Cultural Democracy in Practice – The Movement for Cultural Democracy

As part of our series on Cultural Democracy we have been asking for contributions from people working in this way in the field. This is the latest manifesto from The Movement for Cultural democracy – a movement which exists to collectively create and collaboratively campaign for the realisation of a radical and transformative cultural programme in the UK. As always – we’re interested to hear your thoughts and ideas about their work and the other blogs in our Cultural Democracy series. Do you have an interesting example of Cultural Democracy? Get in touch with us hello@64millionartists.com, we would love to hear from you.

The Movement for Cultural Democracy

This is the second version of our Manifesto for Cultural Democracy. Published on 1st January 2019, the manifesto is in continual development. We’d love to hear your comments and encourage you to contribute to its development, so please get in touch. Version 2.0 reflects the comments from the conversations and participatory sessions we organised in 2018.

We believe in the radical and transformative potential of cultural democracy and seek to explore what such an agenda could achieve in a society in which power and resources are unequally distributed. This agenda takes the form of three interconnected projects: a) democratising the means of cultural production; b) decolonising and realizing radical inclusivity in all spheres of arts, culture, everyday life and our public institutions; c) realising participatory democracy.

We are independent of any political party.

We are committed to an expanded definition of culture that understands the plurality of our cultures and that encourages more fundamentally equal, just, ecological and democratic modes of living together creatively.

We are aware of gender and race and its impact on the way we see and act in the world. We are committed to ensuring that at least 50% of the contributions to network events and outward-facing communications should identify as women (or non-binary) and as BAME. We also recognize that just as Britain is diverse, so too are social movements.

We firmly believe that all cultural activities are equal and that dominant understandings of cultures and cultural activities need to be vastly expanded.

We recognise that the current definition of arts and culture is not only exclusive and exclusionary, but it also privileges the middle-classes and establishment cultural institutions and agencies. We are committed to redressing this fundamental cultural imbalance. Working-class cultural activities and those of all the other marginalised cultures ignored, belittled and undervalued by the present white, patriarchal, ableist, straight, Western cultural norm must be celebrated, respected, valued and supported fairly and equitably.

To this end, we make the following commitments:

1. We are committed to the radical redistribution of funding to arts and cultural activities. Government funding of all types to be available to all cultural forms, not just to a privileged few, and it should be fairly and equitably distributed to people and communities most in need. We see redistribution of National Lottery funding as the first step towards this objective.

2. We believe that decisions about which cultural activities are supported and funded should be made at as local level as is possible and reasonable via genuinely equitable and diverse structures that employ the principles of participatory democracy. A network of local and regional elected representatives will be created with a mandate to ensure that cultural spending empowers the communities that elect those representatives.

3. We will ensure all cultural decision making is fully transparent and accountable.

4. We will champion investment in people and process over products and results.

5. We believe that creative industries corporations that generate a significant level of profit (to be agreed and defined) should contribute a levy of 1% of profits to be equitably and distributed and democratically decided upon as described in items 1 and 2.

6. We believe that all corporations currently comprising the “creative industries” sector must pay their taxes in full, without exception.

7. We believe that cultural activities should benefit everyone and not be fettered by the so-called rules of the market and commercialism.

8. We oppose the undue influence of corporate interests and state intervention in cultural activities. Instead, we support the development of truly grassroots democratic cultures.

9. We propose that the charters and policies of the UK nation states arts councils should be redrafted with the full participation of people in each country to reflect broader societal goals. These charters and policies must to address the need for radical inclusion and full-scale decolonisation that enshrines and enacts anti-racism, gender equality, disability rights, sexual freedom, freedom from poverty and ecological sustainability at the heart of Britain’s cultural institutions. They should simultaneously also expose the roots of social, economic and environmental injustice. These principles will apply to the local structures for cultural democracy outlined above.

10. We propose that it is made mandatory for arts councils and local authorities to protect public spaces and to put these spaces into the service of public-led forms of cultural production. At its most basic, this would mean opening idle spaces and empty buildings up to creative practitioners and community groups in ways that put existing communities first. Section 106 funding, raised from private land development, should be invested into the expansion of publicly owned assets for cultural activity – libraries, recording studios, community arts centres, performance spaces, exhibition centres, playgrounds and parks, etc.

11. We oppose the artwashing of gentrification and social cleansing.

12. We oppose sponsorship of arts and cultural activities and institutions by fossil fuel, weapons, and other unethical corporate interests.

13. We demand that welfare and human rights are placed at the core of our society and our cultural lives.

14. We demand that all cultural workers are guaranteed at least the UK living wage and that freelance workers can be certain of receiving equal rights and acceptable minimum rates of pay per day.

15. We call on the sector to recognise the positive role played by trades unions in helping to fight for the normalisation of humane working conditions and we will lead on this by introducing trades union representation onto the independent board of every public cultural institution.

16. We firmly believe that lifelong creative and cultural learning that is free at the point of use must be available to everyone in our society and embedded into the national curriculum so that all children in Britain, from primary school up, benefit from the provision of free lessons in music, drama, creative writing, dance, painting, gardening, food, fashion, design, etc.

17. We believe that our cultural lives in a cultural democracy will unlock positive social value that can in turn bring the benefits of creativity, community and joy into all aspects of our democratic life, from the grassroots into government, from childhood to old age. A society defined by this paradigm – of culture for all, by all – will be a stronger society and a happier one.