What are arts, culture, creative industries and cultural heritage?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Before looking at some of the impacts of culture, it is important quickly to take stock and clarify what culture is, or at least to clarify some of the differing definitions of what it is. This is relevant for various reasons:

  • Different commentators, organisations, countries and supra-nationals discretise and determine cultural domains differently. For example, the UK Government has quite discrete funding and management structures for Arts and Culture (including non-departmental public-body Arts Council England), Heritage (Historic England) and Sport (Sport England). OECD’s statistics bureau looks at culture employment as a department of tourism but culture spending within recreation, culture and religion. UNESCO has a fairly clear distinction between cultural heritage and creative industries in its organisational structure.
  • The present publication is focussing on cultural heritage, which is sometimes considered a domain of the culture sector, but is also something that traverses all cultural domains (in the sense that art, architecture, film, fashion etc. all have a heritage) as well as extra-cultural ones (so too do biology and business).
  • But perhaps most importantly for the present chapter, because the outcomes of culture, which we argue are the root of its future opportunities, come out from different places. For example, much of the impact derived from historic buildings relies heavily on the buildings themselves, their history and age (they’re likely to qualify, for example as heritage under the 40+ years definition). Petra wouldn’t attract the same tourism income or childhood wonder if it had been carved out in 2017. But the impact of AESOP’s Dance for Health programme, which supports falls prevention in older people, comes from a dance-based process, not a dance itself as a work of art, not a particular dance – old or new. In this sense, the impacts of culture are attached to different things: some are attached to cultural forms or domains, some to cultural assets and traditions, some to processes connected to culture, and some to cultural practitioners. And this attachment is important for the realisation of culture’s opportunities: you might not achieve the same falls prevention impact if you used a different dance-based process with the same dancers, or the same dance-based process with some less expert dance practitioners: i.e. it’s not just dance that has the impact but what you do with it.

A useful and commonly-used frameworkd is the UNESCO framework for cultural statistics domains.

This framework is similar, but not quite the same as the definition of cultural heritage used by the British Council’s Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth programme which includes:

  1. Tangible cultural heritage:
    1. movable cultural heritage (paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts)
    2. immovable cultural heritage (monuments, archaeological sites, and so on)
    3. underwater cultural heritage (shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities)
  2. Intangible cultural heritage:
    1. oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events
    2. knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe
    3. knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

The British Council's Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth programme, then, looks at the potential for realising inclusive growth opportunities through cultural heritage – encompassing a few of the UNESCO domains.

This paper looks at the opportunities for culture, including cultural heritage, that are presented from drawing on the impacts and outcomes that can be derived from cultural activities and assets.