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In 2006 and 2007 Arts Council England ran a large inquiry that it called ‘the arts debate’, including research and consultative processes aimed at finding out what people value most about the arts and what principles they think should guide publicly funded arts organisations. RAND Europe was commissioned by Arts Council England to gather and summarise qualitative feedback about perceptions of the impact and processes of the arts debate thus far, from a group of prominent individuals whom the Arts Council regarded as thoughtful, knowledgeable, and belonging to key stakeholder groups. This short report is based on interviews that RAND Europe conducted with eleven arts debate participants and Arts Council stakeholders in January 2008. The two main messages that emerged from the interviews were that: (i) interviewees felt positive about the process of the arts debate. They would like to see some form of dialogue continue, involving the Arts Council, its direct constituents (individual artists and arts organisations) and, if possible, representatives of the general public. They felt that the Arts Council had not been specific enough about how it would go about achieving the goals it had set itself. (ii) There was scepticism about whether the Arts Council would change any of its processes or its decisions based on the findings of the debate. Other key challenges for the Arts Council to consider, which some interviewees raised, include: (iii) the unresolved dichotomy between excellence and access, and the implications of placing greater focus on the quality of experience of those who use or consume the art; and (iv) the call to include artists in setting the agenda, but without becoming too swayed by their self-interest.

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The research described in this report was commissioned by Arts Council England and was conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND technical report series. RAND technical reports may include research findings on a specific topic that is limited in scope or intended for a narrow audience; present discussions of the methodology employed in research; provide literature reviews, survey instruments, modeling exercises, guidelines for practitioners and research professionals, and supporting documentation; or deliver preliminary findings. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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