UK Government announces Cultural Renewal Taskforce

Representatives from the UK’s arts and culture spheres will meet weekly to discuss ways to help get the sector “up and running again”.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has announced the formation of a new Cultural Renewal Taskforce, a group that will concern itself with helping the UK’s arts and culture sector navigate out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The taskforce, which will see representatives from across the UK’s art and cultural spheres meet weekly, is one of five new ministerial-led groups set up to develop “blueprints” for how integral parts of the UK’s economy can reopen in line with the government’s National COVID-19 Recovery Strategy.

“Renewing” DCMS post-coronavirus

According to the government, the taskforce will “support the renewal of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) sectors”, which have over the past three months been decimated by the effects of the pandemic and subsequent public lockdown.

This will include establishing strategies for the safe reopening of businesses, as well as the developing of creative digital solutions where medical advice doesn’t permit this.

Beyond just the initial stages of reopening the DCMS sector, the group will also be tasked with exploring ways to ensure it thrives in the future. This will likely build on existing government support, like the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the £200 million worth of emergency public funding from the Arts Council and other partners.

Arts Council chair and a new culture commissioner on board

Among the eight people selected for the taskforce is Arts Council England chair, Sir Nicholas Serota – the former director of Tate from 1988 to 2017.

On the task at hand, Serota said: “Culture and creativity will be vital to rebuilding communities across the country and in sustaining our international standing as a creative nation. Helping the sector to reopen is a priority.”

Serota will be joined by other representatives including Tamara Rojo of the English National Ballet and sports broadcaster Alex Scott, as well as the newly appointed commissioner for cultural recovery and renewal Neil Mendoza.

Mendoza was appointed to the new role yesterday (20 May) by the culture secretary, having previously served as a non-executive director for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since 2016.

His new role, according to Dowden, will involve “garnering the strongest, most innovative ideas” for the DCMS sector’s renewal, which will supposedly include a “an ambitious philanthropic focus on arts and culture”.

How design will affect the immediate future

Speaking with Design Week, Design Council director of policy, research and communications Dr Ambreen Shah highlights how the pandemic has had a “devastating effect” on DCMS sectors, and suggests that design will have a significant role to play in developing creative solutions to these problems.

“In the early weeks of the pandemic, design was in the headlines for product innovation and supporting the rapid pivoting of businesses to manufacture ventilators and other equipment in short supply,” she says. “Now as we prepare to unlock the UK economy, design is an essential ingredient for the re-opening of key sectors in the recovery phase.”

Not only will designers be invested in the output of these taskforces in renewing and supporting their own industry, but as Dr Shah points out, designers will also play a significant role in the renewing of other industries too. In the realm of public spaces and workplaces, for example, she says designers will be key in developing spaces that “feel welcoming but prevent contagion and support safe physical socialising”.

The work ahead will rely on “reimagining the status quo”, she adds, as the country begins moving from emergency fiscal measures toward a sustained recovery.

“Just as Design Council was set up 75 years ago to help rebuild the domestic economy, to thrive in the future [now] requires critical thinking and creativity to redesign the way we live and work.”

Elsewhere in government

  • This week saw the launch of the Future Fund – an initiative from the government which seeks to support “high-growth, innovative” UK businesses. You can apply for a share of the £500 million fund through the website.
  • The government has introduced the Corporate Governance and Insolvency Bill to Parliament this week, which aims to provide support for businesses. According to business secretary Alok Sharma, it will “help companies that were trading successfully before the COVID-19emergency to protect jobs and put them in the best possible position to bounce back”.
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