Together with the Royal Shakespeare Company, we recently facilitated the West Midlands Mayoral Hustings for arts and culture. The online session was attended by people from across the region representing the breadth of organisations, art forms and scales of our cultural ecology.
Iqbal Khan hosted our hustings with Liam Byrne (LAB), Steve Caudwell (GREEN PARTY), Pete Durnell (REFORM UK), Andy Street (CON) and Jenny Wilkinson (LIB DEM) all sharing their perspectives and priorities for arts and culture within the region.
Over the hustings, a number of shared concerns and thinking were highlighted by the mayoral candidates, that speak either to a sense of shared priorities for our next mayor, and some perspectives on how they believed they would best be able to support and advocate for the sector. Rather than highlighting each candidate’s offer, we wanted to draw out and reflect on some of these themes and priorities. We hope that you find this summary useful, and that you’ll consider joining us at Culture Central as the collective voice of the cultural sector to ensure we can advocate and strategically campaign for continued support for our sector.
Some key themes that emerged across the hustings were:
All the candidates spoke about the complex ecology of the region, particularly the interconnected nature of the sector with a focus on the artists and freelancers, who deliver and create work across high streets, communities and organisations within the region. There was a commitment to supporting the ‘roots’ of the ecology as the sustaining force of the sector within the West Midlands.
Another focus was on culture, creativity and the arts in education, both celebrating the fantastic work that takes place in schools but recognising that more needs to be done to connect these opportunities with skills and careers within the region.
UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME
The idea of support for artists and creatives was also raised multiple times. Some candidates expressed their support for the development of a trial for Universal Basic Income across the region to support opportunities for people to be able to explore, develop and grow their creative practice.
Many of the candidates spoke about investment in the region, and some of the challenges in ensuring growth, particularly in areas such as media, film and TV. There was a recognition however of how investment and support for digital infrastructure could create opportunities for smaller and medium-sized organisations to require less physical infrastructure, but how better digital access would allow collaborative working and sharing in ways that had not been previously possible.