Patronage of the Arts/Support and Encouragement of the Arts and Cultural Facilities (1971)
As one of the first of Ditchley’s conferences that was primarily concerned with the topic of culture, this conference introduced the core issue of funding that would continue to be extensively discussed thereafter. Attendees of this conference considered the forms and extent of financial and related support for the arts, ranging from fine and performing arts to music and literature, alongside the private and public funding bodies that provided this. Particular emphasis was placed on the creation of contemporary art and on the responsibilities of industry, finance and commerce, to exchange experiences and ideas in this field. Suggestions were also sought on how this could be improved and how the arts might contribute to this.
Artistic and Design Standards for Public and Major Corporate Buildings and Works (1974)
Whilst the traditional titles of culture and heritage might not instinctively relate to issues of architectural developments, conferences including that which was held in 1974, framed architecture in cultural terms. In this instance in particular, the aesthetics of buildings, and environmental planning more broadly, were central to the discussions of architecture. It was suggested at this conference that, under the status quo, the public were not visually appreciative of good architecture and environmental planning and so suggestions were made for long-term solutions, as well as what should be done in the meantime. With reference to the latter, attendees were especially concerned with how to be considerate of public opinion whilst longer-term solutions were sought, implemented and occurring given the value placed by the participating countries on democratic decision-making in all facets of life. As such, this conference participated in broader concerns surrounding democracy that underpin Ditchley and the discussions which take place there.
‘Good’ architecture and environmental planning was defined as that which fulfils and balances all the social, functional and aesthetic requirements. It was suggested that the latter should be considered within the broader cultural context in which the project was conducted because architecture was thought to be a product of its environment, reflecting the society and culture in which it was produced. As such, it was posited that public dissatisfaction with a building often reflected a dissatisfaction with that historical moment. Public dissatisfaction was also attributed to the abrupt way in which technology was imposed across the industry, resulting in what was perceived as a loss of the reassurance that was offered by the continuation of familiar architectural heritage. Furthermore, the progressive introduction of well-meaning regulations and controls were believed to not be coherently designed and have essentially created a ‘sausage-machine’ system of architecture that had no fundamental culture behind it. Therefore, the cultural position of architecture was said to be important because, without this, citizens were alienated.
There was discussion as to how the public could be involved in decision-making processes. As such, whilst it was agreed that, in the immediate future, the most qualified in the industry should make aesthetic judgements, discussions were had about how to integrate public opinion in the meantime. This was considered important, not only because of the democratic nature of integrating public opinion, but because ‘good’ architecture and environmental planning was defined as responding to the needs of society and by extension, the general public. Although it was acknowledged that the involvement of citizens often risked costly delays in unrealized or incomplete projects, with some cases even being obstructed entirely. However, in other cases it was believed that this had also produced constructive and helpful new directions for projects. Therefore, it was decided that the public held a complex but nevertheless significant role in the decision-making processes for architectural projects.
The attendees of the conference also discussed other stakeholders and actors, with particular consideration given to funding bodies. In this way, this conference conformed to a broader pattern of funding issues being given primacy at Ditchley. It was noted that architecture produced for collective and corporate clients involved the client exerting major influence upon the appearance and function of cities. Underpinning the relationship between funding bodies, and clients and architectural projects, is the role of the architect in fulfilling the needs of the former in producing the latter. As such, the attendees deliberated on the issue of the architect’s place in the broader process, concluding with the belief that, on occasion, architects had an inflated sense of responsibility and that this should be shared with the client, as well as the users.
Returning to the notion of architects’ responsibility, extensive discussion was had about to solve this problem. On the one hand, it was suggested that the architect needed to be relieved of construction responsibilities in order to limit them to the conceptual and designing stages. On the other hand, it was proposed that, in a comparable way to the medical profession, the role of the architect needed to be broadened so that individuals could specialise in different aspects of the building process. Whilst a consensus was not reached on this issue, there was an agreement that the profession needed to be changed in order to raise the quality of architecture.
Arts Patronage (1978)
Ditchley returned to the topic of Art Patronage, seven years after first discussing the topic at the beginning of the 1970s. In this conference, there were broadly three main areas of focus. The first was the relationship between culture, education and society, why patronage was needed by the performing and visual arts and which areas needed the most support. Secondly, the scale and type of support needed to encourage and sustain a balanced and valuable cultural life, both at the time and in the foreseeable future. The third concerned the nature of patronage, namely, the identity and roles of patrons (both private and public), who decides the directions in which development is desirable, whilst also considering economic efficiency and the responsibility to the community. These were then considered within their broader context with reference to themes including education, media and the economy, alongside international comparisons being drawn between the different approaches taken by different countries.
The discussion of the patronage of the arts involved several different elements. Of particular interest, attendees sought to find a resolution on the extent to which the arts contribute to a balanced and valuable cultural life, as well as considering the differing requirements for education in the arts. It was found that the arts contribute to society as a civilising agent, whilst also teaching individuals to distinguish the essential from the irrelevant. Following on from this, questions were asked of who should decide what contributions the arts ought to make to society, which the attendees conceded was the place of patrons. Attendees accepted that the arts would therefore be influenced and placed under certain levels of external control by government and private funding bodies, the latter of whom should be encouraged to support the arts through tax advantages. In this way, the principle of funding influencing content was accepted at the conference, at least to a certain extent.
With a variety of different countries being represented at the conference, international comparisons were drawn between different systems of funding. It was found that there was a considerable amount that could be learnt by considering different approaches. For example, it was agreed that the UK should follow America’s example of tax concessions for the support of the arts, followed by a debate about whether VAT on the British performing arts should follow America, Canada and Germany in the examples that they set. These international comparisons also produced interesting (and potentially even surprising) conclusions about trends in the countries represented in the conference. For instance, it was suggested that the United States had increased their federal and state funding, where corporation and private funding had increased in the UK. Therefore, these countries were thought to be interestingly going against their pre-existing inclinations. Business support was believed to be indicative of attitudes towards government and philanthropy in the case of the US, whereas the British were considered to be more interested in forms of taxation. In spite of these differences and trends, both countries accepted that some form of a direct government subsidy was desirable, as well as the fact that pluralistic approach to support should be adopted. Moreover, it was found that public funding bodies should not influence artistic decisions and so a buffer was needed between governments and artists, which was currently being fulfilled by the Arts Council in Britain (and with comparable systems operating in Canada and America).
