Failures in Cultural Participation

Leila Jancovich, David Stevenson

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2022 (open access)
ISBN 9783031161155

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For the past two decades, the arts and cultural establishment in the UK has been trying to engage a broader set of audiences in their work. Countless initiatives to make the arts more accessible to the public and to make them more relevant have been advocated for in policy and funding settlements.

But the dial on who participates and how much has not shifted, despite many thousands of projects trying to address the problem. But this isn’t even the punchline. Not only do the interventions not work, nobody involved in them admits that the interventions may have been a failure.

Having spent many years working in cultural policy studies and in arts practice, Leila Jancovich and David Stevenson take the arts and culture sector to task over this fiction. Their book Failures in Cultural Participation puts a mirror to the industry and invites cultural policymakers, organisations, and practitioners to confront their failures. 

David Stevenson speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez about the culture sector’s refusal to acknowledge failure in widening participation and moving the debate from the ‘value’ of culture to considering how policies can be designed and implemented. David argues for an honest and transparent acknowledgement of failure at individual, organisational and governmental levels.

Leila Jancovich is a professor of Cultural Policy and Participation at the University of Leeds. Before entering academia, she worked for many years in the arts and festivals sector as a producer, researcher, and policy maker.

David Stevenson is the Dean of The School of Arts, Social Sciences, and Management at Queen Margaret University. His research focuses on relations of power and the production of value within the cultural sector.