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“Cultural democracy is needed more now than ever before to help strengthen and give voice to civil society’s response to the many urgent crises facing humanity.

Culture IS a common good and we need to reclaim the means to cultural production at a grassroots level, enabling people of all ages and ethnicities, from all walks of life, to access resources (including spaces, materials, equipment and time) to explore through the arts, local, national and global issues, and to share individual and collective creative responses.

Culture is not fixed or static but ever-evolving, reflecting old traditions and new identities. In times of uncertainty culture is a battle-ground prone to historical distortion, and appropriation by the establishment. Yet the fostering of an open, inclusive and truly democratic society requires creative thinking. Engagement in the arts offers the possibility to construct new narratives and explore better ways of living together.

We must be open to new hybrid forms of creative expression, particularly as young people and emerging artists experiment with cross-over styles, digital technology and outside art such as street art.

We must build an ethical, sustainable arts economy with strong links to the trade union movement and avoidance of dodgy philanthropy or sponsorship, such as that derived from fossil fuels, arms trade, hedge-funds, private health companies, big-pharma, and so on.

We must fight for the rights of all children and young people to have free 

arts education and for proper funding for libraries, youth arts organisations and creative well-being programmes. We must remove the barriers to participation, particularly for people with disabilities, BAME communities, LGBTIQ+, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, homeless and otherwise disenfranchised or dispossessed.

We must learn from best-practice models such as the Reggio Emilia artist in residence programmes for early years and the Finnish education system that promotes child-centred learning and minimal testing. We must embed the habit of life-long learning through the arts.

We must place greater value on arts and humanities in further and higher education and support arts-based degree and post-graduate courses, whilst promoting STEAM not STEM – A=Arts. We must advocate for free university education for all.

And we must fight for Freedom of Movement across the EU in order to continue working closely with our nearest neighbours whilst challenging the old colonialism that still pervades our relationship with Commonwealth countries. We must promote the importance of culture in the delivery mechanisms of the SDGs, and stand in solidarity with artists at risk around the world.”

Julie Ward MEP.

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