It was decided that this financial support should be directed towards individuals and institutions of worth that cannot support themselves and that there should be discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups and communities. Moreover, it was posited that help for artists, institutions and projects should be predicated on providing a measurable service to the community, including widening participation and increasing understanding in and of the arts. On the one hand, this further reinforced the notion that funding bodies could influence the industry in choosing to provide support where they believed the success of their assistance could be measured. As such, the bodies might choose instances where success could be easily measured over that which was more worthwhile but where success was more difficult to quantify. On the other hand, this was part of a broader intention to centralise the public benefits of arts programmes and thus derive the best possible outcome for society.
Attendees also sought to find ways that education and media sectors could, and should, encourage art forms for the greater good of society. At the same time, it was thought to be important to find ways to enlarge the public’s appreciation (and capacity to appreciate and experience) the arts in a comparable way to the architectural conference held four years prior. It was agreed that these aims could be achieved through educational reform, with suggestions that the arts should not only be part of the formal. Moreover, attendees believed that there was a gap between composers and audiences which could be bridged, in part, by having some of sort of ‘composers in schools’ initiative. At a higher education level, there was also the suggestion that the practice of the arts is not given the same academic status as areas like literature or numerate disciplines in universities and that this should be rectified by recognising the arts as an intellectual discipline of university standard. With further reference to education, recommendations were made for educational institutions and television to combine their skillsets and efforts in the case of the arts, with video recordings, for example, offering new opportunities for studying and that broadcasting could be extended to provide a type of ‘open college’ not dissimilar to the Open University system. As such, technology was considered to be a valuable mechanism through which to make the arts more accessible to the public. However, this was mediated by the acknowledgement that television in particular is only a gateway through which to open up face-to-face encounters with the arts and so it was also of importance that the institutions themselves should reimagine their educational roles and provide the opportunity for personal involvement in art experience, particularly in the case of museums.
Alongside the educational background for arts patronage, other references to the broader context of the discussion were made. For instance, the economic implications of maintaining a lively cultural life were considered as well as the conflict between the excellence of performance and extensive public involvement and thus again reflecting broader tensions surrounding the democratisation of the cultural and heritage industries. Considering the desire for public involvement, it was agreed that the state should have a role in the patronage of the arts, although to what extent was disagreed upon, especially when it came to concerns surrounding whether support should be limited to specific objectives. General support, however, was found for two objectives in the Royal Charter for the Arts Council, namely to develop and improve knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts and increasing the accessibility of the arts to the British public.
Exchanges in the performing arts between the United States and Britain: can transatlantic cultural relations be left to look after themselves? (1985)
In continuation of the international dimension of the previous conference, in 1985 the discussions centred around cultural exchanges between the United States and Britain. More specifically, the performing arts were considered in terms of the history of previous transatlantic exchanges and how receptive the respective countries had been to these. Barriers to the exchanges were identified as part of a broader effort to find ways of improving these exchanges. The question of patronage was returned to, with respect particularly to the different forms that this could take, alongside consideration of the broader value of these exchanges within the wider Anglo-American relationship. Lastly, and potentially most importantly, the question of whether intervention was necessary to cultural exchanges.
In considering the history of cultural exchanges between the United States and Britain, several barriers to success were identified. One of the first problems faced by these exchanges was the fact that it is difficult to define, quantify and measure the success of cultural initiatives more broadly. Across the cultural and heritage conferences outlined here, it was often suggested that they were of value in and of themselves, promoting happiness without having a clearly quantifiable political benefit, for example. There were attempts made at this conference to suggest that the arts had clear and specific benefits, with an example being provided of the American appearances of the Bolshoi Ballet being considered as significance for détente. The impact of measures such as these are nonetheless debatable and so reflect the difficulties often found when attempting to persuade policymakers and legislators of the value in funding cultural activities, including exchanges (which was especially prevalent in the 1980s following the election of Margaret Thatcher’s government, which saw the arts sector deciding “to emphasize the economic aspects of its activities and their alleged contribution to the wealth of the nation” (Belfiore 95)). However, there were suggestions that this was not a universal problem given that whilst America and Britain were identified as examples of this trend, it was noted that France, Germany and Japan had been much more successful and thus set examples for their counterparts to potentially follow and learn from. In fact, it was suggested that both the US and UK did not have specific cultural policies given that the arts were considered a low priority by both in terms of official resources and funding, and thus exchanges were an even lower priority. As such, whilst obstacles had been identified in attitudes towards cultural projects, optimism for change could still be rooted in the success of the other countries listed above.
Other barriers were identified, including the fact that cultural exchanges were often linked to unrelated issues when formulating international agreements. In this way, nations sought to use culture as part of broader diplomatic discussions, which, in this case, were of detriment to enabling cultural exchanges. Moreover, it was suggested that industries like video, film and advertising, which were reliant on the arts were not doing enough to reinvest their profits. More importantly, however, was the fact that overestimations of what cultural exchanges could achieve meant that they ran the risk of always falling short of expectations. It was therefore decided that it was important to acknowledge the limitations of cultural exchanges in that it would be very difficult to challenge the perceptions that the respective countries had of each other, for example.
Nonetheless, on a much more positive note, the attendees of the conference felt that exchanges would at least be of assistance to the promotion and perception of the diversity of the arts in the US, which was not fully being appreciated in Britain that American culture was becoming less European. In this way, it was thought probable that these countries were becoming more foreign and less familiar with each other, with the UK operating in a peripheral position for the US and a growing sense of a lack of sympathy amongst the British youth for America. Whilst these certainly presented difficulties for the respective countries for the aims of their cultural exchange programmes, it also provided a reason for why they were then particularly important to address. Cultural exchange thus presented a unique opportunity to improve Anglo-American relations at a cultural level, which might then influence other areas of what is historically been referred to as a ‘special relationship.’
