News, research

Paper ‘Democratic Culture: opening the arts to everyone’ by James Holden

A paper entitled Democratic Culture: opening the arts to everyone, published by Demos in December 2008, is available to download at

More info:

“This report looks at what ‘culture’ means today, and challenges audiences, critics and cultural professionals to change their attitudes in order to allow greater access and participation.

“We can all now make YouTube videos and buy musical instruments, but this upsurge in ‘homemade’ culture should not blind us to the fact that access to publicly funded culture is still very limited, with only 4 per cent of the population enjoying the arts regularly. There is a thin line between defending quality and erecting barricades against outsiders, and it is not always clear where that line is. Sometimes ‘maintaining standards’ just means preserving status.

“The report asks what a ‘democratic culture’ in the arts would look like, and finds the current system wanting in terms of legislative frameworks, representation, transparency, equality, and universalism. Culture should be something that we all own and make, not something given, offered or delivered by one section of ‘us’ to another.”

The paper’s author, John Holden, is a Demos Associate and a Visiting Professor at City University.

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