Meet Sajid Javid, the new Culture Secretary

UPDATE – Matthew Tanner, Chair of AIM, attended Sajid Javid’s first major speech as Culture Minister in Bristol on 6th June. He reports that the Minister brought very strongly to the fore the importance of accessibility and inclusivity in UK culture and how much more needs to be done, but with no new initiatives announced about how to achieve this.

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In a wide-ranging interview with the new Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, by Sam Macaroy, published in Total Politics, it is disappointing to see how little museums feature.

Nevertheless the article gives a good impression of the new Secretary of State, his career to date and shows his positive attitude towards his new brief, despite his widely-reported low level of interest in the arts before taking up the role a month ago.

Javid’s commitment to the intrinsic value of the arts, will be welcomed.

Javid, it turns out, is all for public funding of the arts.

“Yeah, I think it’s important”, he declares. “It’s been with us for a while under successive governments. The principle itself is something that I think is important.”

And where Maria Miller argued that the arts world must “hammer home the value of culture to our economy”, Javid seems to be taking an even softer line. While acknowledging that the arts sector, taken with creative industries, including the film and TV industries, is “hugely important for the activity it provides in our economy: it helps generate about £70bn of the economy, employ over 1.7 million people” – Javid is, perhaps to the surprise of many, prepared to look past the balance the sheet.

“I think it goes beyond just pounds and pence,” he says of the contribution of the arts. “You have the intrinsic value of the arts, the social value. It is hard to, you don’t want to, put a number on that. You don’t need to necessarily. But everyone knows the social value. Everyone knows the intrinsic value. All governments have understood that. This government does. That’s part of the reason why you have public sector involvements. That’s something that has been in important in the period we’ve been in government.”

The interview also expresses his commitment to free admission for national museums, although it doesn’t make the distinction that it was only national museums that became free-entry.

“I think free museum entry is very important and something we are very committed to, despite all these spending pressures,” Javid is quick to make clear. “It’s very important for our museum sector.”

It will be interesting to see what he says in his first major speech in Bristol.

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