Given the value apportioned to cultural exchanges, solutions were sought for the obstacles to their success. Suggestions for improvement included the pooling of resources to assist with the cost of subtitles, for example, as well as fostering a greater awareness of geographical considerations by extended tours beyond cultural centres like London and New York. Moreover, it was felt that more exploration should be made of the potential for organisations including the British Council to devote more of their resources to the arts. As such, it was largely accepted that action was needed to be taken to help cultural exchanges and that they could not be left alone. Whilst there was disagreement about the ways in which this should manifest, the discussions largely revolved around increases to funding and strengthening pre-existing bodies including the British American Arts Association, for example.
Museums and galleries: collecting, funding and protecting the heritage (1991)
Within the broader theme of museums and galleries, discussions primarily circulated around issues of funding and the ways in which cultural objects of interest should be preserved and traded. The latter was considered both at a local and international level, which then lent itself to comparisons between the practices of different countries with reference to funding and the care of cultural objects in particular. Alongside this, there were also interesting questions posed for future conferences surrounding archaeology at sea and how to discern ownership of artefacts found in international waters.
The international influence on the previous conferences continued in 1991, with particular concern expressed about the international trade of cultural objects as an example. The multinational distribution of attendees enabled further comparisons between the seven countries represented at the conference. It was suggested, for example, that American trustee boards appeared to be more involved in the day-to-day management of institutions in comparison with their British counterparts. Moreover, the members of American trustee boards were often selected with their fundraising potential in mind, whereas this did not usually happen in the UK. Considering how pervasive problems are of funding to the cultural and heritage industries, this certainly seems to be an area in which Britain could learn from America. It was noted during the conference, for instance, that all museums were under financial pressure, with governments everywhere (at both national and regional levels) investigating closer at issues of funding. This manifested in the United States in revisions made to their legislation relating to donations, which conference attendees thought were working well and thus provided encouragement for those who sought more generous treatment for charitable giving in Britain. It was also found that Britain was essentially alone in attempting to maintain the principle of free entry to museums, although there was recognition of exceptions becoming more frequent. Comparatively, it was noted that American entry charges were commonplace, as this was weighed up against the risk of museums being forced into closure which was noted to be of particular importance to smaller regional and private museums. These differences presented a learning opportunity for both countries, whether that be examples to follow or experiences to avoid. More broadly, the issues of funding were extensively discussed with a series of solutions being produced as a result. The potential extension of merchandising was suggestion, with reference made to the growing and profitable source of income that this could provide. It was felt, though, that this needed to be managed with taste and discretion in order to make sure that this did not overcome the rest of the institution. Furthermore, suggestions were made about how outlets did not necessarily need to be confined to museums and could be located off of the premises, for instance.
Much like in other cultural and heritage conferences, there were conversations about the merit and worth of different forms of exhibitions in this case. Particular merit was attributed to special exhibitions, in contrast with permanent collections, given that the former highlighted particular areas and had the potential to stimulate interest in the general collections simultaneously.With this arrangement in mind, it was thought important that museums should subsequently cooperate more widely with other institutions through loans, for instance. Such arrangements could be expanded to an international level and thus benefit the cultural understandings of other countries. Similarly, at a national level there are undeniable benefits that can be derived from the spread and deepening of knowledge across regional boundaries, especially in the case of small and remote institutions that might not benefit from the footfall of major tourist cities like London or New York.
This then led onto discussions surrounding the ways in which objects were acquired and disposed. In the case of the former, acquisitions were considered within the broader state of international trade, with attendees of this conference favouring free trade arrangements with respect to cultural objects. Even in instances where individuals felt most threatened, because of the richness of their cultural heritage, the quantity of cultural objects and the difficulty of controlling the trade, there seemed to be an acceptance that the export of some cultural objects was often desirable.On the latter topic of disposing of objects, there was extensive debate and disagreement, with some rejecting the idea of disposal a priori (except in the rare case of genuine duplicates).Others argued that if survival was in question, or if collections had got out of hand as a result of misguided acquisitions in the past, that there was a strong case for disposal as a result.At the same time, it was noted that the rights of donors must be acknowledged and taken into consideration, with it being clearly and explicitly wrong to dispose of an object, or to treat them in a way contrary to the wishes of the original donor. That being said, it was worth recognising that the attendees felt that some donors had conditions which were unreasonable and should be rejected, embodied the complexities and difficulties involved in these sorts of relationships. To complicate matters further, it was also noted at the conference that the existence of archaeology at sea, outside of state waters, raised questions surrounding ownership in particular, which needed to be considered in the future.
Preserving the architectural heritage (1993)
Discussions about architectural heritage at this conference revolved around what were becoming the familiar questions surrounding funding and education. Consideration was also given to the broader global context, especially when it came to addressing the problems faced by the Eastern and Central European countries represented at the conference. This was reflective of a broader international theme that underpinned many of the discussions, especially when it came to the preservation of the world’s greatest monuments. In these ways, this conference moved forward some of the discussions had previously, whilst recognising that there was still lots more to be done to reach an optimal situation with respect to the different relevant aspect of preserving architectural heritage.
Building upon the international nature of the previous conferences, eleven countries were represented at this conference, three of which were from the East and Central European region. With many therefore transitioning out of Soviet Union control, these countries became a focus point for the conference. It was noted that there was no general shortage of skills in preservation there. Instead, they were thought to be plagued with insufficient funds, as well as being in need of management skills and good legal and planning frameworks. The conference therefore provided an excellent opportunity for not only discussion but potential action on this topic. With other participating countries having more established practices when seeking to preserve architectural heritage, these Eastern and Central European nations had the benefit of learning from the former’s experiences, recommendations and potentially even resources.
At a broader level, the multinational nature of representation at the conference led to international questions and concerns being raised, especially with respect to the maintenance of global monuments across state borders. As a result of shifting political frontiers, it was noted that important assets had been separated from their natural parent countries and so this was a problem that was attended to in this conference. It was also decided that in cases of conflict between the interests and aims of different countries that national judgements should take precedent over notions of international ownership. This was said to be particularly important in instances where one nation sought to prioritise certain assets that other, better endowed countries, would not rate highly. As such, the international dimension of agreements made in this conference manifested in a belief in the support for overarching organisation or prescription. This was said to potentially take the form of material aid or political influence in favour of preservation.
