John Holden
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The ‘cultural system’ faces a crisis of legitimacy – a problem that has dogged culture for the last 30 years.

Cultural professionals have focused on satisfying the policy demands of their funders in an attempt to gain the same unquestioning support for culture that exists for health or education. But the truth is that politicians will never be able to give that support until there exists a more broadly based democratic consensus. The question is where will this come from?

Politicians and policy-makers appear to care most about the economic and social outcomes of state-funded culture, while the public and most professionals have a completely different set of concerns.

Because of this, the dysfunctional ‘cultural system’ has become a closed and ill-tempered conversation between professionals and politicians, while the news pages of the media play a destructive role between politics, culture and the public.

The diagnosis is worrying, but the prognosis is optimistic. The problems are systemic, but this report argues that solutions must start with cultural professionals.

The challenge is to create a different alignment between culture, politics and the public. In practice this will require courage, confidence and radicalism on the part of professionals in finding new ways to build greater legitimacy directly with citizens. The evidence suggests that such an approach would be successful and would serve the aims of all concerned – politicians, the professionals themselves, and above all, the public.