!


Dangerous Ground: The Edinburgh event – 28th June 2013, Dovecot Studios

This is an account of some of the points raised during the breakout groups discussion and the general debate that followed it. The discussion followed a short presentation by myself. This was a mildly revised version of the slides I used in earlier events:

Notes from the discussion that followed, kindly recorded by Anna Upchurch of Leeds University:

The following are notes from a discussion group that included 3 designer/makers and 2 researchers at the ‘Dangerous Ground’ cultural value meeting. The event included two such groups and was smaller than the other two but definitely not less lively! These notes are not intended to be verbatim or comprehensive, but instead, to represent the main points of discussion by the group.

WHO should determine ‘value’? The audience is far down the list for most makers. Their engagement in the process of making and the lifestyle is what’s important to them. What the audience wants is not a driver. Some makers don’t want to grow their businesses because the lifestyle will change. Their independence is important. ‘Lifestyle’ is an interesting ‘value’ to discuss at this particular time.

About making money from your work: Maker/designers will discuss this, however, many visual artists who are making money and selling their work but don’t discuss their income or earnings. There is discomfort around discussions of money as ‘value’ in the visual arts community, whereas in the design/craft world, people can make public work that is aesthetically challenging but also make work that sells. In Design, discussions of economic value are more open, the context is more rooted in the users. There are still difficulties, because users don’t often understand the time and cost involved in designing a logo, for example. Is ‘value’ in the process or the product?

There is a myth around the maker’s ‘love’ of the process that interferes with value and compensation. People expect designer/makers to do things without pay, and lots of artists and makers do things for free. The motivation is more than your paycheck, it’s in how your contribution if valued.

There are challenges around what you can charge out as a free-lancer or self-employed maker. If makers felt more valued, then we might value our work more.

Designer/makers don’t follow black and white ideas about value, it’s mostly greys. Makers tend to be ‘intrinsically comfortable with the Pantone range of greys’.

It’s hard to see how individuals can feed into the policy process. ‘Leave them to it’ is how most feel about policymakers.

In publicly funded work, there are layers of ‘creaming off’ that happen before the money ever gets to the makers. Policymakers and others make good incomes off makers who are free-lancing. There are issues about how the ‘middle men’ get paid – public funds get ‘creamed off’ in the middle.

Funding applications can be so strenuous to complete, that many people feel public funding is too difficult to attempt. Nowadays there is little human interaction with ACE and Creative Scotland in terms of helping practitioners with funding applications.

But how much help should artists get? Do we deserve more help than a plumber, for example?

Policymakers have an obligation to understand the sectors that they are responsible for. Ideally this should be a dialogue between the sector and the policymakers. It’s sometimes an issue of language and word choice. The Creative Scotland web site went from being about creativity to using political words and being difficult to navigate.

Creating ideas about ‘value’ in society starts with children and education. Education should encourage questioning, interrogation. Practitioners need to do this too. Exposing children to the experience and the process will develop values.

Some processes are changing through crowdfunding and social media, there’s potential for more democratic conversation and participation. It can be a question of ‘taste’ because organisations are made up of individuals who make funding decisions, so the same choices get made, and the same work gets funded.

Defining cultural ‘value’ is a shifting, difficult process. Dialogue and curiosity are essential to the process.

There are new organisations (Artlink) bringing together the arts and wellbeing. This leads to a valuing of the process and experience over the product.

Is culture a luxury or an essential? How do we communicate that it’s essential?

What’s the role of civil servants in policy-making? They are meant to be neutral, it’s the English civil servant ethos. They have a crucial role but are not part of the dialogue.


The #culturalvalue Initiative Archive