It was also suggested in the conference that the support for the preservation of architectural heritage was becoming an increasingly powerful and popular movement. With reference to its popularity, it was recognised that there was a general and broad interest in this issue, that was not limited to an elitist minority. In fact, it was felt that, at this point in time, there was more of an understanding than previously of the value of heritage in terms of aesthetic pleasure as well as in fostering a sense of identity. As such, this can be seen of evidence of achieving some of the goals set up in prior architectural conferences pertaining to the education of the public. Whilst these successes were evident, it was still repeatedly stressed that there was a need everywhere for mainstream education, particularly in schools, to provide the population with the ability to understand, respect and enjoy architectural heritage. In doing so, this was thought to potentially extent to a better public awareness and care of the built environment more broadly.
Architectural heritage was also positioned within its broader economic context. This understandably then led to the questions of funding and financial resources resurfacing and so those will be considered subsequently. First, however, it is worth noting the different ways in which the economic context was said to have impacted on architectural heritage. The observation was made that development could be thought of as threatening. This was believed to be especially the case during a transition from a command economy to a free market, whereby public authorities had to learn control skills and to settle problematic clashes of priorities. On the other hand, it was noted that for developed market economies, a recession could be used for the benefit of heritage industries given the value and importance of job creation which could be harnessed for new construction projects as well as the maintenance and restoration of heritage sites. Furthermore, where there had been a tendency for economic advance to be seen in conflict with heritage preservation, the opposite was found to be true in instances where reclamation had instigated broader regeneration and modernising the character and value of an area.
The most explicit of example of this was seen in tourism, which had become a major form of income for many countries. Therefore, it was determined that tourism should be encouraged by the heritage movement, rather than being thought of as some sort of nuisance. Of course, there were certainly drawbacks to tourism that were mentioned, with cities like Prague being provided as an example of where the development of facilities necessary for tourism (such as hotels) had been in conflict with the features of interests that tourists wanted to enjoy.Nevertheless, tourism was considered to be an undeniable benefit to the heritage industries, especially within the context of the national income that could be generated. In this way, tourism was recognised and framed on the whole as a core mechanism through which widespread popular enjoyment could be achieved and was thus worth funding.
Questions of funding were therefore central to this conference in a similar way to many others. In this instance, tax structures were discussed extensively, without a singular conclusion being unanimously agreed upon. This was because, as mentioned at the conference, tax-breaks always cost the public and so the benefit might often equate to less than the equivalent resources being spent in other ways, including well-targeted subsidies, for example. On the other hand, an agreement was reached that tax arrangements should at least attempt to avoid distortion by penalising timely maintenance and repair in comparison with belated restoration. It was also felt that rather than focusing entirely upon public funding, that modes of private financial support should be considered due to their potentially significant benefits. Alongside this, the attendees also sought to identify areas for which funding should be prioritised. It was suggested that there was a broad range of potential criteria, with the weight given to certain areas vary both temporally and internationally. Amidst the differences expected between different countries, it was therefore reiterated that judgements should be made on a local basis, adopting broadly an individualised approach that considered each case by case through a consultative process. This was posited as being instead of a universal set of rules and guidelines, which at most was thought that there ought to be some sort of documentation system. Even here, however, there were concerns expressed about the potential for forms of listing, for example, becoming too rigid or too slow to set up.
The role and running of museums (1999)
In considering the role of museums and the ways in which they were run, this conference focused on ways in which to continue the boom that was identified as occurring at the time. Informative comparisons were drawn between the different ways that museums operated in different countries. Education and funding also arose as areas worthy of significant discussion, as did more specific interests in the cultural and economic benefits of museums to society.
It was noted at this conference that there had been a boom in museums, which was attributed to modernisation and the increasing importance and privileging of the image over the word in learning and experience. This trend was also attributed to the notion that museums had a sense of being a safe place for congregation, contemplation, community memory and even were a source of inspiration in a comparable way to religious sites and worship in the past. These observations were interesting given that, as Eleonora Belfiore suggests, museums (as well as art galleries) “are traditionally seen as institutions presenting more “difficult” and “elitist” forms of art” (101-102). With this in mind, there have been several studies into how to make museums more inclusive, such as Richard Sandell’s research into “Museums as Agents of Social Conclusion.” In this article that was published a year prior to this conference, Sandell argues that whilst he provides a few examples of museums “which clearly articulate their purpose in relation to society and which purposefully seek to position themselves as organisations with a part to play in multi-agency solutions for tackling social exclusion”, these were still rare (415). Therefore, with these scholars in mind, it seems that museums were yet to be the inclusive institutions that the attendees of this conference implied in their observations of the contemporary boom in museums. Irrespective of the reasons for this boom, however, was the identification that this might not be long-lasting and so it was deemed important to continue to think about how to maintain the attention that they had received, as well as their purposes as institutions (which could vary between museums, particularly those of different sizes).
As with several of these cultural and heritage industries conferences, education remained a prominent feature of discussion. Importance was placed on museums contributing to education, with hopes being expressed of museums becoming more consciously aligned with schools.In order to achieve this, it was suggested that teachers would need to be re-equipped in order to deliver this effectively because it was thought that they often were much stronger in the verbal arts. Moreover, it was deemed important that educational opportunities should not be limited to the young and that adults also needed to be considered.
Alongside the educational purposes of museums, they were also considered in terms of their cultural benefits to society. This was thought to be especially the case with regards to local museums which were key to senses of community consciousness, whilst also sometimes assisting in invigorating town centres. The latter instance was extended to the acknowledgement that museums often made considerable contributions to economic activity. In addition, it was also noted that museums served an entertainment purpose and so it was important that museums need to clearly identify the wants and needs of their customers, in order to best serve them. Suggestions to achieve this included greater flexibility in terms of the experience that they provided by having longer or different opening-hours. However, this needed to be balanced between desires to attract visitors and preserving the items in their collections. This was important, not least because, as noted during the conference, the entertainment side of museums should not eclipse their role as custodians and conservators.
