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  • 10 Jun 2019

University of Leeds to be home of UK’s first Centre for Cultural Value

New centre will examine the value of arts and culture – from book clubs and pub gigs to fine art and opera

Why do arts and culture matter? What difference do they make to people’s lives? How do we know what difference they make to individuals and communities?

These and other key questions are at the heart of a unique new Centre for Cultural Value based at the University of Leeds’ School of Performance and Cultural Industries.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England with an investment of £2 million over five years, this centre will collaborate and consult widely to advance understanding of the value of the UK’s arts and culture sector and its unexplored potential.

The Centre for Cultural Value will focus on the role of arts and culture in areas such as conflict resolution, education, health and wellbeing, and community regeneration. The centre will bring together researchers, policy makers, arts and cultural organisations, audiences, participants and local communities in useful dialogue and shared understanding. It will also involve a wide range of artists and arts and cultural organisations from across the UK in planning its programme and its activity.

As well as building on and sharing existing research and best practice, the Centre for Cultural Value will offer £200,000 of seed funding to arts and cultural organisations to explore new methods of evaluating their cultural value with the support of a dedicated academic researcher.

Engagement events with interested parties will be held in the autumn, ahead of a launch of the Centre for Cultural Value next February.

Dr Ben Walmsley, Associate Professor in Audience Engagement at Leeds, who will lead the new centre, said:

“Two questions at the core of the new centre’s work will be: ‘What does it feel like to engage with arts and culture?’ and ‘What tangible differences do arts and culture make to people’s lives?’.

“Our work will cover a diverse range of cultural activity from grassroots and community activities to work produced by our world-leading national organisations.

“The Centre for Cultural Value will help stimulate public debate about the role of national and local governments in creating and enabling cultural value, informed by robust and rigorous research.”

Jane Steele, Director, Evidence and Learning, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, said:

“Collaboration is a key feature of the centre, which we hope will help to foster networks, communities of interest and greater mutual understanding between people working in different sectors, art forms and academic disciplines.

“I look forward to seeing the centre develop conversations with and between these groups and how these might help to develop new understanding of the value of the arts and culture for us all.”

Professor Andrew Thompson, Executive Chair at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said:

“Arts and culture can bring value to many areas of society: from the creative industries which drive economic growth, to grassroots arts projects that help to build community spirit. The Centre for Cultural Value will help to advance our understanding of this flourishing and diverse sector, bringing together a valuable evidence base for the importance of culture in today’s world.”

Simon Mellor, Deputy Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said:

“We experience the benefits of art and culture every day but all too often it can be difficult to evidence the impact of these opportunities in terms of our health, wellbeing and communities.

“The centre will be a fantastic research and resource hub for the sector and we look forward to working with them in the coming years.”

Professor Geoffrey Crossick, former Director of the AHRC Cultural Value Project, said:

“The AHRC Cultural Value Project report stressed how individual experience of arts and culture generated so many of its benefits, the need for rigorous evaluation of those benefits rather than mere advocacy, and that cultural practitioners and organisations had to be engaged and know that research and evaluation would help their work.

“I’m delighted that the new Centre for Cultural Value will take forward the work begun in that project and move it in new and exciting directions.”