Nevertheless, the financial benefit of museums could not be ignored, especially within the context of securing funding. With this in mind, it was believed that museums have been under pressure to demonstrate their fulfilment of their purposes. However, there were distinct obstacles in demonstrating and quantifying this, especially because, as noted in the conference, the most measurable factors were not necessarily the most important. Therefore, concerns were expressed that too much of a focus on numbers of visitors, for instance, would be of detriment to museums and so new ways needed to found to assess the quality of the experience provided by museums. This was considered to be of importance for all the different stakeholders of museums, whether it be governors, trustees, funding-providers and the community. These were identified as the groups that museums were accountable to, with particular discussion targeted towards funding-providers. Much like the other cultural and heritage conferences, this instance therefore saw questions of funding come to the fore. International comparisons were drawn at this conference between the United States, where much of the support for local or regional museums came from public purses below the federal level, and Europe, where public funding for big national museums was well-established. However, it was noted that public funding was becoming increasingly difficult to secure and could not necessarily be counted upon.
Along a similar vein, there was also a discussion surrounding the pressures of financial dependency upon museums. It was noted that these concerns occurred, irrespective of whether financial support was of a public or private nature. In either case, it was thought to be important that, whilst not easy or simple, museums should avoid accepting support that concentrated too narrowly on issues of origin or motivation, especially where it might influence museum to move away from their priorities.The impact of tax-deductibility on donations was also raised, which was said to be more influential and extensive in North America in comparison to elsewhere. There were several participants who advocated for European governments to consider again and more positively the option of tax-breaks in order to strengthen the support of museums. However, as had been mentioned in previous conferences, tax-breaks would impact on the public in the potential revenue that might have been gained.
Other areas suggested for improvement included the proposal that museums could do more to work with each other and similar institutions, like libraries and bookstores, for example. Furthermore, recommendations were made in favour of greater use of technology in terms of museum themselves as well as outreach programmes for schools. Other concerns were discussed in relation to the general absence of legal protection in order to prevent the separation of collections in liquidations of museums. Lastly, it was noted that museums had last been discussed seven years prior and there was a desire that no longer than this would pass before the next discussion. Unfortunately, however, as can be seen by the subsequent conference titles and timeline, this did not come to be and so it is even more important that the topic be returned to soon.
Who Needs Art? (1999)
Sir Richard Eyre delivered one of Ditchley’s only annual lectures on the topic of the cultural and heritage industries. More specifically, Eyre focused on the arts, considering questions such as what can be defined as art and the value of the arts to society. With reference to the latter, Eyre notes that attempts to identify this predominantly stem from the need to persuade funding bodies to provide support for the arts. This discussion was therefore extended to refer to the ways in which projects can be funded, particularly by the government, whilst also making comparisons with other countries in order to ascertain the best ways to fund the arts.
In July of 1999, Sir Richard Eyre delivered Ditchley’s Annual Lecture on art, remarking that discussions between artists often revolve around questions of funding rather than art and thus conforming to a trend of funding’s centrality to discussions of the cultural and heritage industries at Ditchley. Eyre goes on to suggest that where there was a clear definition of culture fifty years prior, it had become harder to define. Culture being about what we think, what we do, what we buy, how we behave, how we entertain ourselves, our “lifestyle” is the definition that Eyre offers. From the inclusivity of culture, Eyre moved onto art which he suggests is not as inclusive a concept as culture and that to talk of art is to imply a sense of values, a sense of taste, of standards. In framing the arts in this way, Eyre sets up what he describes as a sense of British apartheid between those who benefit from the arts and those that feel excluded by them. Eyre later returns to this towards the end of his lecture, suggesting that this can only be tackled by another recurrent theme at Ditchley, education. In fact, Eyre goes so far as to say that a revolution in education could change the economy, and employment, and attitudes to class, attitudes to the state, to each other, to ourselves. For instance, Eyre hypothesises that changes in education could dissolve what he terms as corrosive class divisions, the curbing of youth crime and the easing of unemployment, amongst other social ills. Eyre’s optimism thus shines through his speech, especially in his final aforementioned hopes that the divisions between those who enjoy and feel excluded by the arts could be abolished.
Following on from previous attempts at definitions, Eyre asks a series of questions that are related to who needs art, beginning with what is art? Acknowledging that a consensus might be reached amongst those attending his lecture, Eyre suggests that this gathering of highly distinguished, highly educated, middle-class men and women would say that art is a pursuit of excellence, a pursuit of meaning, a way of trying to make sense of the world. In this way, Eyre implicitly acknowledges that there are certain opinions shared within certain classes that might not be by others. At the same time, Eyre recognises the inherent plurality of the arts in suggesting that simply because art does not fit expectations of what it should look and sound like, does not stop it being from art.If anything, Eyre argues that these forms are necessary because they are original and encourage people to look at the world differently and find new meanings. This then led onto a discussion of popular art, with attempts to find the differences between the arts and entertainment. Ultimately, Eyre finds that comparisons between high and low culture are meaningless because they are utterly and completely different.
Eyre returns to the role of funding when considering the benefits of the arts. It is suggested that such arguments are made because the arts need to be paid for and so patrons have to be persuaded of their value. Eyre observes that this often centres around notions of the social usefulness of the arts, providing the example of music, which has been thought of as making students better at mathematics or that drama makes society more tolerant. This utilitarian approach is challenged for taking away from art the sense of mystery, joy and irresponsibility that makes it so alluring.
Concerns were subsequently expressed about the desire for the arts to take risk, sustain tradition, develop new talent, feed the commercial sector whilst also not excluding people through expensive seat prices. The solution to this Eyre finds in state support and/or private patronage. In reference to the latter, Eyre observes that Britain does not have a tradition of private giving and that governments have not done enough to encourage this through tax legislation. International comparisons were then drawn with the United States, where the Treasury foregoes collecting tax in order to allow that money to be distributed to the arts. Eyre then also discusses the potential for subsidies on cost-effectiveness grounds or as a mechanism through which to attract tourists. Further examples of culture being a potential invisible export or that there is a chance of a good return on original investments in VAT, tax and saving in unemployment benefit. However, after listing these, Eyre cautions against justifying subsidies in exclusively economic and financial terms because this enables politicians to consider arts as yet another industry to be privatised.
What conditions are necessary for artistic and cultural creativity? (2006)
Artistic and cultural creativity was framed as an integral part of society and thus is argued to be valuable for government and private bodies to fund. In reference to the latter especially, consideration was given in part to the ways in which cultural diplomacy could be advantageous to fund, as well as the ways in which limitations were believed necessary on the extent to which public funding bodies could influence the arts. Alongside direct sources of funding, more indirect forms were implicitly advocated for in the form of educational reform that would require extensive resources and funding.
In this conference, there were a series of conclusions that were accepted by the attendees. These were that the arts increasingly play a central part in society, it is essential that children are actively involved and that resources are required on a consistent basis without being of detriment to the independence of creative activity. Whilst there was seemingly a clarity of definition here, it was decided that there were difficulties involved in pinning down the arts, especially when it came to defining what the citizens want from the arts and by extension, in which direction government policy should be directed. With continued reference to governments, it was decided that the arts should not be an agent of the state, nor should the state be the principal guardian of the arts. However, it was also believed that the arts should serve society and so the government’s role in the industry should be defined by this. It was also suggested that the organisation of a system was exclusively the government’s responsibility in spite of the fact that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport tended to view itself in these terms.
Nevertheless, the government’s approach to the arts remained of paramount importance, not least because education was considered fundamental to the arts. With an agreement found that creativity and the notion of a ‘creative economy’ becoming increasingly important to British economic activity, as well as elsewhere, it was suggested that the educational curriculum should do more to promote creativity. There was a consensus at the conference that children had a natural spark which had to be fostered and not undermined, and to do so, the arts and creative expression must be given a central place in the curriculum. It was also noted that imaginative partnerships could be established between the public and private sector, and more specifically between schools, universities and specialised institutions, as well as between artists, arts institutions and schools. In terms of the aforementioned notion of a ‘creative economy’ it is worthwhile contextualising this with respect to the observation made at the conference that the British manufacturing industry was losing out to China and India, etc. As such, the creation of new and innovative jobs was prioritised, and it was believed that this would be assisted by the promotion of creative activity both in and outside of the arts. Therefore, it was recommended that further examination was needed of the relationship between the arts and a ‘creative economy.’
In order to be able to implement initiatives such as these, as well as the arts more generally, it was considered important to discuss the issue of funding. Having been discussed extensively throughout the conferences, it was decided in this case (and much like many others) that a plurality of public and private sources of funding were desirable, as long as consistency and stability in the support provided. It was felt that large-scale funding should be kept at a distance from artistic or creative activity to avoid undue influence of funding-bodies, whilst at the same time acknowledging that accountability for public money in particular was a necessity. In terms of modes of private funding, the United States was represented as impressive in their approaches in contrast with other countries. It was also decided that whilst there were plenty of funds available, the arts suffered from the absence of a natural bias towards the industry and so many attendees advocated for a stronger and more extensive appeal to private donors.
In conjunction with funding, especially that of a public nature, was the benefits that the arts could bring for international relations and rational interests. More specifically, there were discussions about the value of international exchanges in the arts, as well as the notion of cultural diplomacy. For the most part, however, questions about whether the promotion of better global understandings and international peace and security could be aided by more intensive promotion of cultural and creative activity were left unanswered until a later conference on cultural diplomacy specifically. That being said, some agreement was reached in the admiration for Germany and France’s strong and systematic approach to the promotion of their national cultures respectively. In contrast, Britain was seen to be more modest and less determined than their European counterparts. It was therefore proposed that the UK could do more to co-ordinate their efforts overseas in the future, with the BBC World Service being praised for providing the main successful international representation thus far.
Whilst international benefits seemed hard to prove, the attendees reached an agreement about the three component values of the arts more generally. These were intrinsic (emotive quality), instrumental (including attracting tourists, enlarging audiences, creating courses to study, shortening patient recovery time in hospitals) and institutional (connected with notions of civil society, promotion of public goods). It was argued that if the arts were presented as relying too heavily on any one of these aspects, the balance would be lost and the true value to society underestimated.
How do architecture and society interrelate? (2009)
Following on from previous concerns surrounding the role of the architect, further considerations were given to their responsibility and relationship with other stakeholders. Particular reference was made to the clients, users, and public. In a similar fashion to other culture and heritage conferences, discussion was had about how to measure success, with recognition given to the complications involved. These considerations were framed within the context in which the conference occurred, and thus references were made to the environment, for instance.
This conference continued some of the earlier discussions surrounding architecture, particularly with respect to the role of the architect and the extent of their responsibility, with some attendees believing that architects were central to the aesthetic quality, functionality and sustainability of buildings. Others suggested that architects should be taken out the equation and to make them servants to the clients’ instructions and needs of society. Even if this was not accepted by all attendees, it was suggested that often the closest was between the architect and client. With this close relationship potentially obscuring the important roles of other stakeholders, others were under consideration with specific regard given to the distance between architects and the communities. It was believed that this gap needed to be bridged in order to make sure that the architect’s service to the wider community delivered full value. As such, discerning the interests of the local community were considered to be important and it was suggested that these revolved around the importance placed on keeping the context of the specific locale in mind during decision-making processes as well as the increasing fragility of the planet. Moreover, communities were said to be interested in and judged the success of architectural projects by the practical usability of what was being built and how this contributed to the overall happiness of the area.
These are some of many ways by which the success of a building project was suggested to be measured by, the plurality of which reinforced the broader notion discussed in these conferences that it is difficult to ascertain specific, singular and universal measurements of success. This was further complicated by the problems involved in allocated professional responsibility with many believing that social engineers, planners and politicians possessed more than the architect, for instance. Furthermore, even where a building project had been successful and the responsibilities of those involved were fulfilled, it was noted that this could only be decided after the buildings were finished and in use. It was therefore suggested that good planning required judgement that was grounded in imagination and experience, with the flexibility to be able to change in accordance with the style of the time. Recognition was then given to countries which had achieved this, with examples of Barcelona and Freiburg being provided.
The context in which this conference was held was also considered, keeping in mind with particular interest the feeling that, despite the fact that twenty years had passed since Ditchley’s last conference on architecture, it was difficult to ascertain what had changed in terms of what made good architecture. However, it was suggested that there had been substantial changes to the global environment with stronger influences on the west from other countries being apparent, as well as developments in the debates about climate change and sustainability. Furthermore, technological advancements with regards to information and communication were thought to have had noticeable impacts on architectural methods and public responses to the results. It was also recognised that changes had occurred between politicians and the electorate which had made it more difficult for political leaders to define the type of community that needed to evolve or control the factors that affected evolution. The population’s demographics had simultaneously undergone changes, with the proportion of city over rural dwellers increasing, alongside the number of the elderly. Both of these were described as having an impact on both the design and requirements of the community in terms of architecture especially.
With changes like these having occurred, it was believed to be even more important that, as mentioned previously, architects remain in touch with the communities in which their projects were going to be.In fact, these developments were made it important that a good distribution of all stakeholders were represented in decision-making processes and so examples like Barcelona were commended for ensuring that no one group of actors dominated discussions. Whilst processes like these potentially resulting in problems of organisation and co-ordination, it was felt that these seemingly followed any project in which there was a certain baseline of quality, education and professional competence being established.
Cultural Diplomacy: does it work? (2012)
Issues surrounding cultural diplomacy were first considered specifically at this conference, with attempts to define both what constituted cultural diplomacy and how to measure its success. In contrast with other forms of foreign policy, cultural diplomacy was both considered in optimistic and sceptical terms and therefore whilst benefits were identified, unanimous agreement was not reached on whether and how relevant policies could be implemented. The discussion was also situated within the global context, with particular regard for the democratising influence of the digital age and the changes in attitudes towards culture that explicitly served national interests. Rather interestingly, culture that was critical of its government were perceived as beneficial to their national interests by embodying the values of honesty and openness.
Despite the fact that “countries such as France have used the term since the late nineteenth century, cultural diplomacy entered common parlance in most other countries only in the 1990s” (Ang et al. 366). However, Ien Ang et al. argued in 2015 that “scant attention to cultural diplomacy as a key component of the contemporary cultural policy landscape” has been paid within the cultural disciplines, which is mirrored by the fact that cultural diplomacy had formed a minor part of previous conferences (365). Nevertheless, with Ang et al. identifying that the cultural diplomacy was relatively underdiscussed in 2015, the fact that it was the primary consideration in this conference reflects the innovative and forward-thinking approaches adopted at Ditchley.
Multiple definitions were offered in the conference, which is paralleled in cultural studies scholarship as suggested by Ang et al. who suggest that “there is often a distinct lack of clarity in the way the notion is used, on exactly what its practice involves, on why it is important, or on how it works” which is largely the result of “the conflation of cultural diplomacy stricto sensu, which is essentially interest-driven governmental practice, with cultural relations, which tends to be driven by ideals rather than interests and is practiced largely by non-state actors” (365). In this conference, the primary definition that was offered and subsequently used referred to the facilitation of the exchange of ideas, values, traditions, and other aspects of culture or identity, or more simply as encouraging interaction with ‘the other.’
In this way, cultural diplomacy was part of a broader category of soft power initiatives as well as also being related to public diplomacy. However, there was a dislike of the term, cultural diplomacy, expressed at the conference because it implied that culture was merely a tool for the promotion of national interests. On the other hand, it was recognised that as a result of government funding, these were reasonable terms for those involved in cultural diplomacy. Furthermore, governments were also considered to be an invaluable source of support because of their ability to create spaces and environments where other actors could not. As such, there was an acceptance of a level of government influence over the forms and content of mechanisms of cultural diplomacy. It was not considered just a case of money, governments’ control over policies were vital to enabling individuals and society to engage in cultural diplomacy. For instance, with respect to visa regimes, intellectual property rights, tax policies, insurance programmes were all within the realm of governments, who also uniquely possessed the overall vision to frame cultural diplomacy. At the same time, many governments were unwilling to maintain, let alone increase their cultural diplomacy budgets, especially during times of austerity. With a desire for guaranteed results and the commonly held belief that culture was an expendable luxury, governments also were riddled with obstacles against the development of successful cultural diplomacy policies.
Moreover, conflicts and disputes such as these reflected a broader debate that runs throughout these conferences about the extent to which funding-bodies should be able to influence the culture and heritage produced (or preserved, in the case of the latter especially).It is important to recognise, however, that, as acknowledged in the conference, culture or artists that were critical of their home country were often of benefit to that country’s interests by embodying the values of honesty and tolerance. However, it was deemed to be often difficult to persuade governments of the need for cultural ambassadors of this type. This was compounded by concerns that were represented at the conference, namely the conflict between those who believed that cultural interactions were necessary in combatting misunderstandings, parochialism and xenophobia and those who were sceptical of the value of investing in culture and cultural diplomacy. Even in the case of the most optimistic, it had been acknowledged that damage done by hard power policies could not be fully mitigated by cultural diplomacy, with underlying problems needing to be prioritised. However, it is worth mentioning that soft power more broadly, has never or at least rarely been “intended to replace ‘hard’ power, but rather to complement it” (Ang et al. 368).
The example of Japan was provided as a success story of cultural diplomacy at the conference, with the observation made that their efforts to soften their aggressive military image in the Asia-Pacific region prior to the First World War were unsuccessful, where they had later succeeded over time. More broadly, the definition and impacts of ‘good’ cultural diplomacy were, however, felt to be hard to find and that failures might be better to find and learn from instead. That being said, recognition was given to the Fulbright scholarships, for instance, which were identified as an effective long-term campaign, with students and academic exchanges being considered to be successful and beneficial investments. Moreover, ethnic restaurants were perceived as being effective ways of challenging prejudice. It was therefore decided that cultural diplomacy needed to focus more on what people wanted and needed, such as the key practical areas of health, education and jobs.
Much like every other area of culture, cultural diplomacy was deemed to be fundamentally changing in an increasingly digital, interconnected and multipolar world. For example, discussions surrounding the digital context involved the potentially democratising and empowering result for the individual, as could be seen in younger people being more critical of their governments. This meant that outdated modes of propagandist types of cultural diplomacy would no longer work and added complications to persuading governments of the benefits of funding new projects.Interestingly, whilst governments were thought of as slow and reluctant to accept the new paradigms outlined above, they still demonstrated an increased interest in soft power. It was therefore believed to be important to find new and convincing reasons and rationale to persuade governments that cultural diplomacy was an urgent task in need of their attention. Of course, there were variations in different countries, especially in terms of the contrasts noted between large countries with well-known and dominant cultures and those with smaller cultures that were struggling. In the case of the former, it was recognised that a more sophisticated attitude to aims could be adopted in comparison with instances of the latter, who were still using traditional methods to package performances for overseas audiences, for example. Nonetheless, the majority of attendees at the conference felt that different governments’ aims were very similar when it came to cultural diplomacy, even in cases as different as the British Council, the Goethe Institute and China’s Confucius Institutes. These distinctly different models were considered to be following comparable aims and pursuits, despite, for example, the suspicions of China’s authoritarian’s government. With further reference to the international aspect of discussions, it was also noted that the possibility of joint international efforts of cultural diplomacy should be explored. This can be compared with international attempts to preserve different monuments across the globe, as discussed at a previous conference.
One of the prevailing features of the culture and heritage discussions at Ditchley was a feeling of these areas operating in the periphery of society. Whether it be in terms of a lack of funding in comparison to other ventures, or a sense of not being a central part of education, there is an overwhelming sense that these topics were not attended to enough. In fact, even when analysing the education conferences that have been held at Ditchley, for example, it is clear that the topics of culture and heritage were rarely discussed. Interestingly, in the culture and heritage conferences, education was a recurrent area of discussion, with calls often being made for more of this in relation to the culture and heritage industries. Therefore, it is clear that whilst the culture and heritage discussions were prioritising education, the same was not necessarily being returned and so this is an area that future education discussions could benefit from attending to.
Other areas of focus included the dominance of attempts to identify the societal and economic benefits of culture and heritage. There was an undeniable importance placed on justifying the funding of the culture and heritage industries, especially in the case of the government providing financial support. This trend was consistent with observations made by scholars like Eleonora Belfiore, who remarked that, “the contribution that the arts can make towards alleviating the symptoms of exclusion” has been increasingly discussed and “highly emphasised by the government and the major public arts funding bodies” (91). Whilst the connections between social benefits like these are certainly important considerations to be made, it was worthwhile that, during the conferences held at Ditchley, attendees often sought to remind others that the most measurable ways of defining success in these industries were not necessarily the most important, and yet, because of the pressures from funding bodies, these became the focus point. In doing so, other important aspects of culture and heritage were often underdiscussed or even ignored altogether. This might be partly the result of a lack in the representation of artists at these conferences, particularly in the earlier instances. Future conferences would certainly benefit from more participation from artists, who might be able to balance the distribution of policymakers and funding bodies that are often represented at these events.
Other important considerations for the future are the impacts of contemporary issues on the culture and heritage industries. For example, questions about new building projects and the environment were raised in several of the architectural discussions, as early as the ‘Artistic Standards for Buildings and Works’ conference (1974). Whilst it was encouraging to see the attention paid to the environment, there is certainly more that could be done to address the unique ways in which the culture and heritage industries could interact with concerns about climate change. This is an undeniably complex and difficult problem, and it needs tackling more consideration in the modern day, so new innovative and potentially unexpected creative methods should we welcomed. It has already been seen in the world of art, that concerns surrounding the environment are not mutually exclusive with artistic creations. In fact, the two areas interact in interesting and nuanced ways, as seen in the Environmental Art held in the Tate Gallery. It is also worth noting that art (and culture and heritage more broadly) can often transgress national boundaries and language barriers in communicating messages universally. As such, these areas are uniquely positioned as mechanisms through which to discuss and exchange ideas about this global problem.
With reference to the global nature of the culture and heritage industries, it is worth giving some attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. With respect to Britain, for instance, social distancing measures have resulted in the mass closures of a variety of culture and heritage sites, many of which have not been able to survive the costs of the pandemic. This is a pervasive problem across many British industries, and in fact the world, but there is a sense that the performing arts in particular, have suffered greatly. With an absence of government protections in place for relevant companies, institutions and jobs, it is difficult to ascertain the extent to which the remaining parts of the sector will survive. Therefore, whilst improvements have definitely been seen with the lockdown ending, it is important that the future of the industries continue to be discussed at Ditchley.
1946 - Arts Council Founded
1951 - Festival of Britain
1955 - Commercial television begins with ITV’s first broadcast
1960 - BBC Television Centre opens
1971 - Ditchley Conference: Patronage of the Arts/Support and encouragement of the arts and cultural facilities
1974 - Ditchley Conference: Artistic and design standards for public and major corporate buildings and works
1978 - Ditchley Conference: Arts Patronage
1985 - Ditchley Conference: Exchanges in the performing arts between the United States and Britain: can transatlantic cultural relations be left to look after themselves?
1991 - Ditchley Conference: Museums and galleries: collecting, funding and protecting the heritage
1992 - Department of National Heritage formed
1993 - Ditchley Conference: Preserving the architectural heritage
1994 - Arts Council of Great Britain replaced with National Arts Councils, National Lottery
1997 - Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) created
1999 - Ditchley Conference: The role and running of museums
1999 - Ditchley Foundation Annual Lecture XXXVI: Who Needs Art?
2006 - Ditchley Conference: What conditions are necessary for artistic and cultural creativity?
2009 - Ditchley Conference: How do architecture and society interrelate?
2012 - Ditchley Conference: Cultural Diplomacy: does it work?
2019 - Netflix has approximately 150 million subscribers (Digital News Report, 2019 Reuters Institute)
2022 - BBC Centenary
Ang, Ien, Yudhishthir Raj Isar, and Phillip Mar. “Cultural Diplomacy: Beyond the National Interest?” International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 21, no. 4, 2015, pp. 365-381.
Belfiore, Elenora. “Art as a Means of Alleviating Social Exclusion: Does it Really Work? A Critique of Instrumental Cultural Policies and Social Impact Studies in the UK.” International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 8, no. 1, 2002, pp. 91-106.
Sandell, Richard. “Museums as Agents of Social Inclusion.” Museum Management and Curatorship, vol. 17, no. 4, 1998, pp. 401-418.
Recommendations for Further Reading
Doak, Peter. “Cultural policy as conflict transformation? Problematising the peacebuilding potential of cultural policy in Derry-Londonderry – UK City of Culture 2013.” International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 26, no. 1, 2020, pp. 46-60.
Hansen, Trine Bille. “Measuring the Value of Culture.” The European Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 1, no. 2, 1995, pp. 309-322.
Hesmondhalgh, David, and Andy Pratt. “Cultural Industries and Cultural Policy.” International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 11, no. 1, 2005, pp. 1-13.